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Kaska Dena have existed from time immemorial and have occupied and used the lands, waters, and resources of our traditional territory throughout history. We share a common culture based on our clan system, a common language with distinct dialects, a common history tied to our stories, myths, the oral traditions of our elders, and our traditional laws.

Before Europeans arrived, we occupied and hunted in an area of approximately 240,000 km2 in parts of what today is know as Northwest Territories, Yukon, and British Columbia.

We are descendants of five groups of Kaska people:

  • Tu’tcogotena(Tu cho gha nugga dhal) (Big Water Dwellers) are the Dena people that occupy the Tucho (Frances Lake) and the Tucho Tue (Frances River) area stretching to the Hyland and Smith rivers. They hunted also the Too-Ti (Liard) and Tucho Tue (Dease River) areas.
  • Ki stagotena (Kaska word — Tsetotena — Tsay tow tena) (Mountain Dwellers) or Dease River Kaska dominated the south and south east of the Natitu a gotena Kaska. Their traditional range included the valleys of the Dease River south from Net I tue to the northern part of Dease Lake where a natural divide separated them from the inland neighbours. Ki stagotena living along Duna za (McDames), meaning “pure place where people stay”, above its junction with the Dease River was also known as Ozanna, “people of the same blood”.
  • Espatodena (Espa tah dena) (Dwellers Among the Wild Goats) and Gata otena (People Who Hunt Rabbits) are concentrated within a range east of the Tu tcogotena Kaska north of Tsa Tue (Beaver River) and the Nahanni River. They also hunted at the junction of the Atsonne Tue (Moose Dung Water River/Coal River) and Tyagacho (Big River/Liard).
  • Naatitu a gotena (Na aw ti to a gotena) (Dwellers at a Sharp Mountain Where a Little River Starts) occupied the head water country portion of the Liard River called Net I Tue, down to the Canyon above Daylu (Lower Post) which means “a place where we gather to trade”. They made seasonal migrations to the salmon runs at Tu disdis Tue (Pelly River) which means “you can see clearly into the deep water”. Seasonal fishing also was done at Tuts Algua (Watson Lake) or Lu cho, and game was harvested along Agedze Tue (Hyland River) which means “too much game”. The Tu tcogotena Kaska also used the Hyland River and called it Bath-o-too-a (Dangerous River).
  • Tse lona (Tsay lona) (Mountain Top) or Nelson Kaska populated the area south and east of the Ki stagotena. They lived and hunted the Rocky Mountain trench headwaters and valleys, the Kechika range over to the Toad River area and north to the Flat River. Some families in this group are known as Tse Ts iyinetena or “Wolf People of the Mountains”. Before the Hudson Bay post of “Ghee House” was open in 1880, Tse lona Kaska would trade at Fort Nelson.
Names that appear in italics were provided with the assistance of Dennis Porter, Kaska interpreter. They are the English phonetic pronunciations of these Kaska words.
Kaska Cultural Research Project (1997)

Kaska History & Cultural Research Training Project / KHCR Team – 1997 (PDF)

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