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The Peoples, Their Places

The Slavey (Dene Tha') Nation: Religion and Ceremony

[Dene Tha' First Nation Profile]

The Slavey believed in a guardian spirit who could be accessed through dreams in times of crisis.  These guardian spirits were sought by young hunters during a Vision Quest.  Illness, as well as death, was attributed to sorcery, and could be delayed by the intervention of the healing powers by a shaman or medicine man.  The Slavey believed that the souls of the dead, "aided by otter and loon spirits...passed through the earth, crossed a large lake, and began life anew in another world."

Like the Beaver, the Slaveys had a tradition of prophets.  Catherine Yatsalle, a Dene Tha from Meander River Reserve, told Dianne Meili about a prophet she knew.

"I saw Nógha a long time ago.  He used to travel around on a horse.  Everywhere he went, there was always a big Tea Dance... The prophet inspired people to develop themselves spiritually with prayer by holding Tea Dance ceremonies and living good lives.  He urged them to be strong and avoid temptations, like drinking alcohol, that might throw them off the trail to heaven."

The Tea Dance was, and still is, the most important ceremony to the Slavey people.  The Tea Dance is a spiritual celebration of thanksgiving, involving prayer, dancing, feasting, socializing, and elders' speeches.  The drum is a powerful symbol, believed to be a spiritual instrument that accompanies songs of prayer and to communicate with the Creator, with nature and people.

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