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Carrier Indian 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.

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    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 Indians are original people of western Canada. Most Carrier people today live in British Columbia and Alberta. Here is a map showing the location of traditional Carrier lands.

How is the Carrier Indian 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 Indians 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 Indian 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, Indian 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.

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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 Indians 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 Indian 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 about Indian canoes. 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 Carrier Indians 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 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 Native American weapons.

What are Carrier arts and crafts like?
Carrier artists are known for their birchbark 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 Indians tell?
There are lots of traditional Carrier legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Carrier Indian 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?
Religions are too complicated and culturally sensitive to describe appropriately in only a few simple sentences, and we strongly want to avoid misleading anybody. You can visit this site to learn more about Athabascan spiritual beliefs or this site about 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 recommended American Indian books in general.

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 2015.

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

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Learn More About The Carrier Tribe

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

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

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

Carrier Indian Words
Carrier Indian vocabulary lists.



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