The Dakelh Language

Dakelh is spoken in the central interior of British Columbia. Dakelh territory includes the area along the Fraser River from north of Prince George to south of Quesnel, the Nechako Valley, the areas around Stuart Lake, Trembleur Lake, and Fraser Lake, and the region along the West Road and Blackwater Rivers, west to the Coast Range, including the Kluskus Lakes, Ootsa Lake and Cheslatta Lake. Prince George, Vanderhoof, Fort Saint James, Fraser Lake and Quesnel are in Dakelh territory.

Carrier people refer to themselves as Dakelh. This may be singular or plural. In some dialects, it has the optional plural form Dakelhne. In English, the language is referred to as Dakelh. In Dakelh, the language may be referred to either as Dakelh or by means of a compound with the word for language: dakelhghuni (Nak'albun/Dzinghubun dialect), Dakelhghunik (Stellako dialect), Dakelhghunek (all other dialects). However, the noun is not often used, since in Dakelh one does not say "to speak such and such a language" but rather "to speak in the manner of such and such people". Thus, "He speaks French" is Soo nedo k'un'a yalhduk (Nak'albun/Dzinghubun dialect), literally "he speaks in the manner of French people".

The usual English name Carrier is a translation of the Sekani name for Dakelh people,Aghele. This term is said to be derived from the fact that when a Dakelh man died and had been cremated, his widow would pack around his bones and ashes during the period of mourning. The reason that the English term comes from the Sekani name is that the first Europeans to enter Dakelh territory, members of the Northwest Company party led by Alexander MacKenzie in 1793, passed through Sekani territory before they entered Dakelh territory and so learned about Dakelh people from the Sekani. Furthermore, Sekani people played an important role in the early period of contact between the fur traders and Dakelh people because some Sekani people could speak both Dakelh and Cree and served as interpreters between the fur traders and Dakelh people. (For more information see The Languages of Contact.)

In French Dakelh people are referred to as les Porteurs, which means the same thing as English Carrier and has the same origin. The language is therefore sometimes referred to as Porteur.

Another term sometimes found in older literature is Taculli, with variant spellings such as Takulie. This is a garbled version of Dakelh. Another variant is Takelne. This is a bastardized version of the word Dakelhne "Carrier people" in the writing system used by Father Adrien-Gabriel Morice in his scholarly writing.

The earliest English name for Dakelh is Nagailer, used by the explorer Alexander MacKenzie in his Journal.

Dakelh is an Athabaskan language.

For further information about Dakelh, go to: Dakelh Menu.


Yinka Déné Language Institute © 2006