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Dene Tha (Slavey)

The Dene Tha are an Athapaskan or Dene-speaking people inhabiting northwest Alberta, northeast B.C. and the south-central Northwest Territories. The Dene Tha are known as fishermen although they also hunt woodland caribou, moose and small game. Asch reports that Mackenzie's expedition in 1789 was the first to establish direct contact with the Dene Tha. "Soon after trading posts were established throughout the area" (Asch, Can. Enc.).

As with the Dunne-za to the south, the Dene Tha way of life was altered by the fur trade and missionaries who came seeking converts. According to Robinson, the Roman Catholic residential school established at what was then Assumption, curtailed traditional hunting patterns. Reluctant to be far from children for lengths of time parents hunted and trapped in a tighter circle until the area was trapped out. "The simple act of establishing a school completely revolutionized the Slavey economy ... the complete switch from subsistence based on the land to subsistence based on government handouts took only ten years" (Robinson, p. 19).

While new industries are cited as replacing traditional ways of life, Asch, who studied the impact of the MacKenzie Valley Pipeline proposal on the Indians of the north, states. "The proposals regarding the pipeline are strikingly similar to the bargain proposed by the fur-traders: immediate material well-being in return for long-term economic dependency" (Ash, p. 291).

Tribal Location since Signing of Treaties

Most Dene Tha live north of Alberta but the tribe has a long tradition in the northwest corner of the province. Trade posts were established in the area after 1789.


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