views updated Jun 11 2018

Athabascan (Athapascan or Slave Indians) Tribe and language group of Native North Americans, inhabiting nw Canada. They were forced n to the Great Slave Lake and Fort Nelson by the Cree. The term Slave Indian derives from the domination and forced labour exacted by the Cree. The Athabascan tribe has always been closely linked to the Chipewyan people, and some regard them as one group. The Athabascan language is a subgroup of the Na-Dené linguistic phylum. It covers the largest geographical area of all Native North American groups, including Alaska, Yukon, n and w Canada, Oregon, California, New Mexico, and w Arizona. by the mid-1980s, the number of Athabascan speakers was believed to exceed 160,000, including the Apache (with more than 13,000) and Navajo.