Chipewyan Tribe

Chipewyan (‘pointed skins’, Cree Chipwayanawok, from chipwa ‘pointed’, weyanaw ‘skin’, ok ‘plural sign’: Cree name for the parkas, or shirts, of many northern Athapascan tribes, pointed and ornamented with tails before and behind; hence, the people who wear them). An Athapascan linguistic group, embracing the Desnedekenade and Athabasca, called the Chipewyan proper, the Thilanottine, Etheneldeli, and Tatsanottine. The term was originally applied to the Chipewyan who assailed the Cree about L. Athabasca; subsequently the Cree and, following their example, the whites, extended it to include all Athapascan tribes known to them, the whites using it as a synonym of Tinneh, but it is now confined to the linguistic group above referred to, although the Tatsanottine, or Yellow-knives, are generally separated in popular usage. The deerskin shirts worn by these people sometimes had the queue behind only, like a poncho, and the tales told by the early travelers of a race of people living in the far N., having a tail and being in a transition stage between animal and man, had their foundation in the misrepresentation of the descriptions given by other Indians of these people with the pointed shirts. Petitot (La Mer Glaciale, 303, 1887) characterized these people as innocent and natural in their lives and manners, imbued with a sense of justice, endowed with sound sense and judgment, and not devoid of originality. Ross (Notes on the Tinné, MS., B. A. E.) gave the habitat of the Chipewyan as Churchill r., and Athabasca and Great Slave lakes. Kennicot (MS., B. A. E.) said their territory extended as far N. as Ft Resolution on the s. shore of Great Slave lake, Brit. Col., and Drake (Bk. Inds., vii, 1848) noted that they claimed from lat. 60 to 65 and from long. 100 to 110, and numbered 7,500 in 1812. In 1718, according to Petitot, the Chipewyan were living on Peace r., which they called Tsades, the river of beavers, the shores of L. Athabasca and the forests between it and Great Slave lake being then the domain of the Etchareottine. The Cree, after they had obtained guns from the French, attacked these latter and drove them from their hunting grounds, but were forced back again by the Chipewyan tribes. As a result of this contest the Thilanottine obtained for themselves the upper waters of Churchill r. about La Crosse lake, the Chipewyan proper the former domain of the Etchareottine, while a part went to live in the neighborhood of the English post of Ft Prince of Wales, newly established on Hudson bay at the mouth of Churchill r. for trade with the Eskimo, Maskegon, and Cree. These last be came known as the Etheneldeli, eaters of reindeer meat, or Theyeottine, stone-house people, the latter being the name that they gave their protectors, the English. In 1779 the French Canadians brought smallpox to the shores of La Crosse and Athabasca lakes. Cree and Chipewyan were decimated by the malady, and the former, already driven back to the s. shore of L. Athabasca by the martial attitude of the Chipewyan, were now willing to conclude a lasting peace (Petitot, La Mer Glaciale, 297, 1887). There were 230 Cree at La Crosse lake in 1873, and 600 Thilanottine Chipewyan, many of whom were half-breeds bearing French names. The report of Canadian Indian Affairs for 1904 enumerates nearly 1,800 Indians as Chipewyan, including 219 Yellowknives (Tatsanottine).


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This site includes some historical materials that may imply negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the historical record and should not be interpreted to mean that the WebMasters in any way endorse the stereotypes implied .

Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico, Frederick Webb Hodge, 1906

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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