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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 Slavey (Dene Tha') Nation

[Dene Tha' First Nation Profile]

Slavey girl Also known as the Acha'otinne, or "woodland people." The Slavey peoples inhabited Alberta's far north, their hunting territory encompassing part of the Nunavut (NWT). They were organized into six bands and, like other woodland peoples, maintained only small family groupings with no central leadership, only electing leaders in times of conflict. The Slavey developed a reputation for being a peaceful people with a rich tradition of story-telling. They were respectful of each other as well as of outsiders. They were forest-dwellers and had few enemies due to their reputation of being powerful sorcerers.  However, they were known demonstrate violence at times.  They drove the Nahannis west into the mountains and even destroyed the post at Fort Nelson.  The clothing of the Slavey was more decorative than other Athapaskan tribes and, before the women obtained beads through trade, they used porcupine quills and colored moose hair for adornment.  The Slavey women, to this day, are known for their beautiful beadwork and silk embroidery. Staples of the Slavey diet included fish, along with moose and caribou, although obtaining enough food was often problematic. Their dwellings were conical lodges made usually of spruce bark or brush and two families usually placed their lodges together, with entrances facing the fire.  During the colder winter months the Slavey lived in low, oblong cabins constructed of poles with walls chinked together with moss and a roof of spruce boughs.

The southernmost of the Slavey signed Treaty 8 in 1900, while those further north were left out until 1921, when they signed Treaty 11.

Reprinted from "A Sense of the Peace," by Roberta Hursey with permission of the Spirit of the Peace Museums Association and the author.