Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation is an Athabascan speaking people which call themselves Dene, meaning "The People". The Dene has been in the Athabasca region for thousands of years. They are Hunters and Gatherers who have lived strictly on the Traditional Way of life and have migrated with the Baron Caribou. Legends suggest that the Dene People migrated from South Central North America to the North soon after the Ice Age ended. It is believed that some groups such as the Apache, the Navajo, and Sarce, headed back South, spreading through the mountains of California and along the West Coast into Arizona, where the present day Apache are.
The Dogrib, Slavee and Loushoe, however, went further into northern Canada
In the late 1700's and early 1800's, 9/10th's of the Dene population was wiped out by epidemic small pox and Tribal warfare. Today, the Chipewyan Nation consists of 27 Communities, with a population totaling 27,000 nation members in Northern Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the North West Territories.
The Chipewyan Prairie First Nation Reserve is now located 120 S.E. of Fort McMurray, Alberta, where Chief and Council of Chipewyan Prairie was the last band to sign treaty in 1922. In later years, 1933 the Reserve was surveyed. Today, Chipewyan Prairie First Dene First Nation is negotiating comprehensive Land Claim Agreements over the loss of use of Traditional Lands in the Cold Lake Air Weapon Range. They are also in Negotiations for Mineral Rights in the new additional Lands of the 1997 Settlement, where there are potential Oil Sands.
New additions to the Reserve through Land Claim Settlements in 1997 consist of 6000 acres. The Chipewyan Prairie Traditional Lands covers 14,4000 square miles east of Athabasca River to the Saskatchewan border (present day Fort McMurray) and South into the Primrose Bombing Range - SEE MAP. The Dene people have made their living for the last 100 years through Traditional means of hunting and gathering.
In the late 1960's - Oil, Natural Gas, and Tar Sands were discovered in their Traditional Lands which had a huge impact on the Traditional Way of life. Life changed rapidly, forcing the Chipewyan People to become dependant on the Welfare System. Through 30 years of the negative impact of gas and oil development, the Chipewyan Prairie First Nation has turned a Negative into Positive through means of education and economic participation as well as working with the Federal, Provincial Governments and industry. The Band is well on its way to Independence and a brighter future.
Chipewyan Prairie still maintains Use of traditional language, while also practicing age old ceremonies and story telling to strengthen its history, identity.
Sadly, there is very little documented history about this great tribe that had once controlled the majority of Northern Canada. What history there is - recorded by explorers and was lacking substantial information, and not by proper historians - Hudson Bay managers.
Chipewyan Prairie is participating with other Dene Communities to establish a National Grand Council to educate Canada and the World about its past and present history and how they have contributed through their Lands, knowledge and Natural Resources to the great growth of Canada.