Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Nahanes

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"People of the Setting Sun", a tribe of the great Déné family of American Indians, whose habitat is east and west of the Rocky Mountains just north of latitude 58°N. Broadly speaking they are divided into two branches, the eastern and the western Nahanes. The latter are themselves subdivided into the Thalhthans, so called after their general rendezvous at the confluence of the river of the same name with the Stickine, and the Takus,.whose territory is the basin of the Taku River, together with the upper portions of the streams which flow northward to the Lewes, as far east as the upper Liard River. The Kaskas live just west, and through the Rocky Mountains, and by speech, physique, and sociology they are eastern Nahanes, while just east of the same range another subdivision of the tribe roams over the mountains of the Mackenzie. The entire tribe cannot now number much more than 1000 souls, viz., 175 Thalhthans, 200 Kaskas, 150 Takus, and 500 eastern Nahanes proper. The latter, as well as the Kaskas, are pure nomads, without any social organization to speak of, following patriarchal lines in their descent and laws of inheritance, while the westernmost Nahanes have adopted the matriarchal institutions of their neighbours on the Pacific Coast, the clans, with petty chiefs (some of whom are quite influential and are occasionally women), potlatches or public distributions of goods or eatables, cremation of the dead, ceremonial dances, etc. Physically their also resemble the coast Indians, with whom they have intermarried to a great extent, and from the language of whom they have borrowed not a few words.

From a religious standpoint the Nahanes have fared badly. The secluded position of the western branch and the nomadic habits of the eastern subdivision have conspired to keep them away from religious influences. Moreover contact with the miners of the Cassiar goldfields has considerably demoralized the Nahanes of the Far West and sadly thinned their ranks. The Anglican Church has for a dozen of years or so maintained a mission at Thalhthan, which has met with a limited measure of success. The only visit of a Catholic priest to the same was paid by the writer in the summer of 1903, and it is understood that it is now to be followed up by either the establishment of a permanent post there or by periodical visits of Oblate missionaries. As to the eastern branch of the tribe, they have been more or less within reach of the priests of the Mackenzie valley. To this day, however, both east and west of the Rockies the tribe can be pointed out as one of the least civilized of the North American Indians.

See bibliography to DENIS, HARES, and LOUCHEUX: MORICE, The Nah'ane and their Language in Transactions of the Canadian Institute (Toronto, 1903).

A. G. Morice.