The Dene (Dené) are an aboriginal group of First Nations who live in the northern boreal and Arctic regions of Canada. Dene is a compound of two words: De means "flow" and Ne meaning "Mother Earth". Dene homeland is referred to as Denendeh, meaning "the Creator's Spirit flows through this Land". The Dene speak the Athabaskan languages.


Dene are spread through a wide region. They live in the Mackenzie Valley (south of the Inuvialuit), and can be found west of Nunavut. Their homeland reaches to western Yukon, and the northern part of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alaska and the lower United States.

Dene were the first people to settle in what is now the Northwest Territories. In northern Canada, historically there were ethnic feuds between the Dene and the Inuit.

Behchoko, Northwest Territories is the largest Dene community in Canada.


The Dene include five main groups:

  • Chipewyan (Denesuline), living east of Great Slave Lake, and including the Sayisi Dene living at Tadoule Lake, Manitoba
  • Tli Cho (Dogrib), living between Great Slave and Great Bear Lakes
  • Yellowknives (T'atsaot'ine), formerly living north of Great Slave Lake, and now absorbed into the Chipewyan
  • Slavey (Deh Gah Got'ine or Deh Cho), living along the Mackenzie River (Deh Cho) southwest of Great Slave Lake
  • Sahtu (Sahtu' T'ine), including the Locheux, Nahanni, and Bear Lake peoples, in the southwestern NWT.

In 2005 elders from the Dene People decided to join the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO) seeking recognition for their ancestral cultural and land rights.


The Dené speak Northern Athabaskan languages (Northwestern Canada group) of the Na-Dené language family. The Dené have a linguistic relative in the US: the Diné (Navajo), who speak Southern Athabaskan.

Notable Dene

  • Ethel Blondin-Andrew, former MP for Western Arctic, the federal riding that comprises the Northwest Territories.
  • Leela Gilday, Canadian folk singer, Juno winner (2007), nominee (2003), 3x Canadian Aboriginal Music Award winner (2002)
  • Kathy Ettibar, Well known Canadian chat personality and musician
  • Lynx River, the fictional town on the Canadian television series North of 60 was a Slavey Dene community.


See also

Further reading

  • Abel, Kerry M. Drum Songs: Glimpses of Dene History. McGill-Queen's studies in ethnic history, 15. Montreal: Buffalo, 1993. ISBN 0-7735-0992-5
  • Bielawski, E. Rogue Diamonds: Northern Riches on Dene Land. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004. ISBN 0-295-98419-8
  • Holland, Lynda, Celina Janvier, and Larry Hewitt. The Dene Elders Project: Stories and History from the Westside. La Ronge, Sask: Holland-Dalby Educational Consulting, 2002. ISBN 0-921848-23-4
  • Marie, Suzan, and Judy Thompson. Dene Spruce Root Basketry: Revival of a Tradition. Mercury series. Hull, Quebec: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2002. ISBN 0-660-18830-9
  • Marie, Suzan, and Judy Thompson. Whadoo Tehmi Long-Ago People's Packsack: Dene Babiche Bags : Tradition and Revival. Mercury series. Gatineau, Québec: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2004. ISBN 0-660-19248-9
  • Moore, Patrick, and Angela Wheelock. Wolverine Myths and Visions: Dene Traditions from Northern Alberta. Studies in the anthropology of North American Indians. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990. ISBN 0-8032-8161-7
  • Ryan, Joan. Doing Things the Right Way: Dene Traditional Justice in Lac La Martre, N.W.T.. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 1995. ISBN 1-895176-62-X
  • Sharp, Henry S. Loon: Memory, Meaning, and Reality in a Northern Dene Community. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8032-4292-1
  • Watkins, Mel. Dene Nation, the Colony Within. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1977. ISBN 0-8020-2264-2

External links

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