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Babine-Wet'suwet'en Fact Sheet

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

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    Babine Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Babine"? What does it mean?
Babine is pronounced bah-been. This is actually the French name for the tribe, and it comes from a French word for "lip." The French gave that name to the Babine people because of the lip piercings worn by Babine women. They are also known by the Athabaskan name Nedut'en, or by the general name Dene, which means "people" and is used by many different First Nations of Canada.

What about "Wet'suwet'en"? Are the Wet'suwet'en the same people as the Babines, or are they different?
They were originally different people, but they are kinfolk and allies and they speak dialects of the same language. Today, Babine and Wet'suwet'en people live together on the same reserves and often intermarry. Many Babine and Wet'suwet'en people consider themselves the same people today. Wet'suwet'en is spelled many different ways, such as Wetsuweten and Witsuwit'en. The variations in spelling are because the Athabaskan languages were traditionally unwritten.

Where do the Babines live?
The Babine Indians are original people of western Canada. Most Babine and Wits'uwit'en people today live in British Columbia. Here is a map showing the location of traditional Nedut'en and Wits'uwit'en territory.

How is the Babine Indian nation organized? Do the Babines live on a reservation?
The Babine and Wet'su'wet'en people in Canada are organized into independent bands. The three Babine-Wet'suwet'en bands are called Lake Babine First Nation, Takla Lake First Nation, and Wet'suwet'en First Nation. Each band has its own reserve, which is land that belongs to them and is under their control. Babine bands have their own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. However, the Babines are also Canadian citizens and must obey Canadian law.

In the past, each Babine or Wet'su'wet'en band was governed by a clan leader, usually the brother, son, or nephew of the previous chief. Today, Babine-Wet'su'et'en bands are governed by elected tribal councils, whose members represent both ethnicities.

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

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

What was Babine culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here's a link to the Lake Babine Nation. There you can find information about the Babines in the past and today.

How do Babine 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 Babine 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. Babine 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 Babine-Witsuwiten homes like in the past?
Babine and Witsuwiten people lived in plank lodges. These were rectangular houses made of cedar planks with bark roofs. A plank lodge was usually quite large and provided shelter to several families from the same clan. Here are some pictures of plank houses like the ones Babine Indians used. Athabaskan people do not live in these old-fashioned houses anymore, any more than other Americans live in log cabins. Babine people today live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Babine clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
In the winter, Babine-Wet'suwet'en people wore caribou-skin tunics, leggings, and moccasins. In warmer weather, women wore only wraparound skirts and men often went without any clothes at all. But for special occasions, Babine and Wet'suwet'en people wore colorful regalia, including long cloaks and crown-like hats. Here is a photo of Wet'suwet'en people in traditional regalia.

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

Today, some Babine and Wetsuweten people still wear moccasins or beaded jewelry, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of leggings... and they only wear fancy regalia for dances and cultural events.

What was Babine transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes, the Babines used birchbark canoes to travel by river. Here is an article about birch bark canoes. Overland, Babine people sometimes used tools like snowshoes and toboggans to travel. Today, of course, Babine people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes and snowshoes.

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

What were Babine weapons and tools like in the past?
Babine people used many different tools to catch fish: nets, fishing spears, bone hooks, and wooden traps. Babine hunters used bows and arrows. In war, Babine men fired their bows or fought with spears. Here is a website with pictures and information about Indian weapons.

What are Babine-Wet'suwet'en arts and crafts like?
Babine and Wet'suwet'en artists are known for their birchbark baskets and woodworking. Here is a picture of a Wet'suwet'en birchbark basket.

What is Babine-Wet'suwet'en music like?
The most important Babine-Wet'suwer'en instrument is the drum. Unlike in many tribes, traditional northern Athabaskan drums are small and held in one hand, like this. For dances and festivals, many drummers will play together in unison to create a more powerful sound. Here is a video of Lake Babine people dancing to a drum song.

What other Native Americans did the Babine tribe interact with?
The Babine and Wet'suwet'en tribes interacted most often with each other. They were allies who frequently traded with each other and often got together for festivals and ceremonies. Other important friends of theirs included the Carrier and Gitxsan tribes. The Babines were not a very warlike tribe. Usually when Babine men did battle, it was related to Athabaskan clan feuds, not intertribal warfare.

What kinds of stories do the Babine Indians tell?
There are lots of traditional Babine legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Babine Indian culture. Here is one Wet'suwet'en legend about a girl who turned into a frog. Here's a website where you can read more about Babine and Carrier mythology.

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

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
Older readers may enjoy Cis Dideen Kat: The Way of the Lake Babine Nation. It was written by a Babine chief, and is full of good information on Babine culture and heritage. 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 Native American literature 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 Babine Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Babine Tribe

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

Babine-Witsuwit'en Language Resources
Babine-Witsuwit'en language samples, articles, and definitions.

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

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

Babine Indian Words
Babine Indian vocabulary lists.

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Return to our Indian languages list
Return to our map of the Subarctic tribes

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