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Sekani Tribe

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Sekani Indians, Sekani First Nation, Sekani People (‘dwellers on the rocks’). A group of Athapascan tribes living in the valleys of upper Peace river and its tributaries and on the west slope of the Rocky mountains, British Columbia. Morice says they were formerly united into one large tribe, but on account of their nomadic habits have gradnally separated into smaller distinct tribes having no affiliation with one an other. Harmon1 said that they came front east of the Rocky Mountains, where they formed a part of the Tsattine. Gallattin2 gave their habitat as the headwaters of Peace river. Dunn3 located them in the mountains near Nahanni River. Wilkes4 said they ranged about Ft Simpson, east of the Taeulliand beyond the Rocky mountains. McLean5 found some at McLeod lake in 1849. Richardson6 placed them between Stikine and Skeena rivers. Taylor7 described them as being in the mountains between McLeod and Connolly lakes. According to Hind8 they inhabited the foot of the Rocky mountains north west of Peace River and a part of New Caledonia west of the Rocky Mountains., resorting to Fts Dunvegan, Halkett, and Liard. Pope9 located them west of Tatlah Lake, British Columbia. Petitot10 said that most of them were near the trading posts on Fraser river, a small number only frequenting the Peace and Liard, where they have a reputation for great savageness. Morice11 says they roam over the Rocky Mountains on both slopes and the adjacent forests and plains from about 54° to 60° north. They are of much slighter build and shorter in stature than any of the neighboring tribes, from whom they otherwise differ but little except that their hands are numerous and not closely organized socially. Morice describes them as slender and bony, in stature below the average, with narrow forehead, prominent cheek-bones, small, deeply sunk eyes, the upper lip very thin, the lower protruding, the chin very small, and the nose straight. Fathers appear like children, and none are corpulent and none bald. Petitot describes them as built like Hindus, light of color, with fine black almond eyes, large and of oriental limpidity, firm noses, the mouth large and voluptuous. Many of the males are circumcised. The women wear rings in their noses. These people are very barbarous and licentious. Their complete isolation in the Rocky mountains and their reputation for merciless and cold-blooded savagery cause them to be dreaded by other tribes. Their manner of life is miserable. They do without tents, sleeping in brush huts open to the weather. Their only clothing consists of coats and breeches of mountain-goat or bighorn skins, the hair turned outside or next to the skin according to the season. They cover themselves at night with goat-skins sewed together, which communicate to them a strong odor, though less pungent than the Chipewyan receive from their smoked elk skins. Petitot12 pronounces them the least frank and the most sullen of all of the Tinneh. They are entirely nomadic, following the moose, Caribou, hear, lynx, rabbits, marmots, and beaver, on which they subsist. They eat no fish and look on fishing as an unmanly occupation. Their society is founded on father-right, They have no chiefs, but accept the council of the oldest and most influential in each band as regards hunting, camping, and traveling13 When a man dies they pull down his brush but over the remains and proceed on their journey, if in camp, or in the event of the deceased being a person of consequence, they make a rough coffin of limbs and erect a scaffolding for it to rest on, covering it usually with his birch-bark canoe inverted; or, on the death of an influential member of the tribe, a spruce log may he hollowed out for a coffin and the remains suspended therein on the branches of trees. Sometimes they hide the corpse in an erect position in a tree hollowed out for the purpose. They keep up the old practice of burning or casting into a river or leaving suspended on trees the weapons and clothing of the dead person. When a member of the band was believed to be stricken with death they left with him what provisions they could spare and abandoned him to his fate when the camp broke up. They are absolutely honest. A trader may go on a trapping expedition, leaving his store unlocked without fear of anything being stolen. Natives may enter and help themselves to powder and shot or any other articles they require out of his stock, but every time they leave the exact equivalent in furs.

Morice14 divides the Sekani into 9 tribes, each being composed of a number of bands having traditional hunting grounds the limits of which, unlike those of their neighbors, are but vaguely defined. It is not uncommon for them to trespass on the territory of one another without molestation, an unusual custom among the tribes of the north west. The tribes are as follows:

  1. Yutsutkenne
  2. Tsekehneaz
  3. Totatkenne
  4. Tsatkeliie (Tsattine)
  5. Tsetautkenne
  6. Sarsi
  7. Saschutkenne
  8. Otzenne
  9. Tselone

Besides these there is an eastern division, the Thekkane. Drake15 gave their number as 1,000 in 1820. Dawson (Rep. Can. Inst., 2008, 1889) said that in 1888 there were 78 near Ft Liard and 73 near Ft Halkett, making 151 in the Mackenzie river region. Morice16 said that they numbered 500 in 1887, not more than 250 of them being in British Columbia. The same authority17 estimated the total population of the Sekani group at 1,300; the Sekani proper, on both sides of the Rocky mountains, numbering 500, the Tsattine 700, and the Sarsi 100. In 1909 the Sarsi alone were officially reported to number 197.


  1. Harmon, Jour., 190, 1820 

  2. Gallattin, Trans. Am. Antiq. Soc., II, 20, 1836 

  3. Dunn, Hist. Oreg., 79, 1844 

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  4. Wilkes, U. S. Explor. Exped., iv, 451, 1845 

  5. McLean, Hudson’s Bay 1, 235, 1849 

  6. Richardson, Arct Voy., II, 31, 1851 

  7. Taylor, Cal. Farmer, July 19, 1862 

  8. Hind, Labrador Penin., II, 261, 1863 

  9. Pope, MS., B. A. E. 

  10. Petitot, Dict. Dènè-Dindjiè, xx, 1876 

  11. Morice, Proc. Canad. Inst., 112, 1889 

  12. Petitot, Autour du lac des Lsclaves, 309, 1891 

  13. Morice, Notes on W. Dènès, 28, 1893. 

  14. Morice, Trans. Can. Inst., 28, 1893 

  15. Drake, Bk. Inds., xi, 1848 

  16. Morice, Proc. Can. Inst., 113, 1889 

  17. Morice, Notes on W. Dènès, 16, 1893