people welcomed newborns into the world with the greatest
of all joys, especially boys. The father of the boy was
said to deliver a stick of spruce to every household upon
hearing the news, but if the baby were a girl, the father
would be happy but did nothing. The grandmother of the
girl would deliver spruce boughs to the child's household.
The wood or spruce represented warmth for the child's
new home. the spruce being delivered by the father to
neighboring homes represented the sharing of future hunts.
An elder woman or medicine woman/man was called out to
the delivery if there were difficulties. Usually a woman
who had already given birth to babies would be called
in to help with the childbirth. It was considered improper
for a woman who couldn't have children to help in the
birthing. This was because it was believed that her presence
would cause the child and mother distress and the birth
would take a long time causing difficulties. In the old
days it was very harsh when women gave birth, especially
in the winter or on a trap line. It is at these times
that experienced midwives were not close by and the husband
had to deliver the baby.
people were prepared for the hunt and caribou were always
respected even before the birthing. The man had to go
hunting to make certain that there was enough to eat for
days ahead because the man was not allowed to hunt for
some time after helping his wife give birth. The umbilical
cord was cut, releasing the baby from the mother. The
cord was given to the maternal grandmother to keep until
the next baby was born, then upon the second child's safe
arrival the grandmother would hang the cord up in a tree.
The Dene believed if an animal ate this cord that animal
or bird would become the child's guardian spirit.
Children were taken care of by their mother and other
elderly women in the camp. They were closely observed
by everyone for unusual personality traits. They were
not expected to do too much until they began to get smart,
which, according to a lady elder, is four years old. At
this time the child is given a name and their education
begins. The girls were the responsibility of the women
and the father instructed the boys. For the most part
the women and grandmothers of the community gave instruction
to the boys and girls on doing things the right way.