American Indian languages American Indian culture Indian crafts

Carrier First Nation Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Carrier tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our main Carrier website for in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Carrier pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.

Sponsored Links

    Carrier Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Carrier"? What does it mean?
Carrier is pronounced exactly like the English word. This is actually the English translation of their name in the language of their Sekani neighbors. In their own language they call themselves Dakelh, which means "water travelers," or Déné, which means "the people." Since many different Athabascan languages share the word Dene, they often refer to themselves as Dakelh Dene, Yinka Dene, or Carrier Dene to differentiate themselves from their kinfolk.

Where do the Carriers live?
The Carrier people are natives of western Canada. Most Carrier people today live in British Columbia and Alberta. Here is a map showing the location of traditional Dakelh/Carrier lands.

How is the Carrier nation organized? Do the Carriers live on a reservation?
The Carrier First Nation in Canada is organized into independent bands. Each band has its own reserve, which is land that belongs to them and is under their control. Carrier bands have their own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. However, the Carriers are also Canadian citizens and must obey Canadian law.

In the past, each Carrier band was governed by a clan leader, usually the brother, son, or nephew of the previous chief. Today, Carrier bands are governed by elected tribal councils.

What language do the Carrier people speak?
Carrier people speak English today, but some Carriers, especially elders, also speak their native Carrier language. Carrier is a complicated language with many sounds that don't exist in English. If you'd like to know an easy Carrier word, "hadih'" (sounds similar to hah-dee) is a friendly greeting in Carrier. You can also read a Carrier picture dictionary here.

Today Carrier is an endangered language because most children aren't learning it anymore. However, some Carrier people are working to keep their language alive.

What was Carrier culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here's a link to the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council. There you can find information about the Carriers in the past and today.

How do Carrier children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things any children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Carrier children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Native American kids had more chores and less time to play, just like early colonial children. But they did have dolls, toys and games to play. Carrier mothers traditionally carried their babies on their backs, using a moosehide strap called a baby belt to hold them in place.

Sponsored Links

What were Carrier homes like in the past?
There were two main styles of Carrier houses. Some Carrier people, particularly in northern villages, built plank houses. These were large, rectangular houses made of cedar planks with bark roofs. Other Carrier people, particularly in the south, lived in earth lodges. Athabaskan earth houses were made by digging an underground chamber, surrounding it with a wooden frame and a thatched roof, and then packing the whole structure in layers of earth to insulate it. Both these types of houses were large and provided shelter to several familes from the same clan. Here are some pictures of earth lodges and plank houses like the ones Carrier Native Americans used. Athabaskan people do not live in these old-fashioned houses anymore, any more than other Americans live in log cabins. Carrier people today live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Carrier clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
In the winter, Carrier men and women both wore caribou-skin tunics, leggings, and moccasins. In warmer weather, women wore wraparound skirts and men often went without clothes. Here is a website with images of Athabascan clothes, and some photos and links about First Nations traditional dress in general.

The Carriers didn't wear long headdresses like the Sioux. Normally they wore rabbit-fur hoods or went bare-headed. For ceremonies, however, Carrier men sometimes wore fancy dance headdresses made of dentalium shells and human hair. The Carriers only painted their faces for special occasions. Both men and women usually kept their hair long, and wore beaded necklaces and bracelets.

Today, some Carrier people still wear moccasins or beaded jewelry, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of leggings... and they only wear fancy regalia for special occasions like a dance.

What was Carrier transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes, the Carriers used birchbark and dugout canoes to navigate the rivers. Here is an article with pictures of different Native Anerican canoe types. Overland, Carrier people sometimes used tools like snowshoes and toboggans to travel. Today, of course, Carrier people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes and snowshoes.

What was Carrier food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Carriers were fishing people. Carrier men caught salmon and other fish, and also hunted for caribou, wild goats, and small game. Carrier women gathered roots, berries, and other plants to add to their diet. Here is a website with more information about Native American Indian food.

What were Carrier weapons and tools like in the past?
Carrier people used many different tools to catch different types of fish: nets, fishing spears, bone hooks, and wooden traps. Carrier hunters used bows and arrows. In war, Carrier men fired their bows or fought with spears. Some Carrier warriors wore bulky armor made of wooden rods lashed together to protect themselves from enemy archers. Here is a website with pictures and information about American Indian weapons.

What are Carrier arts and crafts like?
Carrier artists are known for their birch-bark baskets and woodworking, including totem pole carving. Here is a picture of a Carrier birchbark basket.

What other Native Americans did the Carrier tribe interact with?
The Carriers were part of a trade network that stretched throughout Western Canada. Two of their most important allies and trading partners were the Bella Coola and the Tsimshian tribes. The Carriers shared many cultural traits in common with these Northwest Coast tribes, such as potlatches and the carving of totem poles. The Carriers were not a very warlike tribe, but sometimes they did fight with their neighbors the Chilcotin.

What kinds of stories do the Carrier people tell?
There are lots of traditional Carrier legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Carrier Native American culture. Here is one Carrier legend about a magical hero. Here's a website where you can read more about Carrier mythology.

What about Carrier religion?
Spirituality and religion were important parts of Carrier life, and some people continue to practice traditional beliefs today. It is respectful to avoid imitating religious rituals for school projects since some Carrier people care about them deeply. You can read and learn about them, however. You can visit this site to learn more about Athabascan spiritual beliefs or this site about American Indian religious beliefs in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
You may enjoy A Boy of Tache, a good book for kids about the life of a contemporary Carrier boy. Younger kids might like The Girl Who Swam With The Fish, a picture book based on an Athabascan legend. You can also browse through our reading list of books by Native American authors. Disclaimer: we are an Amazon affiliate and our website earns a commission if you buy a book through one of these links. Most of them can also be found in a public library, though!

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2020.

Thanks for your interest in the Native Carrier people and their language!

Sponsored Links

Learn More About The Carrier Tribe

Carrier Indian Tribe
An overview of the Carrier people, their language and history.

Carrier Language Resources
Carrier language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Carrier Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Carrier Native Americans past and present.

Carrier Words
Carrier vocabulary lists.

Return to the Native American Indian tribe homepage
Return to our Indian languages list

Native Languages

Native American genealogy * Navajo Indian jewelry * Pequot * Indian words

Would you like to help support our organization's work with endangered American Indian languages?

Native Languages of the Americas website © 1998-2020 * Contact us * Follow our blog