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Sekani Indian Fact Sheet

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

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    Sekani Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Sekani"? What does it mean?
Sekani is pronounced "sih-kah-nee." This comes from their name for themselves in their own language, Tsek'ene Dene, which means "people of the rocks."

Where do the Sekanis live?
The Sekani Indians are Native Canadian people. They live in the province of British Columbia. Here is a map showing the location of traditional Sekani lands.

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

In the past, each Sekani band was governed by a headman, or village chief. The headman was always male, and was chosen by clan leaders, usually on the basis of his leadership skills or medicine power and his family's prestige. Today, Sekani bands are governed by tribal councils. Councilmembers are elected and can be either male or female.

What language do the Sekani Indians speak?
Sekani people speak English today, but some Sekanis, especially elders, also speak their native Sekani language. Sekani is a complicated language with many sounds that don't exist in English. If you'd like to know an easy Sekani word, "showa'" (sounds similar to sho-wah) means "it's good!" in Sekani. You can also read a Sekani picture dictionary here.

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

What was Sekani 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 Sekanis in the past and today.

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How do Sekani 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 Sekani 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. Sekani mothers traditionally carried their babies in bags on their backs, using a decorated hide strap called a baby belt to hold them in place.

What were Sekani homes like in the past?
The Sekanis lived in earth lodges, also known as pit houses. Athabaskan earth lodges were made by digging an underground chamber, surrounding it with log walls and a thatched roof, and then packing the whole structure in layers of earth to insulate it. Since Sekani houses were partially underground, they were larger than they appeared. Usually these houses had multiple rooms and each one housed several familes from the same clan. Here are some pictures of pit houses like the ones Sekani Indians used. Athabaskan people do not live in old-fashioned earth houses anymore, any more than other Americans live in log cabins. Sekani people today live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Sekani clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Sekani 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, Sekani 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 regalia in general.

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

Today, some Sekani 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 Sekani transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
The Sekanis didn't travel much by river, but when they did, they used spruce-bark canoes. Here are some pictures of Aboriginal canoes like the ones the Sekani used. Most of the time, Sekani people traveled overland, using snowshoes to travel in winter. Today, of course, Tahltan people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes and snowshoes.

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

What were Sekani weapons and tools like in the past?
Sekani hunters used bows and arrows, spears, and snares. Fishermen used nets and bone hooks. In war, Sekani men fired their bows or fought with war clubs. Here are pictures and information about Native American arrows and other traditional weapons.

What are Sekani arts and crafts like?
Like other Athabaskan peoples, Sekani artists are known for their bead and quill art. Here is an online photo gallery of Athabascan artwork.

What other Native Americans did the Sekani tribe interact with?
The Sekanis traded regularly with neighboring Athabaskan tribes. Their closest allies were the Carrier tribe, with whom they sometimes intermarried. They sometimes fought with other tribes such as the Beaver and the Cree, although at other times they were peaceful trading partners.

What kinds of stories do the Sekani Indians tell?
There are lots of traditional Sekani legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Sekani Indian culture. Here is one Sekani legend about a man who married a mermaid. Here's a website where you can read more about Sekani mythology.

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

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
There are not many books for kids specifically about the Sekani tribe. You may enjoy Come and Learn with Me, an excellent book for kids about the life of a contemporary Slavey girl. The Slavey culture is very similar to the Sekani culture. For older readers, we can recommend Tse-loh-ne: The People at the End of the Rocks, an interesting book about the Sekani culture and worldview. 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 North American Indian books in general. 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 Sekani Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Sekani Tribe

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

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

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

Sekani Indian Words
Sekani Indian vocabulary lists.

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