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Subarctic People
Environment / Housing Food / Hunting / Tools Transportation / Migration Religion / Ceremonies / Art / Clothing Family / Social Structure / Leadership Tribal Relations / War
The Subarctic people occupied a majority of Canada from the Yukon to Newfoundland, including parts of seven provinces and two territories.
The density of the Subarctic human population was among the lowest in the world. The entire area probably had as few as 60 000 people.  Weather changes were extreme and game animals depended on seasons and were scarce, making life hard for many.
Gwich'in, Han and Tutchone in the Yukon; the Tagish, Tahltan, Kaska, Sekani and Dene (Yellowknife, Dogrib, Hare, Mountain, Slavey, Chipewyan, Beaver, Sarcee) in the northwest; the Tsetsaut; the Inland Tlingit; the Cree, Ojibwa, Saulteaux, Attikamek and Innu in the East.
Note: Information on the Sarcee, Cree and Saulteaux can be found in the Plains People section. Information on the Tlingit can be found in the Northwest Coastal People section.
  • Algonquian was spoken by the Eastern Subarctic groups like the Innu, the Attikamek, the Cree and the Saulteaux.
    • While their languages were unique, they showed similarities to the Cree language division of Algonquian language.
    • The Northern Ojibwa speak Ojibwa, another Algonquian language.
  • The people of the Western Subarctic speak Athapascan. Examples: the Tutchone, Gwich'in (formerly Kutchin), the Han, the Dene, the Tagish, the Tahltan, the Tsetsaut, the Kaska and the Sekani.
    • Some dialects were highly unique and hard to understand.
    • There were more than 20 different versions of Northern Athapakan languages spoken.

Map Source - The Canadian Encyclopedia
Notes about the map:
Beothuk was a First Peoples group that went extinct, therefore they are not included in the information.
The Dene
The Dene occupied the northern fringe of the boreal forest and the tundra from the Seal River to Great Slave Lake.
The Dogrib
Dogrib People
Name The Dogrib, a Dene people, got their name from a Cree term for Athapascan speakers.
Location Their lands lay east of the Mackenzie River between Great Slave Lake and Great Bear Lake in the NWT
Language Athapascan
Hare Indian dog
Name Their name was given them by Europeans because of their dependence on the snowshoe hare for food and clothing.
Location They lived along the Mackenzie River valley of the Northwest Territories.
Language Athapascan
Mackenzie Mountain
Name Their name comes from their location beside the Mackenzie Mountains.
Location The Mountain Indians lived between the Mackenzie Mountains and the Mackenzie River, from the Redstone River to the Mountain River.
Language Athapascan
The Slavey
Slavey People
Name The term Slavey was a Cree word meaning captive or, as a missionary Father Petitot indicated, timidity.
Location Slavey (Slave) were a major Dene group in the boreal forest region of the western Canadian Subarctic. Their mountainous land extended along the Slave, Athabasca and Mackenzie rivers south from Fort Nelson, BC, on the west and from the Hay Lakes region of Alberta on the east, north to a region near Tulita and the south shore of Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories.
Language Athapascan
They were related linguistically and culturally to the Hare, Gwitch’in, and Dogrib.
The Beaver
Beaver People
Location The Beaver, lived just south of the Slavey people, along the Peace River.
Language Athapascan
Chipewyan Hunters
Name Chipewyan is a term of Cree meaning "pointed skins," but the group used more specific names in their communities. The Chipewyan have also been called Caribou Eaters and Mountainees.
Location The Chipewyan lived in the northern portions of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the southern part of the NWT.
Language Athapascan
Peoples The Yellowknives Indians were absorbed into the Chipewyan Indians.
Name Their name means "it (spring ice) is breaking up" in their language.
A Tagish man with his dogsled
Location They lived around the Tagish Lask and Marsh Lake in the Yukon.
Language Athapascan
Location They lived in the drainage basin of the Stikine River.
A Tahltan-Tlingit sculpture of their raven story
Language Athapascan
Location They lived in the mountainous region drained by the Liard River in southern Yukon and Northern BC.
Liard River in BC
Language Athapascan
Name They were "people of the rocks or mountains".
Bark lodge of the Sekani Indians
Location They lived in the Finlay and Parsnip River drainages of the Rocky Mountain Trench. They diverged from the Beaver in the late 18th century.
Language Athapascan
Name Their name was given to them by another tribe (the Gitksan); it is a Tsimshian word meaning "people of the interior".
Portland canal
Location They mostly inhabited the area of the Portland Canal. They were a large tribe but were almost exterminated by other tribes (including the Tahltan) around 1830. Since then they have been assimilated into other tribes.
Language Athapascan - there are no longer any speakers of their Tsetsaut dialect of Athapascan.
Population In 1830 there were 500 of them; by 1895 there were only 12.
Cool Fact Gwich'in knowledge of their environment was extensive; one anthropologist recorded 400 Gwich'in names for plants and animals.
Gwich'in Hunters
Location The Gwich'in (formerly Kutchin), were the northernmost of all North American Indians, and occupied the land located primarily North of the Arctic Circle and extending across the Mackenzie drainage and northern tributaries of the Yukon River into northwest Alaska, bordering Inuit land.

Their language is incomprehensible to all others, except the Han.

Location The Han territory started at the Yukon-Alaska boundary, extending along the Yukon River from about 20 km south of Dawson northward to about 50 km south of Circle, Alaska
Yukon River
Language Athapascan
Like many others, their speech was distinct and understood by few.
Location The Tutchones lived at the plateau located by the Alsek and Yukon River headwaters. Their southwest territories straddled the Coastal and St. Elias mountains and on the northeast, the Selwyn range.
Ogilvie Mountains, Yukon
Language Athapascan
Northern Ojibwa
Location The Northern Ojibwa, who formed their own nation when the Ojibwa split between –1680 and 1800, occupied Northern Ontario along with some Cree tribes.
Northern Ontario
Language Algonquian - Objibway
Name Also called Tête-de-Boule.
Bouclier Region, Quebec
Location Their land, in the Bouclier region of Upper St. Maurice Rivière in Québec, was about 7000 km2
Language Algonquian
Peoples The Attikamek or Tête-de-Boule had two major bands, the Kikendatch and the Weymontachie.
Population There were about 500 to 550 Attikameks back in the 1700s.
The Innu People
Name The Innu- or ‘the people’- were called the Montagnais (French for Mountains) and the Naskapi by other people. Their own name was 'Mushua Innuts', which means ‘Barren Land People.’
Innu People
Location The Innu People inhabited eastern Quebec and Labrador.
Language Algonquian
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