For fifty years anthropologist June Helm studied the culture and ethnohistory of the Dene, “The People,” the Athapaskan-speaking Indians of the Mackenzie River drainage of Canada's western subarctic. Now in this impressive collection she brings together previously published essays—with updated commentaries where necessary—unpublished field notes, archival documents, supplementary essays and notes from collaborators, and narratives by the Dene themselves as an offering to those studying North American Indians, hunter-gatherers, and subarctic ethnohistory and as a historical resource for the people of all ethnicities who live in Denendeh, Land of the Dene.
Helm begins with a broad-ranging, stimulating overview of the social organization of hunter-gatherer peoples of the world, past and present, that provides a background for all she has learned about the Dene. The chapters in part 1 focus on community and daily life among the Mackenzie Dene in the middle of the twentieth century. After two historical overview chapters, Helm moves from the early years of the twentieth century to the earliest contacts between Dene and white culture, ending with a look at the momentous changes in Dene-government relations in the 1970s. Part 3 considers traditional Dene knowledge, meaning, and enjoyments, including a chapter on the Dogrib hand game. Throughout, Helm's encyclopedic knowledge combines with her personal interactions to create a collection that is unique in its breadth and intensity.
“The People of Denendeh is an exciting volume. It is certain to become a valuable overview of and sourcebook on the history, society, and culture of the Mackenzie drainage Athapaskans, or Dene, especially the Slaveys and Dogribs, among whom Helm has devoted decades of innovative field research.”—Robert Jarvenpa, author of Northern Passage: Ethnography and Apprenticeship among the Subarctic Dene
“After a rich tapestry of interwoven articles, documents, and vignettes, she concludes with consideration of traditional Dene knowledge, meaning, and enjoyments. A bibliography, index, and various fine illustrations including maps give this work scholarly value of inestimable worth, not least as a perspective on Dene culture at the time of publication.”—B.M. Gough, Wilfrid Laurier University, for CHOICE
“…a fine introduction to the last fifty years of research into Dene life ways, [The People of Denendeh] provides intelligent, if cautious, observations on the transformation of northern Canadian anthropology over the last fifty years, and it delivers a personal reflection of [Helm’s] own evolving awareness of both the academic and public roles her work has played.”—Ethnos