Alternative Names

In their own northern Athapaskan language the Chipewyan refer to themselves as Dene ("the people"). "Chipewyan" itself derives from the language of neighboring Cree Indians who used the term as a pejorative reference to the pointed tail-like caribou-skin ponchos worn by Dene men. In vernacular English, the abbreviation "Chip" has become a common expression of self-identity. Several major regional groups of Chipewyan have been known historically, including the Etthen eldili dene ("caribou eater people") along the forest-tundra transition west of Hudson Bay, the T'atsanottine ("copper people" or Yellowknives) in the forest-tundra zone east of Great Slave Lake and Great Bear Lake, the Kkrest'ayle kke ottine ( "dwellers among the quaking aspens") in the full boreal forest between Great Slave Lake and Lake Athabasca, and the Thilanottine ("dwellers at the head of the lakes") in the full boreal forest near the headwaters of the Churchill River (J. G. E. Smith, 1975, 1981). Some persisting regional group or band identities derive from early fur trade associations, such as the Kesyehot'ine ("aspen house people"), those southern Chipewyan who began trading with Europeans at Ile a la Crosse (a fort built of aspen logs) in the late 18th century (Jarvenpa, 1980).

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