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Chipewyan Indians

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Tribal Headquarters[edit | edit source]

Northwest Territories:

Fort Smith. It includes Nunavut. Parts of Akaitcho Territory extend into western Nunavut.

British Columbia:

East Moberly Lake (Saulteau First Nations)


Fort Chipewyan


La Loche


Lac Brochet

History[edit | edit source]

According to the 1832 Edinburgh Encyclopedia, the Athabascan's or Dene People who include the Apache, Chipewyan, and Navajo, are Algonquin. They speak Algonquin or as it is written in the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, Lenni Lenape who are the Delaware Indians. A group of Lenni Lenape were instructed to migrate to the southern shores of Hudson Bay. From there, they migrated up to the Barren Grounds of the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Alaska. They are the Chipewyan who are also known as the Chippewa and Chippeway. They are also known as the Gwich'in and Han. Click this link to read the 1832 Edinburgh Encyclopedia.

According to Alexander Begg, the Chipewyan are Algonquin. In his 1894 book "History of the North-West," he wrote in the chapter North-West Forts And Indians (on page 216),  that the Saulteaux are a branch of the Chipewyan. The Saulteaux are Chippewa's. And Chipewyan is pronounced in at least two different ways. One is Chip-ah-wan and the other is Chip-e-why-an. Chip-wan is also probably used. Most historians have written that the origin of the name Chipewyan is Cree. Supposedly the Cree named the Chipewyan after the coats they wore.

These people are the northern most Ojibwa's. Samuel Hearne wrote about them in the late 18th century during his quest to find the frozen bay or Arctic Ocean. The Lake Superior Chippewa told the whites that their country's northern border was located at a mountain ridge between the frozen bay and Lake Superior. Most are fooled into accepting Hudson Bay as being the frozen bay. But Hudson Bay is ice free for at least four to five months each year. Hearne was searching for the frozen bay north of Alaska so to find the Northwest Passage. He knew the Chippewa's were very aware of the Arctic Ocean. He requested for the support of Matonabbe in finding the frozen bay. They did reach the McKenzie River.

Matonabbe was an important Chipewyan leader who guided Hearne into what is now southern Nunavut. Hearne wanted to find an overland route to the Arctic Ocean. The whites were already aware of the Beaufort Sea but it was frozen for far longer than they had anticipated. Matonabbe led scores of Chipewyan soldiers at the Bloody Falls Massacre which happened on July 17, 1771. They attacked a foreign Asian people. They were provoked. The Chipewyan probably considered the land their's.

It stayed relatively unchanched for the next 100 years. In 1774, the Hudson Bay Company commenced to build trading posts inland from Hudson Bay. Few Chipewyan actually actively participated in the fur trade. They knew better. An example is the population estimate for the Saskatchewan District Alexander Begg wrote in the chapter North-West Forts And Indians. His estimate for the Saulteaux was 20 tents and a population of 140.

All other tribes listed had much higher populations except the Tsuu T'ina (they are Dene or Athabascan or Chipewyan) who are also known as the Surcees. Their estimated population was 350. The Blackfeet were the most numerous. Their population estimate was 6,300. Alexander Begg was referring to the plains of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The Plains Cree had an estimated population of 3,500. However, the Plains Cree appear to not have used a totem or clan system. If that is correct it means they are not Algonquian. All Algonquian's used totems or clans.

Woodland Cree and Swampy Cree used totems or clans which means they are in fact Algonquian. Alexander Begg's population estimate for the Saulteaux of the plains of Alberta and Saskatchewan is reliable. As mentioned, the Chipewyan knew better than to frequent white trading posts. Alexander Begg also listed the Saulteaux as one of two tribes in the Peace River District of Alberta and British Columbia. The other is the Beaver. Today, the whites are fooling the Saulteaux of British Columbia into accepting a Cree identity. All of Treaty 8 land in British Columbia was set aside as a Reserve for the Saulteaux. It includes McLeod Lake.

What trade they conducted with the HBC was limited and HBC records indicate such. In what is now the Northwest Territories, HBC population stats for the native Indians in 1856, was over 10,000. For northern Alberta (north of Fort Edmonton) and northwestern Saskatchewan, it was only a couple of thousand. Further east at the same latitude and further north, the population estimates were near the same as that of northern Alberta and northwestern Saskatchewan.

Chipewyan soldiers possibly participated in the 1885 Northwest Rebellion. History portrays the Chipewyan who lived in the war zone as being considered renegades by Canada. For the most part the Chipewyan lived far from the whites. It continues to be that way now.

In the 1860s, 1870s, and 1880s, the Pembina Chippewa's from southern Manitoba commenced to follow prophecy and migrate up into the domain of the Manitoba, Northwest Territories including Nunavut, and Saskatchewan Chipewyan. Chief Kinistin led them into the country of the Chipewyan of the Barren Lands.

Districts[edit | edit source]

Chipewyan people were living in the Lake Athabasca region as far back as the 17th century. Samuel Hearne wrote that the Chipewyan lived in what is now Nunavut in the 1760s. They were well at home living around the large lakes of the interior of Nunavut. Their population was probably in the 10,000s in Nunavut alone before Hearne visited.

Nunavut:[edit | edit source]

Chipewyan people lived throughout the interior of Nunavut. They lived primarily off of the caribou and also often subsisted on fish. Their villages were located around the larger lakes in the interior of Nunavut. Usually during the summer. In the winter months they moved away from the lakes. Their population was probably in the 10,000s in the mid 18th century.

Northwest Territories:[edit | edit source]

The Chipewyan population was probably confined to the region west of Great Slave Lake to Fort Liard. They also lived south and east of the same said lake. Non Algonquin Indians and foreign Asians were living to their north near the Arctic Ocean.

British Columbia:[edit | edit source]

Most Chipewyan (Saulteaux) lived in northern British Columbia, particularly northeastern British Columbia. They depended on different food sources than the more eastely Chipewyan. Many lived in the Rocky Mountains. Their population was probably in the 10,000s.

Alberta:[edit | edit source]

Most Chipewyan probably lived in north Alberta, particularly southwest and west of Lake Athabasca. Their population was likely in the 10,000s in the mid 18th century. Certainly more numerous than in the Northwest Territories.

Saskatchewan:[edit | edit source]

They lived throughout northern Saskatchewan. They tended to live near the lakes in the summer and away from the lakes during the winter months. Their population was probably in the 10,000s in the mid 18th century.

Manitoba:[edit | edit source]

Chipewyan people lived throughout northern Manitoba. They lived primarily off of caribou and fish. They located their villages near the lakes in the summer and moved away from the lakes in the winter. Their population was probably in the 10,000s in the mid 18th century.

In the early 18th century, the population of the Chipewyan was most likely well over 100,000. Their territory was vast and contained huge herds of caribou which allowed their population to be very large. Moose were also very numerous throughout their vast territory. And the incredible number of lakes provided them with an even greater food source.

After the HBC commenced to build trading posts inland that changed. Their population was still numerous in the early 20th century but that changed when Canada intruded. Canadian Indians know what happened after the whites intruded. Forced relocations. Their children forced to leave their native settlements to attend white controlled schools and the eventual population decline of the Indian communities.

Records[edit | edit source]

The majority of records of individuals were those created by the agencies. Some records may be available to tribal members through the tribal headquarters.They were (and are) the local office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and were charged with maintaining records of the activities of those under their responsibility. Among these records are:

Treaties[edit | edit source]

Important Websites[edit | edit source] Alexander Beggs book History of the North-West Chipewyan Akaitcho Territory Chipewyan or Yellowknife Tlicho Territory Dehcho Territory Treaty 8 Reserve!home/mainPage Fort Chipewyan Website. It has problems. Be Patient! Treaty 10 Lac Brochet

References[edit | edit source]

Bibliography[edit | edit source]