Identification. The Slavey are an American Indian group of northern Canada whose name or cultural designation is of foreign origin. "Slavey" derives from a translation of the Algonkian Cree term awahkaan, meaning "captive, slave." traditionally, peoples referred to as Slavey distinguished various groups among themselves, usually on the basis of residence or territory.
Location. Slavey inhabited the Mackenzie River drainage of northern Canada. Their territory was roughly bounded on the south by the Fort Nelson and Hay rivers; on the north by the Great Bear River; on the east by the nearest shores of the Great Slave and Great Bear lakes; and on the west by the peaks of the Mackenzie Mountains. Most Slavey now reside in the communities of Fort Liard, Hay River, Fort Providence, Fort Simpson, Fort Liard, Fort Wrigley, and Fort Norman in the Northwest Territories; Fort Nelson in British Columbia; and near Fort Vermillion in northern Alberta.
Demography. The aboriginal population has been estimated at about twelve hundred. The contemporary population is about five thousand.
Linguistic Affiliation. The term Slavey is used to refer to a number of closely related northeastern Athapaskan Languages or dialects, including those spoken by Slavey, Bear-lake, Mountain, and Hare Indians. Dogrib and Chipewyan are other closely related northeastern Athapaskan languages. These languages are ultimately related to others spoken in northwestern Canada, Alaska, the Pacific Coast, and the American Southwest.