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Early Indian Languages Alaska.jpg
Dena'ina (Tanaina) language area:
Iliamna, Tyonek, Susitna
Total population
Regions with significant populations
United States (Alaska)
English, Dena'ina
Orthodox Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Ahtna, Deg Hit'an, other northern Athabaskan peoples

The Dena'ina (/dɪˈnnə/ ; own name: in the Inland dialect [dənʌʔɪnʌ], in the Upper Inlet dialect [dənʌ͡ɪnʌ]) or formerly Tanaina are an Alaska Native Athabaskan people of the Athabaskan-speaking ethnolinguistic group. They are the original inhabitants of the south central Alaska region ranging from Seldovia in the south to Chickaloon in the northeast, Talkeetna in the north, Lime Village in the Northwest and Pedro Bay in the Southwest. The Dena’ina homeland (Dena’ina Ełnena) is more than 41,000 square miles in area.[2] They arrived in the Southcentral Alaska sometime between 1,000 and 1,500 years ago. They were the only Alaskan Athabaskan group to live on the coast. Dena'ina culture is an hunter-gatherer culture and have a matrilineal system. The Iditarod Trail's antecedents were the native trails of the Dena'ina and Deg Hit'an Athabaskan Indians and the Inupiaq Eskimos.[3]

Their neighbors are other Athabaskan-speaking and Yupik Eskimo peoples: Deg Hit'an (northwest), Upper Kuskokwim (central north), Koyukon (northeast), Lower Tanana (a little part of northeast), Ahtna (east), Chugach Sugpiaq (south-southeast), Koniag Alutiiq (south), and Yup'ik (west and southwest).[4]


The name means "the people", and is related to the autonym for the Southern Athabaskan Navajo people "Diné." The Dena'ina name for Cook Inlet is Tikahtnu meaning "Big Water River" or Nuti meaning "Saltwater."


The Dena'ina are the only Northern Athabascan group to live on saltwater and this allowed them to have the most sedentary lifestyle of all Northern Athabascans.


Their traditional language, Dena'ina, currently has about 70-75 fluent speakers out of a total population of about 1,400. Dena'ina is one of eleven Alaska Athabascan languages. There are four primary dialects of Dena'ina: Inland, Iliamna, Upper Inlet, and Outer Inlet.


The city of Anchorage chose to honor the Dena’ina by naming the city's new convention center the Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center.

Notable Dena'ina people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Alaska Native Language Center : Alaska Native Languages / Population and Speaker Statistics
  2. ^ Patricia H. Partnow 2013. Dena'inaq' Huch'ulyeshi: The Dena'ina Way of Living Archived 2014-03-20 at the Wayback Machine.. Anchorage Museum.
  3. ^ The Iditarod National Historic Trail Seward to Nome Route: A Comprehensive Management Plan, March 1986. Prepared by Bureau of Land Management, Anchorage District Office, Anchorage, Alaska.
  4. ^ The Map of Indigenous Peoples and Languages of Alaska

External links[edit]