First Nations of the Mackenzie and Yukon River Basins


The harsh environment of the Mackenzie and Yukon River Basins consists of dark forests, barren lands and the swampy terrain known as muskeg.

The Chipewyan ranged from north of the Churchill River all the way west to Great Slave Lake and controlled the largest amount of territory. To the south and west were the Beaver who lived in the basin of the Peace River.

Twelve principal tribes lived in the vicinity of the Mackenzie and Yukon River basins. All these tribes spoke languages belonging to the Athapaskan language family.

The Slave (or Slaveys) ranged from west of Great Slave Lake as far west as the Mackenzie River. The lake-dotted land from the east end of Great Slave Lake to the eastern shore of Great Bear Lake was the territory of the Yellowknife. To their southwest were the Dogrib who occupied the land between these two great northern lakes.

West and northwest of Great Bear Lake lived the Hare. To their west were the Kutchin who occupied the basins of the Pelly and Porcupine rivers, thus taking up much of what is today the Yukon interior. The Han and the Tutchone occupied what is today the southern Yukon.

South of the Tutchone were the Kaska and the Mountain, who lived in the mountainous country to the west of the Mackenzie River. The most southern of the tribes was the Sekani, who dwelt on the eastern slopes of the Rockies in what is now northern Alberta.