Dane-zaa is an Athabaskan language spoken in parts of British Columbia and Alberta in Canada by about 160 people in 2014. The language is also known as Beaver, which comes from Tsa-dane ("beaver people"), the native name of one the the Dane-zaa bands. The native name of the language is Danezaa ZaageɁ / ᑕᓀᖚ ᖚᗀᐥ, which means "language of the true people". Other spellings of Dane-zaa include Danezaa, Daneza, Dunne-za, Dunneza, Tsaa-dane, Tsattine, Tsa-tinne and Tza-tinne.
Dane-zaa is closely related to Alberta Slavey (Dene Dháh), Sekani, Tsuut'ina, Chipewyan (Dene Sųłiné) and Kaska (Dene Zā́gé').
There are a number of dialects of Dane-zaa: Boyer River and Child Lake are spoken in Alberta by the Beaver First Nation. Prophet River, Blueberry River, Doig River (Hanás̱ Saahgéʔ), Halfway River and West Moberly Lake are spoken in British Columbia by groups named after these rivers and lake.
Since the 1980s English has become the dominant language in formerly Dane-zaa-speaking communities. Few children speak the language any more, and most remaing speakers are elderly.
During the 1800s missionaries developed ways to write Dane-zaa using the Latin alphabet. A syllabic script, originally developed for Ojibwe, was also adapted to write Dane-zaa. Since 1962, Marshall and Jean Holdstock, and Dane-zaa speakers from Doig River have worked to analyze the sounds of Dane-zaa and develop a new orthography for it. They have also worked with Wycliff Bible Translators and SIL to produce a dictionary and other books. Since 1999 more has been done to document the language and keep it alive.
Hear the sounds of Dane-zaa at
Aadzęhdǫ́h tǫ́hch’iidǫ́h jii, Madátsʼatlʼǫje dane yéhjii. Dane yadááhdzéʔ háá ghędaa. Dane yadááḏẕé dáánejiilh.
A long time ago, they called this Madáts’atl’ǫje [Snare Hill]. People depended on this place to live. People depended on this place to survive.
Details by Michael Peter Füstumum
Information about Dane-zaa
Ahtna, Apache (Western), Babine-Witsuwit'en, Chilcotin, Chipewyan, Deg Xinag, Dena’ina, Dane-zaa (Beaver), Eyak, Gwich'in, Hän, Hupa, Jicarilla, Kaska, Koyukon, Lipan Apache, Lower Tanana, Mescalero-Chiricahua, Navajo, North Slavey, Sekani, South Slavey, Tahltan, Tanacross, Tłı̨chǫ (Dogrib), Tolowa, Tsuut'ina (Sarcee), Tutchone, Upper Kuskokwim, Upper Tanana
Page last modified: 30.04.22
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