Chipewyan people

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Lutsel K'e Dene School , Lutselk'e, Northwest Territories
Total population
11,130[1] or 27,000[2]
Regions with significant populations
 Canada (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Nunavut)
English, Denesuline
Christianity, Animism
Related ethnic groups
Dene, Yellowknives, Tłı̨chǫ, Slavey, Sahtu
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Lutsel K'e Dene School , Lutselk'e, Northwest Territories
Total population
11,130[1] or 27,000[2]
Regions with significant populations
 Canada (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Nunavut)
English, Denesuline
Christianity, Animism
Related ethnic groups
Dene, Yellowknives, Tłı̨chǫ, Slavey, Sahtu
"Map of North America showing in red the pre-contact distribution of Na-Dene languages"
Distribution of Na-Dene languages at pre-contact shown in red

The Chipewyan (Denésoliné or Dënesųłiné – "People of the barrens")[3] are a Dene Native Canadians, whose ancestors were the Taltheilei.[4][5][6] They are part of the Northern Athabascan group of people.


Chipewyan people live in the region spanning the western Canadian Shield to the Northwest Territories and including part of northern parts of the provinces of Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The following list of First Nations band governments had in March 2013 a total registered membership of 22,754 with 10,938 in Saskatchewan, 6,371 in Alberta, 2,871 in Manitoba and 2,574 in the Northwest Territories. All had Dene Suline populations however several had a combination of Cree and Dene Suline members (see the Barren Lands First Nation in Manitoba and the Fort McMurray First Nation in Alberta).

There are also many Dene (Dene Suline) Métis communities located throughout the region. The Saskatchewan village of La Loche for example had 2300 residents who chose Dene (Dene Suline) as their mother tongue in 2011.[7] About 1800 of the residents were Métis and about 500 were members of the Clearwater River Dene Nation.

An estimation of the Dene Suline First Nation population using the registered members of 22,754 less approximately 1,200 Cree members would be 21,554. Adding the Dene Suline Métis speaking population of several thousand (including La Loche) would bring a conservative estimate of the total Dene Suline population to nearly 24,000 people.


Athabasca Tribal Council
Tribal Chiefs Association (TCA)[13]
Akaitcho Territory Government (ATG) (Ɂákéchógh nęnę)


Keewatin Tribal Council[17]

Northwest Territories[edit]

Akaitcho Territory Government (ATG)


Meadow Lake Tribal Council (Tł'ogh tué)[25]
Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC)[30]

Historical Chipewyan regional groups[edit]

Chipewyan people is located in Canada
Villages in Canada with a Dene Suline speaking population

The Chipewyan moved in small groups or bands, consisting of several extended families, alternating between winter and summer camps, hunting, trapping, fishing and gathering in the boreal forest and around the many lakes of their territory. Later with the emerging North American fur trade they organized into several major regional groups in the vicinity of the European trading posts to control, as middleman, the carrying trade in furs and the hunting of fur-bearing animals. The new social groupings also enabled the Chipewyan to dominate their Dene neighbors and to better defend themselves against their rifle-armed Cree enemies, who were advancing to the Peace River and Lake Athabasca.


Historically, the Denesuline were allied to some degree with the southerly Cree, and warred against Inuit and other Dene peoples to the north of Chipewyan lands.

An important historic Denesuline is Thanadelthur ("Marten Jumping"), a young woman who early in the 18th century helped her people to establish peace with the Cree, and to get involved with the fur trade (Steckley 1999).

The Sayisi Dene of northern Manitoba are a Chipewyan band notable for hunting migratory caribou. They were historically located at Little Duck Lake, and known as the "Duck Lake Dene". In 1956, government relocated them to the port of Churchill on the shore of Hudson Bay and a small village north of Churchill called North Knife River, joining other Chipewyan Dene, and becoming members of "Fort Churchill Dene Chipewyan Band". In the 1970s, the "Duck Lake Dene" opted for self-reliance, a return to caribou hunting, and relocated to Tadoule Lake, Manitoba, legally becoming "Sayisi Dene First Nation (Tadoule Lake, Manitoba)" in the 1990s.[36]


Denesuline (Chipewyan) speak the Dene Suline language, of the Athabaskan linguistic group. Dene Suline is spoken by Aboriginal people in Canada whose name for themselves is a cognate of the word Dene ("people"): Denésoliné (or Dënesųłiné). Speakers of the language speak different dialects but understand each other. There is a 'k', t dialect that most people speak. For example, people in Fond du lac, Gąnı kuę́ speak the 'k' and say yaki ku while others who use the 't' say yati and tu.

The name Chipewyan is, like many people of the Canadian prairies, of Algonquian origin. It is derived from the Plains Cree name for them, Cīpwayān (ᒌᐘᔮᐣ), "pointed skin", from cīpwāw (ᒌᐚᐤ), "to be pointed"; and wayān (ᐘᔮᐣ), "skin" or "hide" - a reference to the cut and style of Chipewyan parkas.[37]

Most Chipewyan people now use Dene and Dene Suline (Denesuline) to describe themselves and their language. The Saskatchewan communities of Fond-du-Lac,[38] Black Lake[39] and Wollaston Lake[40] are a few.

Despite the superficial similarity of the names, the Chipewyan are not related to the Chippewa (Ojibwa) people.

Notable Chipewyan[edit]


  1. ^ Statistics Canada, 2006 Census Profile of Federal Electoral Districts (2003 Representation Order): Language, Mobility and Migration and Immigration and Citizenship Ottawa, 2007, pp. 2, 6, 10.
  2. ^
  4. ^ "Taltheilei Culture". Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  5. ^ "Archeological Traditions". canoesaskatchewan. Retrieved 2007-10-12. 
  6. ^ "Denesuline (Dene)". Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan. Retrieved 2008-10-27. 
  7. ^ "Community Profiles". Canada Census 2011. Retrieved 2013-06-29. 
  8. ^ "AANDC (Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation)". Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  9. ^ "AANDC (Fort McKay First Nation)". Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  10. ^ "AANDC (Chipewyan Prairie First Nation)". Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  11. ^ Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation
  12. ^ "AANDC (Fort McMurray #468 First Nation)". Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  13. ^ Tribal Chiefs Association (TCA)
  14. ^ "AANDC (Cold Lake First Nations)". Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  15. ^ Cold Lake First Nations (Denesuline)
  16. ^ "AANDC (Smith's Landing First Nation)". Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  17. ^ Keewatin Tribal Council
  18. ^ "AANDC (Barren Lands)". Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  19. ^ "AANDC (Northlands)". Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  20. ^ "AANDC (Sayisi Dene First Nation)". Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  21. ^ "AANDC (Deninu Kue First Nation)". Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  22. ^ "AANDC (Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation)". Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  23. ^ "AANDC (Salt River First Nation #195)". Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  24. ^ "AANDC (Yellowknives Dene First Nation )". Retrieved 2014-02-40. 
  25. ^ Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC)
  26. ^ "AANDC (Buffalo River Dene Nation)". Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  27. ^ "AANDC (Clearwater River Dene)". Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  28. ^ "AANDC (English River First Nation)". Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  29. ^ "AANDC (Birch Narrows First Nation)". Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  30. ^ Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC)
  31. ^ "AANDC (Black Lake)". Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  32. ^ "AANDC (Hatchet Lake)". Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  33. ^ "AANDC (Fond du Lac)". Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  34. ^ The Chipewyan
  35. ^ Dene
  36. ^ "The Sayisi Dene (Manitoba)". Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. Retrieved 2007-10-12. [dead link]
  37. ^ Campbell, Lyle (1997). American Indian Languages: The Historical Linguistics of Native America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pg. 395
  38. ^ "Prince Albert Grand Council (Fond-du-Lac)". Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  39. ^ "Prince Albert Grand Council (Black Lake)". Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  40. ^ "Prince Albert Grand Council (Wollaston Lake)". Retrieved 2013-05-26. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. Footprints on the Land: Tracing the Path of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. Fort Chipewyan, Alta: Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, 2003. ISBN 0-9733293-0-0
  • Birket-Smith, Kaj. Contributions to Chipewyan Ethnology. Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1930.
  • Bone, Robert M., Earl N. Shannon, and Stewart Raby. The Chipewyan of the Stony Rapids Region; A Study of Their Changing World with Special Attention Focused Upon Caribou. Mawdsley memoir, 1. Saskatoon: Institute for Northern Studies, University of Saskatchewan, 1973. ISBN 0-88880-003-7
  • Bussidor, Ila, Usten Bilgen-Reinart. "Night Spirits: The Story of the Relocation of the Sayisi Dene." University of Manitoba Press, March 16, 2000. (Memoir of a Dene Woman's experiences in Churchill, Manitoba.)
  • Clayton-Gouthro, Cecile M. Patterns in Transition: Moccasin Production and Ornamentation of the Janvier Band Chipewyan. Mercury series. Hull, Quebec: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1994. ISBN 0-660-14023-3
  • Cook, Eung-Do. 2006. The Patterns of Consonantal Acquisition and Change in Chipewyan (Dene Suline). International Journal of American Linguistics. 72, no. 2: 236.
  • Dramer, Kim, and Frank W. Porter. The Chipewyan. New York: Chelsea House, 1996. ISBN 1-55546-139-5
  • Elford, Leon W., and Marjorie Elford. English-Chipewyan Dictionary. Prince Albert, Sask: Northern Canada Evangelical Mission, 1981.
  • Goddard, Pliny Earle. Texts and Analysis of Cold Lake Dialect, Chipewyan. Anthropological papers of the American Museum of Natural History, v. 10, pt. 1-2. New York: Published by order of the Trustees [of the American Museum of Natural History], 1912.
  • Grant, J. C. Boileau. Anthropometry of the Chipewyan and Cree Indians of the Neighbourhood of Lake Athabaska. Ottawa: F.A. Acland, printer, 1930.
  • Human Relations Area Files, inc. Chipewyan ND07. EHRAF collection of ethnography. New Haven, Conn: Human Relations Area Files, 2001.
  • Irimoto, Takashi. Chipewyan Ecology: Group Structure and Caribou Hunting System. Senri ethnological studies, no. 8. Suita, Osaka, Japan: National Museum of Ethnology, 1981.
  • Li, Fang-kuei, and Ronald Scollon. Chipewyan Texts. Nankang, Taipei: Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica, 1976.
  • Lowie, Robert Harry. Chipewyan Tales. New York: The Trustees, 1912.
  • Paul, Simon. Introductory Chipewyan: Basic Vocabulary. Saskatoon: Indian and Northern Education, University of Saskatchewan, 1972.
  • Scollon, Ronald, and Suzanne B. K. Scollon. Linguistic Convergence: An Ethnography of Speaking at Fort Chipewyan, Alberta. New York: Academic Press, 1979. ISBN 0-12-633380-7
  • Shapiro, Harry L. The Alaskan Eskimo; A Study of the Relationship between the Eskimo and the Chipewyan Indians of Central Canada. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1931.
  • Sharp, Henry S. Chipewyan Marriage. Mercury series. Ottawa: National Museum of Canada, 1979.
  • Sharp, Henry S. The Transformation of Bigfoot: Maleness, Power, and Belief Among the Chipewyan. Smithsonian series in ethnographic inquiry. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988. ISBN 0-87474-848-8
  • VanStone, James W. The Changing Culture of the Snowdrift Chipewyan. Ottawa: [Queen's Printer], 1965.
  • Wilhelm, Andrea. Telicity and Durativity: A Study of Aspect in Dëne Sųłiné (Chipewyan) and German. New York: Routledge, 2007. ISBN 0-415-97645-6

External links[edit]