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Nahane Indians of Canada

Nahane. Signifying "people of the west." Also called:

Gonana, Tlingit name (applied to all interior Indians).

Connections. The Nahane form a major division of the Athapascan linguistic stock.

Location. In northern British Columbia and the Yukon Territory between the coast range and the Rocky Mountains and latitude 57 and 60 N., some bands extending to the Mackenzie River in Mackenzie Territory.

Subdivisions

There is no consistency in the lists given by various writers, and Jenness reports a great deal of displacement since the early nineteenth century. The following bands or tribes may, however, be enumerated:

Esbataottine, in the valleys of Beaver, Nahanni, and North Nahanni Rivers.
Etagottine, in the valleys of Gravel and Dahachuni Rivers.
Kaska, on the upper Liard River.
Pelly River Indians, the country in the vicinity of Ross and Perry Rivers.
Tagish, about Tagish and Marsh Lakes.
Takutine, on Teslin River and Lake and upper Taku River.
Titshotina, between the Cassiar Mountains and Liard and Dense Rivers, British Columbia.
The Tahltan (q. v.) are sometimes regarded as a Nahane band.

History. Some of the easternmost bands of Nahane may have been met by Mackenzie in 1789. Fort Simpson, at the junction of the Liard and Mackenzie Rivers became the base of operations for exploitation of the Nahane country. This was established at the very beginning of the nineteenth century and shortly afterward Fort Liard at the junction of the Liard and Black Rivers and Fort Nelson on the south branch of the Liard, now Fort Nelson River, brought the Hudson Bay factors still farther into Nahane territory. The lastmentioned fort was destroyed by the Indians but reestablished in 1865. Fort Halkett, on the upper Liard, and in the very heart of Nahane territory, was established soon after the union of the Northwest and Hudson's Bay Companies, which took place in 1821. Forty or fifty years later it was abandoned but a smaller post called Toad River was built some time afterward, halfway between the site of Halkett and Fort Liard. In 1834 Chief Trader John M. McLeod pushed up through the mountains and discovered Dease River and Dease Lake. In 1838, a trading post was established on the latter by Robert Campbell, a Scotch officer, and in the summer of that year he pushed across the Pacific slope to the headwaters of the Stikine. His post excited the hostility of the coast Indians, however, who had enjoyed a monopoly of trade with the Athapascans, and Campbell was forced to abandon it, and it was burned by the coast Indians. In 1840 he went north from Fort Halkett as far as Pelly River. In 1842 he built a fort at Lake Francis and Pelly Banks and in 1848 Fort Selkirk at the junction of the Pelly and Lewis Rivers. Two years afterward this latter was destroyed by the Chilkat, whose trade monopoly it threatened. In the meantime European influences had been working inland through the medium of the same coast tribes, from the Russian and from British and American trading vessels, and later on through the Hudson's Bay Company along the passageway marked by the Stikine River. The Nahane were powerfully affected by the Klondike rush, and since then European influences have been growing ever stronger.

Population. Mooney (1928) estimates that there were about 2,000 Nahane in the present British Columbia in 1780 and 800 in the Yukon Territory in 1670, besides 400 "Mountain Indians" (Tsethaottine). A few hundred must be added for the Nahane in Mackenzie District. In 1906 there were 374 Nahane in British Columbia, 600 in Yukon Territory, and 250 in Mackenzie District. This total, 1,224, agrees fairly well with the 1,000 estimate of Morice (1904).

The Indian Tribes of North of America, by John Swanton, 1953

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