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Virtual Museum of Canada The Making of Treaty #8 in Canada's Northwest
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The Peoples, Their Places

The Beaver Nation

[Beaver First Nation Profile]
[Horse Lake First Nation Profile]

Beaver tipiThe Beaver Nation are also known as the Dunne-za or the Tsattine, or "dwellers among the beavers." As cousins to the Slavey, Chipewyan and Sarcee, who all speak similar, Athapaskan-rooted languages, the Beavers originally inhabited a vast territory between the present-day Alberta-Saskatchewan border and the Peace River. However, when the Cree Nation drove them west, aided by the firearms that the Europeans brought to the New World, the Beaver peoples began to hunt game (moose being a dietary staple) throughout the Peace River country, extending as far as the Rocky Mountains. They were known as exceptional hunters and, although they had a reputation as being a peaceful people, were not lacking in skill when war became necessary.  Like other Athapaskan tribes, the Beaver did not have any strong tribal identity.  They dwelled in relatively small family groups for most of the year, coming together with relatives each summer for singing and dancing.  At the time of contact, there were approximately four bands, consisting of around 1,000 people, but by the late 1800s their numbers had decreased to less than half that due to diseases such as smallpox, measles and influenza.

The Beaver peoples, their numbers wracked by disease and starvation, were the last band to sign Treaty 8 in May, 1900.