Please take a virtual tour through our new website. See a little bit of what the Dene Nation is and enjoy learning more about our proud Dene culture, language and communities. The Dene Nation encourages you to drop by our office in Yellowknife for a visit. Our homeland "Denendeh" (Northwest Territories) is strikingly beautiful as is our history and culture. Our communities are always open to new and old friends. We are a proud and vibrant nation.



The Dene culture still thrives today and our homeland is Denendeh. We have come upon many paths throughout our time and by various methods of travel. Today, dusty gravel roads are in all our communities. In Fort Good Hope, Denendeh, family, relatives and friends walk on their way to do shopping in small remote northern stores and other activities.




“The land, and all it provides for our people, has been the very spirit of the Dene way of life. From the land came our religion ... from the land came our life ... from the land came our powerful medicine ... from the land came our way of life.”


George Blondin




The Object of Dene Nation:


To support the Dene Territories and Dene Communities in upholding the rights and interests of the Dene, including rights and interests arising from Dene use and occupation of lands (hereinafter referred to as "Denendeh") and Dene rights and interests arising from Treaties.




The Dene Nation

The Dene Nation, not the organization itself, but all of the people in Denendeh, are part of a larger family of Aboriginal cultures known as the Athapaskan people. The larger family include other related Athapaskan-speaking people those in Alaska who call themselves Den'a ("the people") and the Navajo and Apache who live in the American Southwest. The Dene were spread across an immense terrain of land to the north that stretched from the Alaska coast extending through Yukon territory and beyond the Mackenzie Delta region in the Arctic Circle and almost reaching the Hudson Bay in the east.


Dene elders, like the late George Blondin, explain the history of the Dene through stories and legends reaching as far back to the earliest days of the land, when people and animals were equals. Elder George Blondin wrote it best in his exposé the “Legend of Yamoria and the Meaning of the Dene Nation.”


Today, many Athapaskan-speaking people, particularly those who live in Canada’s Northwest Territories, are known as “Dene” which, means “people” in their language. The Dene have always called their homeland “Denendeh” which means the “Land of the People.” Denendeh is located in the western part of the Northwest Territories in northern Canada. It covers a sizable area of 1,000,000 square kilometres. The Dene are spread across a huge terrain largely south of the tree line consisting of mountains, lakes, rivers and forest. Here, snow covers the land six months of the year.


In his book “Denendeh – A Dene Celebration”, Rene Fumoleau wrote: “… the climate dictates that our people must be wily and strong, innovative and resourceful.” Geographical conditions in Denendeh have created the groups of people who make up the Dene Nation ─ Denesoline (Chipewyan), Tlicho (Dogrib), Deh Gah Got’ine (Slavey) K’ashot’ine (Hareskin) and Dinjii Zhuh (Gwich’in, once called Loucheux).


The people of Denendeh have always known that they were not inferior societies but that they were a nation and that they have a right to self-determination. Today, the Dene Nation recognizes and honours all the wonderful successes and important achievements among the Dene. They celebrate their survival.


With the patriation of the Canadian constitution in 1982, the Dene have been involved with land claims issues and making their way through the courts and the federal government. In 1992, the people of the Northwest Territories voted to divide the territory with the Inuit in the east and the Dene in the west. The territory of Nunavut came to exist on April 1, 1999 and is largely dominated by the Inuit.


Other Aboriginal groups with claims to land are the Métis in the sub-Arctic region and the Inuvialuit in the Mackenzie Valley, above the Arctic Circle.




Dene Nation Logo


In the past, there had been discussions as to what particular symbol would best represent the Dene. The organization wanted a logo that is a reflection with which the Dene can identify.


The original logo of the Indian Brotherhood of the Northwest Territories (IB-NWT) was designed in 1970. The logo was artistically rendered on to both sides of a wood sign and proudly displayed above the entrance way of the office in downtown Yellowknife.



Dene woman carrying young child on her back   Tlicho Chief Jimmy Bruneau of Behchoko, circa 1939



The insignia was a hawk , known as an aggressive bird, it symbolized the fight for Treaty and Aboriginal Rights. The leaves encircling the hawk signified diplomacy.


When the name-change to the Dene Nation occurred, Gerald Antoine of Fort Simpson created the logo. The design is a depiction of the "Legend of Yamoria" as was told by the late Dene elder and author George Blondin of Deline. Scroll down for the legend:



















A Dene family arrive by canoe with dogs at a shoreline   Respected Elder George Blondin (1921-2008)






Many years ago, before the whiteman came into this country, a special man Yamoria travelled into this land. He put everything into its rightful place. The animals and human beings were separated from each other. Whatever was harmful to people was gotten rid of. By doing this, he had set laws for our people to follow. Until this very day, we are still holding onto them.


This story had come about when there were large beavers living in Great Bear Lake (Sahtu).


The beavers were harmful to the people living in this area. People that lived in this area would travel across the lake by canoe to hunt the caribou. The beavers did not like them to travel across the lake so they would get as close as possible and splash their tails hoping to tip the canoes over. In this way they would be getting rid of the people. When Yamoria heard about that, he went to Bear Lake and told the people that he would be chasing the beavers away.


Yamoria started chasing the beavers around the lake. The big beavers immediately went down to Bear River. The younger ones were harder to chase towards the river. During the time that Yamoria was chasing the younger ones around the lake, the bigger beavers had built a dam on the river and that’s where the Bear River rapids are to this very day. Yamoria got the younger ones to head down to Bear River and then chased them all down the river to where Fort Norman is now situated (continued below).


"From the top of Bear Rock Mountain, he shot two arrows at the confluence of the two rivers and said, “As long as this earth shall last you shall call them Yamoria’s arrows." Bear Rock is near the present day community of Tulita, where the Bear River and the Mackenzie River meet.



At the confluence of the two rivers, Bear River and Dehcho, he killed two medium beavers and one small one. The larger ones continued down the Great River.


After killing the three beavers, he stretched and nailed the three hides on the south face of Bear Rock Mountain. You can still see them to this very day.
While he was doing that – the two larger beavers that continued on down the Great River (Dehcho) had built two more rapids.

After he had finished with those beavers that he had killed at Fort Norman, he then continued on chasing the other two larger beavers down the Great River (Dehcho).


From the top of Bear Rock Mountain, he shot two arrows at the confluence of the two rivers and he said, “As long as this earth shall last you shall call them Yamoria’s arrows.” Still to this day, you can see two big poles sticking out of the river. Even after each spring when the ice goes there always are two big poles sticking out of the river.


After shooting the two arrows into the river he brought the beavers that he shot with him up the Great River (Dehcho) about 20 miles from the confluence. There he slept. Where he had cooked the beavers, the grease that drizzled from the beavers started to burn and until to this day the fire continues to burn.


There are some legends that state, during your travel at night by that site, if you can see the fire coming out then you would live a very long life. This, they say, is not always visible for everyone, just a few.


According to Stanley Isiah of Fort Simpson, the symbol of the three beavers pelts on Bear Rock Mountain, the forever burning fire up river from that mountain, are signs of the land set there as a reminder of the teachings of the legends. Stanley said that if we remember the teachings of the legends and live them, if we take the sign set on the land for us as our symbol, we will never have any trouble surviving as a nation.



The Mackenzie River, called Deh Cho (Big River) by the Dene, is the largest river system within Canada. It flows through a vast region within Denendeh (Northwest Territories). The Deh Cho runs 1,738 kilometres long and flows into the Arctic Ocean from North America with many tributaries meandering through the Mackenzie Delta. It is one of the longest rivers in the world.








Two friends in Whati, Denendeh. In Dene belief, playing allows children the chance to practice what they are learning.



Taking time out for a hug from Mom in Inuvik.










In the heat of the summer sun in Fort

Providence, young people take to swimming to keep cool.













Elder Alfred Baillargeon of Dettah with participating drummers from other Dene communities heat their drums before performing for the "Feed The Fire Ceremony" in Fort Good Hope during the 40th Anniversary celebration of the Dene Nation in July 2010.


Dene women attend the Dene National Assembly in Whati, July 2012. Young Dene boys learning the skill and techniques of the Handgames.




For more information about the Dene Nation, please feel free to contact us.




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