Today, we’ll be discussing Dene (Chipewyan) society, culture, and history. Many people, particularly in the U.S., are unfamiliar with the native peoples of the North American subarctic. As Wendel Oswalt notes, the Dene are a good group to learn about because of their adaptation to this environment, the rich historic and ethnohistoric record describing their historic society and culture, and their interactions with the Canadian government. We are also reading David Smith’s An Athapaskan Way of Knowing: Chipewyan Ontology for an anthropological look at the Dene thoughts about the nature of being. Like Omura’s study of Inuit societies, Smith’s work helps us to understand the Dene perspective and how it compares to the Western perspective most of us have.
For anyone particularly interested in the Dene and their interactions with Canada, there is a good documentary on the Sayisi Dene that will likely open eyes. Here’s the link: http://kensingtontv.com/kensington/index.php?type=project&id=3#1