Resources- Glossary of Terms



Glossary of Terms in Dane-zaa Website

Aboriginal and Treaty Rights: Although most of B.C.'s First Nations have never signed treaties with the government of Canada, the four Dane-zaa First Nations of the Peace River area are covered by Treaty No. 8, which also covers other First Nations in northern Alberta and the Northwest Territories. In 1900, when some Dane-zaa leaders signed the treaty, they understood it to be a treaty of peace and Friendship.
See Treaty No. 8 and our Reserve Land Rights Timeline for more details.

Anthropologist: A person who studies how people live by living and working with them. Anthropologists pass on their understanding of cultures through writing, photography, audio recordings, and/or videos. The best anthropology happens when community members and anthropologists work closely together.

Colonial Rule: Both England and France occupied what is now Canada and assumed the right to rule, while acknowledging the existence of Indian Nations within their territories.

  • In 1670 The British Crown granted the Hudson's Bay Company a charter to govern territories in what is now Canada.
  • In 1763, King George III of England proclaimed that, "the several Nations or Tribes of Indians with whom We are connected, and who live under our Protection, should not be molested or disturbed in the Possession of such Parts of Our Dominions and Territories as, not having been ceded to or purchased by Us, are reserved to them, or any of them, as their Hunting Grounds."
  • In 1821 the Hudson's Bay Company assumed control of the Peace River country under its governor, Sir George Simpson.
  • After British Columbia entered confederation in 1871, the Government of Canada took over administrative authority.
  • The Canadian Constitution Act of 1982 acknowledged "the existing aboriginal and treaty rights of the aboriginal peoples of Canada."

Dancing Grounds: A site where the Dreamers' Dance or Tea Dance is held.

Doig River Cultural Centre: This building, opened in 2003, is sited on a bank above the Doig River, and contains the Doig River First Nations administrative and health offices, as well as their museum, a kitchen and dining area, auditorium, sports facilities, and gathering and dancing places.

Dreamers' Dance: A dance in which members of the Dane-zaa communities dance in a circle, following the direction of the sun (clockwise), as drummers and singers perform traditional Dreamers' songs. Dahwawetsats is our Beaver word for Dreamers' Dance and it simply means, "they dance." We also call it a "Tea Dance," because we always drink tea when we gather together like this.

Dreamers: Wise people or prophets who have the ability to "fly to heaven and return to earth" in their dreams. They usually gain their dreaming abilities through dying and coming back to life again. They bring back songs, as well as messages from the ancestors who have gone on the "trail to heaven." Dreamers can interpret events that are happening in the present and predict what will happen in the future. They provide guidance for the people on how to live their lives.

Elders: Dane-zaa people who have lived for many years and who understand and teach our traditional culture and values. They provide guidance to younger people in their families, and to the community, through example and through their involvement in our elders' council.

Ethnographer: A documentarian, usually an anthropologist or folklorist, who writes about what he or she has learned from other people. Ethnography means, "writing about how people live."

Flu Epidemic: In 1918-1919 an influenza virus killed millions of people throughout the world. Many members of our community died in this epidemic (see Spanish Flu).

Folklorist: A person who works with people and their communities to document, understand, archive, exhibit, and encourage their oral, material and customary traditions.

Fur Trade Era: In 1794, The Northwest Company established Rocky Mountain Fort on the south side of the Peace River, just upstream from where the city of Fort St. John now stands. As this fort was in our traditional territories, we began to participate in the fur trade, and European culture slowly started to impact our traditional way of living. Until World War II, our Dane-zaa people trapped beaver, lynx, and other fur-bearing animals and traded their furs for guns, traps, food and other goods with traders for the Northwest Company and later the Hudson's Bay Company. Traders usually provided supplies in advance so that our trappers were obliged to return to them to pay off their debts. In the 20th Century our Dane-zaa trappers also sold to independent fur buyers.

Heritage Consultant: Someone who works with communities to facilitate both the documentation of, and public's understanding of, their cultural traditions - usually through public presentations such as this web exhibit.

Industrialization: Before the Europeans came, the Danne-za were hunters and gatherers who moved seasonally through their large territory to hunt and trap animals, to fish, and to gather food. When the fur trade began, the traders hired Dane-zaa hunters to supply them with meat. By 1823, game such as Bison had been seriously depleted by overhunting to supply the trading posts. The arrival of settlers and farmers later impinged on Dane-zaa territory, but our people still maintained their traditional way of life. However, when oil and gas were discovered in the Peace River area in the mid-20th Century, the drilling and extraction of these resources, and the building of roads necessary to get to the well-sites, greatly affected both the hunters and the moose and other animals that they relied on for food. Through their Lands Monitoring Program, the Dane-zaa First Nations are trying to keep their traditional hunting and trapping grounds safe for the animals and for themselvs.

Ladyfern Compressor Plant: A large natural gas compressor plant built in the Ladyfern oilfield region of northeastern British Columbia to facilitate the transport of natural gas from oil wells to pipelines that carry the resource to southern Canada and the US. This industrial development, like the others in Dane-zaa territory, has meant the cutting of new roads and building of pipelines. It has raised concerns about the health of animals who are attracted to the salty deposits that are part of the oil and gas extraction and processing process. Dane-zaa people are monitoring the lands affected by this development closely, and are working with representatives of the oil and gas companies to limit its impact on our traditional territory and the animals that we continue to hunt.

Lands Monitoring Program: Under this program, Dane-zaa community members and elders who have good knowledge of traditional land use in our territory go out to proposed and current industrial development areas on the land, by themselves or accompanied by oil and gas company officials, to assess potential and existing impact on our Aboriginal and Treaty rights.

Linguists: People who know or study our Dane-zaa language. Our own Dane-zaa linguists are working with linguists from universities to translate Dane-zaa recordings from our elders and Dreamers into English, so that our young people can understand them and learn how our language explains our world.

Moose Hide: Dane-zaa women have traditional ways of tanning the hides that the hunters bring back from the hunt. They flesh the hides, stretch and scrape the hair off of them, and then smoke them over a smudge fire. When the hides are ready, they are used to make moccasins, jackets, gloves and drum heads. Dreamers sometimes drew on moose hides to show maps of the Trail to Heaven or to illustrate their prophecies.

Oil and Gas Pipelines: Pipes that carry oil and gas from the well head to the distribution points. Some are quite small and local and connect to larger pipelines, while others, such as the McKenzie Valley Pipeline, are very large and go for thousands of miles.

Oral History: Dane-zaa people do not rely on history books or written records to preserve our history. For thousands of years, our ancestors have passed on the stories of important events orally (by speaking and telling stories). Younger people learn our history by listening carefully, and pass it on to younger generations in turn. When we compare our oral history with records made by Europeans since they came to our territory, we find that our history is extremely accurate.

Oratory: Spoken words by a person whose words are respected, like the Dreamer, Charlie Yahey.

Pack trail: Once our ancestors acquired horses in the 19th Century, they used pack horses to move their belongings from place to place during the summer. They developed pack trails for saddle horses and packhorses, often incorporating previously existing foot trails.

Prairie Chicken: Grouse

Prophecies: A foretelling of events that will happen in the future. For example, Charlie Yahey, the most recent Dane-zaa Dreamer, told the people that cars and other means of rapid transportation would make the world "too small" and affect the lives of the Dane-zaa people. He told people that these vehicles would use the grease of the giant animals that still exist under the ground.

Seasonal Round: Before the settlers and the oil and gas companies limited our access to some parts of our traditional land, our people travelled through our extensive territory throughout the year. They knew when food and game were plentiful at specific places and times. We hunted, fished, gathered berries and other food, and dried food and prepared it for the long winters when food was less available.

Sense of Place: This refers to feelings that a person may have about a place. Sense of place is developed in relation to experiences, memories, history, and the stories associated with specific places.

Songkeeper: A person like Tommy Attachie or the late Albert Askoty, who learns and knows the songs of the Dreamers and makes sure to pass this knowledge on to younger generations. Songkeepers usually take the lead in singing our Dreamers' songs.

Spanish Flu: The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 was brought back to North America by soldiers returning from World War I. It killed more people than the war did. It has been called the worst epidemic in history. It came to Dane-zaa territory through soldiers and traders, and killed hundreds of our people. Because this flu was most deadly for people ages 20 to 40, many of our hunters and many mothers of young children died. Many of our elders still remember the stories their parents and grandparents told about the flu.

Spirituality: In the words of elder Tommy Attachie, the knowledge that "Everything is alive."

Spring Breakup: The time in late March or April when the ice in rivers and streams begins to melt, and "break up." This is a transitional time when we cannot use the frozen rivers as winter roads, and the waterways are not yet free of ice and safe for navigation by raft or boats.

Teachings: "Wise Stories" - Lessons, often in the form of stories or oratory, about the traditional ways of the Dane-zaa people and the best ways for Dane-zaa people to live their lives.

Territories: Area throughout which the Dane-zaa have traditionally hunted and gathered; Dane-zaa territory covers a large part of what is now north-eastern BC and north-western Alberta.

Treaty No. 8: See: Timeline: Treaty No. 8 and our Reserve Land Rights and Treaty No. 8 Documents>

Visions: Knowledge that becomes evident to a Dreamer who travels to Heaven and returns. Also the special relationship that a young person develops with an animal or force of nature (see Vision Quest).

Vision Quest: In traditional times, young people who were at the age of puberty were sent into the bush to find their "special friend," the guardian animal or natural spirit that would protect them throughout the rest of their life. During vision quests, boys and girls receive special "medicine" songs from their helper which they use for the rest of their lives in special circumstances when they need its power to help themselves, or other people, who are in trouble. These personal medicine songs are called mayinéʔ, and are never sung in public.

Wagon Trail: In the 1950s our people began using wagons to travel through our territory. Wagon trails often followed existing pack trails and earlier foot trails.