The name Beaver (Dunne-zaa) derives from their main site, Tsades or River of Beavers, now called the Peace River (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2014). Dunne-zaa belong to the Athapaskan language group and are geographically situated in the Peace River region of British Columbia and Alberta. Currently, several Beaver communities live on reserves and approximately half of all registered Beaver live off reserve (Ridington, 2014, “Beaver”). A total of five reserves are allocated to the Beavers, four in British Columbia and two in Alberta.

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Photo source: Virtual Museum Canada

In Dunne-zaa culture, it is believed that Nááchę (Dreamers) could travel to Heaven in their dreams and bring back songs which provided teachings, visions, and prophecies from the creator (Ridington, Ridington and Elders of Dane-zaa First Nations, 2013, p.156). These dreams carried symbolic meanings and messages about social order, community and nature. The first Dreamer was Makénúúnatane (“His Tracks Earth Trail”), who predicted the coming of the Europeans (Ibid). Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, the Dreamers acted as hunting chiefs as their dreams aided the community in organizing and capturing game animals (Ibid. p.157). Dunne-za relied on big-game animals such as bison, beavers and moose for sustenance (McMillian and Yellowhorn, 2004, p.243). However, communal hunts were disrupted by the arrival of the Europeans and the introduction of fire arms as it enabled hunters to catch game individually (Ridington, Ridington and Elders of Dane-zaa First Nations, 2013, p.164). Most Dreamers gained their abilities only after dying and coming back to life; like the swans, Dreamers could fly to heaven and return to earth.