Heritage Site / Ethnography Site / Dene / Territory

Article: Early Reserve Period

The Dene people did not travel as much as they once did when they were a nomadic tribe and they depended on the caribou. The forest was like the school of the people. When it disappeared, it was difficult to teach their young the traditional ways of the people. Soon Dene children were sent away to residential schools where their language and culture was attempted to be destroyed.

The Dene people of Saskatchewan were separated from their relations who now reside in the Northwest Territories, Northern Alberta and Manitoba. "The boundaries were established to weaken our culture", Paul Disain (1976). To this day there are seven Dene reserves in Saskatchewan; four in the Northwest of the Province and three to the Northern tip of the province. First language is very important to one's heritage and identity, because without the ability to transfer knowledge in one's own language, the true meaning becomes almost impossible and as the result, the culture becomes weak. Today, the Saskatchewan Indian Cultural Centre (SICC) works in co-operation with all First Nation’s bands in the province to retrieve their languages. Our elders have contributed much of their time toward this endeavor. Education systems with strong Western values and beliefs are failing Aboriginal people world wide, mostly due to first language and culture loss. The Dene people were always taught effectively in their own language, and when a foreign language is introduced the lessons are not as meaningful.