Yinka Dene and Dakelh

Yinka Dene is a cover term for the Athabaskan-speaking people of Northern British Columbia. It also serves as the general term for "indigenous person". It literally means "the people on the land". In some dialects, the equivalent Yinka Whut'en is preferred.

The people usually known in English as Carrier call themselves Dakelh and prefer to be known by this term. This sounds approximately like da-keth, with the stress on the first syllable.

Carrier is a translation of the Sekani name for Dakelh people, Aghele. This term is said to be derived from the fact that when a Dakelh man died and had been cremated, his widow would pack around his bones and ashes during the period of mourning. The reason that the English term comes from the Sekani name is that the first Europeans to enter Dakelh territory, members of the Northwest Company party led by Alexander MacKenzie in 1793, passed through Sekani territory before they entered Dakelh territory and so learned about Dakelh people from the Sekani. Furthermore, Sekani people played an important role in the early period of contact between the fur traders and Dakelh people because some Sekani people could speak both Dakelh and Cree and served as interpreters between the fur traders and Dakelh people. (For more information see The Languages of Contact.)

In French Dakelh people are referred to as les Porteurs, which means the same thing as English Carrier and has the same origin.

Another term sometimes found in older literature is Taculli, with variant spellings such as Takulie. This is a garbled version of Dakelh.


Yinka Déné Language Institute © 2006