The Dene (Den-ay) are also called the Athapaskan peoples. They live off the land across a vast expanse from Alaska to Northwest Territories and Nunavut, east to the Hudson Bay and all the way to the southern United States. There are many distinct Dene groups, each with their own language and territory. In the Northwest Territories, the Dene people include the North Slavey, South Slavey, Tłįchǫ (Dogrib), Gwich’in and Chipewyan people. They are also related to southern tribes such as the Tsuut’ina and Navajo. The population of the Northwest Territories is reported to be 44,520 with approximately half the population identifying as indigenous.

The largest group of Dene are the Chipewyan located to the east. They live at the edge of the northern transitional forest to the west of Hudson Bay, and also travel far out onto the tundra, which is also known as the barren lands.

The Dene moved seasonally throughout their traditional lands, depending upon the availability of different animals, fish and birds. They could not carry much with them because of their travels. Sharing became their way of ensuring everyone had enough to survive. They live in an environment that is harsh by any standards. In the winter, they experienced intense cold, deep snow and little daylight. The summers are more pleasant but would bring hordes of mosquitoes and black flies.

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