From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Dane-zaa chief and family, Peace River area Alberta, 1899, Glenbow Museum
Total population
1,700[1] (2016 census)
Regions with significant populations
British Columbia890 (2016)
Alberta770 (2016)
English, Dane-zaa
Christianity, Animism
Related ethnic groups
Tsuu T'ina
LanguageDane-z̲aa Ẕáágéʔ
ᑕᓀᖚ ᖚᗀᐥ
CountryDane-z̲aa nanéʔ
ᑕᓀᖚ ᖚᗀᐥ ᓇᓀᐥ,

The Dane-zaa (ᑕᓀᖚ, also spelled Dunne-za, or Tsattine) are an Athabaskan-speaking group of First Nations people. Their traditional territory is around the Peace River in Alberta and British Columbia, Canada. Today, about 1,600 Dane-zaa reside in British Columbia and an estimated half of them speak the Dane-zaa language. Approximately 2,000 Dane-zaa live in Alberta.

Europeans historically referred to that Dane-zaa are the Beaver tribe.


The name Dunne-za has been translated to "Those who live among the beaver." The spelling Dane-zaa is typically used for "the Real People." That spelling is used by the Dane-zaa Language Authority.[2] Different tribes and First Nations use different spellings. For example, the Doig River First Nation (DRFN) and Halfway River First Nation (HRFN) use Dane-Zaa. Prophet River First Nation (PRFN) uses Dene Tsaa; and the West Moberly First Nations (WMFNs) use Dunne-za or Dunne Za. Where other spellings are used in citations, such as Dunne-Za (e.g., Ridington 1988), they are kept intact and are synonymous with Dane-zaa.

The historic usual English term Beaver is a translation of the name used by several of their neighboring tribes. The Dakelh called them Tsattine / Tsat'en and the Plains Cree called them Amiskiwiyiniw, both meaning "Those who live among the beaver" or "Beaver People." In French, they are known as the Gens de Castor, meaning "People of the Beaver".


Dane-zaa (Beaver) women and children in front of their tipi, 1899

Prior to the 19th century, the Dane-zaa inhabited lands further east, near the Athabaska and Clearwater Rivers, and north to Lake Athabaska, as well as territory north of the upper Peace River (called Saaghii Naachii, meaning "big river," by them). Archaeological evidence at Charlie Lake Cave establishes that the area of Charlie Lake north of Fort St John has been continuously occupied for 10,500 years by varying cultures of indigenous peoples.

In the late 18th century, European-Canadians opened the Peace River area to fur trading. Scot-Canadian explorer Alexander Mackenzie (explorer) established Rocky Mountain Fort at the mouth of the Moberly River in 1794.

According to Dane-zaa oral history, the Peace River is named for the settling of a conflict between the Dane-zaa and the Cree. The Cree traditionally lived south and east of the Upper Peace River region. Due to their trade with settlers, they had guns and they pushed the Dane-zaa northwest in the late 18th century. A peace treaty, negotiated in the late 1700s or early 1800s, stated that the Cree would live south of the Peace River, and the Dane-zaa north.[3] The Peace River, before and after its new name, marked a boundary zone, where groups met for trade, celebration, and settling of disputes.

A post journal of 1799–1800 mentions people trading at the post who can be identified as the ancestors of members of the former Fort St John Band, now the Doig River and Blueberry River First Nations. Doig oral history confirms that the ancestors of present Dane-zaa families were in the upper Peace River area prior to the first contact by Alexander Mackenzie in 1793. Traders provisioned their expeditions with bison meat and grease provided by the Dane-zaa in their hunting on the rich prairies of the upper Peace River area. By the time the Hudson's Bay Company took over the North West Company in 1823, bison were scarce.

Traditionally, Dane-zaa has followed the teachings and songs of Dreamers, who first predicted the coming of the Europeans. The last Dreamer, Charlie Yahey, died in 1976.

The Dane-zaa of Fort St John took an adhesion to Treaty 8 in 1900. Today they continue to have a strong cultural and economic presence in the North Peace area.

Dunne-za cemetery in High Level, Alberta

In collaboration with the elders of the Doig River First Nation, Robin and Jillian Ridington wrote Where Happiness Dwells: A History of the Dane-zaa First Nations, which was published by UBC Press in 2013. It features the oral history of the Dane-zaa from pre-history to the present day.[4]

Danezaa governments[edit]

Dane-zaa tipi in winter near Peace River, Alberta, 1899

Treaty 8 Tribal Association[edit]

Treaty 8 Tribal Association members:[5]

North Peace Tribal Council (NPTC)[edit]

North Peace Tribal Council members:[9]

Western Cree Tribal Council[edit]


  1. ^ "Aboriginal Ancestry Responses (73), Single and Multiple Aboriginal Responses (4), Residence on or off reserve (3), Residence inside or outside Inuit Nunangat (7), Age (8A) and Sex (3) for the Population in Private Households of Canada, Provinces and Territories, 2016 Census - 25% Sample Data". www12.statcan.gc.ca. Government of Canada. 25 October 2017. Retrieved 2017-11-23.
  2. ^ Dane-zaa Language Authority, Shona Nelson, October 3, 2012).
  3. ^ Chillborne Environmental 2009
  4. ^ Ridington, Robin and Jillian Ridington. 2013. Vancouver, UBC Press.
  5. ^ Treaty 8 Tribal Association Communities Archived 2011-10-03 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Doig River First Nation Archived 2007-06-07 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Halfway River First Nation Archived 2011-11-10 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Saulteau First Nations Archived 2012-03-20 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ North Peace Tribal Council (NPTC) Archived 2011-08-15 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-05-12. Retrieved 2012-11-05.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]