Dakelh


DAKELH ( ) are a FIRST NATIONS people, formerly known as the Carrier, who inhabit the mountainous north-central Interior from the FRASER R west to the COAST MTS. In the local language Dakelh means "people who travel on the water," a reference to the many LAKES and waterways in their territory. The name Carrier was from the traditional practice of a widow carrying the cremated remains of her dead husband in a bundle on her back.

About 7,000 registered Dakelh live in more than 2 dozen modern communities. Long ago the people are said to have inhabited a large village, DIZKLE, on the banks of the BULKLEY R near MORICETOWN. Today the main groups include the NAZKO of the Nazko R area west of QUESNEL, the Lheidli T'enneh (formerly Fort George) at PRINCE GEORGE, the Nak'azdli (Necoslie) at FORT ST JAMES, the Tl'azt'en of Stuart and Trembleur lakes, the Nadleh Whut'en on FRASER LK, the Stellat'en along the Stellako R, the Ulkatcho near ANAHIM LK, the Nat'oot'en (Lake Babine) of BABINE LAKE, the Cheslatta of the lake country south of BURNS LK, and the WET'SUWET'EN in the Bulkley Valley.

Before contact with Europeans the Dakelh were hunters and fishers, relying in particular on SALMON runs in the major RIVERS. They lived in small groups based on extended families. The Great Road, or NUXALK–Carrier Grease TRAIL, stretched across the southern part of the territory connecting the Fraser R to the Pacific (it is now part of the ALEXANDER MACKENZIE HERITAGE TRAIL). Trade with coastal aboriginal groups via this road led some of the Dakelh to adopt the POTLATCH and hierarchical systems of social ranking. The FUR TRADE became established in their territory early in the 19th century with the arrival of NORTH WEST CO traders. Fort St James, established on Stuart Lk in 1806, became the trading centre for a vast area known as NEW CALEDONIA. After 1860, miners, farmers and ranchers moved into the area (see MINING; AGRICULTURE; CATTLE INDUSTRY), accelerating the pace of economic change. As well, OBLATE missionaries attempted to eradicate traditional customs. With the completion of the GRAND TRUNK PACIFIC RWY in 1914, the LOGGING industry flourished, creating wage employment for the Dakelh but damaging the natural environment on which their traditional economy had depended. The damming of the NECHAKO R in the 1950s also had a serious impact on subsistence patterns. Though the Dakelh participate in the wage economy, FISHING, hunting and trapping continue to be important. The Yinka Dene Language Institute at VANDERHOOF is concerned with preserving the culture and traditions of the Dakelh. See also FIRST NATIONS LANGUAGES.