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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 Chipewyan Nation

[Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Profile]
[Chipewyan Prairie First Nation Profile]
[Smith's Landing First Nation Profile]

chipewyan manThe Chipewyan are a northern nomadic tribe whose territory stretched from the Churchill River north to the tundra and from Hudson Bay in the east to Great Slave Lake and part of Alberta in the west. Although a numerous people, they had very little internal social or governmental structure. It was their language that defined them as a community while their leadership was generally left undefined and quite flexible. 

The Chipewyan name is derived from a Cree term meaning "pointed skins" which may refer to the way these particular peoples made and wore their shirts.  Chipewyan culture traditionally valued flexibility and personal chipewyan grave freedom and they, unlike most other Plains peoples of their time, had no system of organized warfare, although both the Cree and the Inuit were considered to be their enemies. After the arrival of the white man in their region, the Chipewyan population was sadly depleted by smallpox which claimed a reported 90% of their peoples. In 1898 the Chipewyan signed Treaty 8 along with the Cree and Beaver. Under the terms of the treaty the Chipewyan were allowed to obtain land in individual allotments as they shared no official community and did not wish to confine themselves to reserves.