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Dogrib Indian Fact Sheet

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

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    Dogrib Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Dogrib"? What does it mean?
Dogrib is pronounced like the two English words "dog" and "rib." This is actually a translation of one of their own names for themselves, Tłı̨chǫ Done, which means "dog rib people." They have this name because of a traditional myth about a culture hero who transformed from a dog.

Where do the Dogribs live?
The Dogrib Indians are original people of the Northwest Territories in northern Canada.

How is the Dogrib Indian nation organized? Do the Dogribs live on a reservation?
The Dogrib 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. Dogrib bands have their own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. However, the Dogribs are also Canadian citizens and must obey Canadian law.

In the past, each Dogrib band was governed by a chief or headman. The Dogrib chief was chosen by clan leaders, usually on the basis of his leadership skills or medicine power and his family's prestige. Today, Dogrib bands are governed by elected tribal councils.

What language do the Dogrib Indians speak?
Dogrib people speak English today, but many Dogribs also speak their native Dogrib language. Dogrib is a complicated language with many sounds that don't exist in English. If you'd like to know an easy Dogrib word, "masicho'" (sounds similar to mah-see-choh) means "thank you" in Dogrib. You can also read a Dogrib picture dictionary here.

What was Dogrib culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here's a link to the Tłı̨chǫ First Nation.
There you can find information about the Dogribs in the past and today.

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How do Dogrib 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 Dogrib 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. Dogrib mothers traditionally carried their babies on their backs, using a moosehide strap called a baby belt to hold them in place.

What were Dogrib homes like in the past?
Most Dogrib people lived in large hide tents called tipis (or teepees). Here is a website with pictures showing how a teepee tent is made. Dogrib communities used to move the locations of their villages frequently to follow caribou herds and other food sources. Since a tipi was designed to set up and break down quickly, Dogrib communities could migrate easily. In winter, when the Dogrib did less traveling, they sometimes stayed in warmer and more permanent earth lodges, which were made from wooden logs packed with brush and earth. Today, Native Americans only put up a tepee for fun or to connect with their heritage. Chipewyan people live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Dogrib clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Dogrib men and women wore very similar clothing: a caribou-skin tunic, knee-length pants, and high moccasin boots. In cold weather they added mittens, long coats, and fur hoods. All of these clothing articles were frequently decorated with colorful beadwork in floral patterns. In winter, Dogrib people sometimes wore a one-piece combination of boots and trousers to keep out the snow. Here is a website with images of Athabascan clothes, and some photos and links about Native American Indian clothing in general.

The Dogribs didn't wear long headdresses like the Sioux tribe. Normally they wore simple hoods or went bare-headed. For ceremonies, however, Dogrib people sometimes wore dance headdresses like this one, consisting of a beaded headband ringed with caribou fur. The Dogribs painted their faces with different colors and designs for different occasions, and often wore tribal tattoos. Both men and women usually wore their hair long, sometimes pulled into a ponytail with a beaded hair ornament.

Today, some Dogrib people still wear traditional beadwork designs, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of hide trousers... and they only wear fancy regalia for special occasions like a dance.

What was Dogrib transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes, the Dogribs used moose-hide or birchbark canoes to navigate the rivers. Here is an article about Native American canoes. Overland, Dogrib people used tools like snowshoes and toboggans to travel across the snow. Today, of course, Dogrib people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes and snowshoes.

What was Dogrib food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Dogrib Indians were hunting people. Dogrib men hunted caribou, moose, and small game, and caught salmon and other fish in the rivers. Dogrib women gathered roots, berries, and other plants. Here is a website with more information about Indian foods.

What were Dogrib weapons and tools like in the past?
Dogrib hunters used bows and arrows, spears, and snares. Fishermen used nets and basket traps. In war, Dogrib men fired their bows or fought with war clubs. Here is a website with pictures and information about the war club and other Native American weapons.

What are Dogrib arts and crafts like?
Dogrib artists are known for their fine quilling and beading arts. Here is an online photo gallery of Dogrib artwork.

What other Native Americans did the Dogrib tribe interact with?
The Dogribs traded regularly with neighboring Athabaskan tribes. Their closest allies have historically been the Slavey and Hare tribes. These tribes used to help each other out in times of famine. They sometimes fought with the Chipewyan and Cree, although at other times they were peaceful trading partners.

What kinds of stories do the Dogrib Indians tell?
There are lots of traditional Dogrib legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Dogrib Indian culture. Here is one Dogrib legend about a hero slaying some giant beavers. Here's a website where you can read more about Dogrib mythology.

What about Dogrib religion?
Spirituality and religion were important parts of Dogrib life, and some people continue to practice traditional beliefs today. It is respectful to avoid imitating religious rituals for school projects since some Dogrib 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 Native religion in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
You may enjoy Living Stories, a great book for kids about the lives of contemporary Dogrib children. For older readers, we can recommend Walking the Land, Feeding the Fire, an excellent book about the Tlicho culture and worldview. Younger kids might like Yamozha and His Beaver Wife, a picture book based on a Tlicho legend. You can also browse through our reading list of books by Indian writers. 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 Dogrib Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Dogrib Tribe

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

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

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

Dogrib Indian Words
Dogrib Indian vocabulary lists.

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