Dakelh or Carrier

Dakelh (or Carrier) is the language spoken by our people, who live in the central interior of British Columbia. The stories behind the naming of our people and language are fascinating, for ‘Dakelh’ is actually a word from the Sekani peoples, and was given to us because the first Europeans to reach us passed through Sekani territory first and learned of our people from them.

In the Sekani language, Dakelh can be translated as ‘people who travel by water’. 

Dakelh people have also been referred to as ‘les Porteurs’ by the French, (parallel to ‘Carrier’ in English), so the language is occasionally called ‘Porteur’ as well.  The more common English name, ‘Carrier’ is rumored to have derived from an old tradition which dictated that when a husband died, his wife carried his ashes for a year.  However this may not be true.  It may simply have come from the fact that as people who travelled by water in a land of lakes, we often had to portage, carrying our possessions with us.  Perhaps this is also the reason our Nation was once called ‘Portage Band’ by the government, instead of our own name for ourselves, Yekoochet’en, which ties us to our land and lakes.

There are many dialects of Dakelh today; some of which are surviving better than others. The communities where Dakelh is more widely spoken are the remotest communities where our language is more protected from the pressure to use outside languages. Sadly, the current trend is a decline in our language usage as few children, youth, and young adults can speak it well.  Yet we are determined not to lose our language in Yekooche.

We believe our language shows us who we are.  it’s a part of our history and also our future. We need to use it and protect it so that it doesn’t die. For this reason, we must dedicate time and effort to ensuring our younger people know and use the Dakelh language.  We will work hard to foster pride in our unique dialect, so that we can all understand and speak with our elders before it’s too late.

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