In the past, the Acho Dene Koe have been referred to by various names, the most common name is Fort Liard, or the Fort Liard Band, in reference to the Hudson Bay Company fort located in the center of Acho Dene Koe territory.
Members of Acho Dene Koe First Nation are descendants of the Dene people, and speak an Athapaskan language belonging to the Na-Dene family called Slavey. ADKFN ancestors occupied their traditional territory of Northwest Territories, British Columbia, and Yukon for thousands of years, sustaining their livelihood on a traditional economy of moose and caribou hunting, fishing, trapping, and plant gathering. Living off the land, our ancestors hunted and trapped, built canoes out of moose hides and wood, and practiced traditional artisanship like beading and quillwork.
Traditional Ecological Knowledge
The members of Acho Dene Koe were and still are exclusively hunters, fishers, and gathers. In many ways, these activities remain the focus of life today. Their substance activities reflect a changing economic relationship to their environment throughout the course of a year; as such, their lifestyle has always been highly mobile as they traveled their territory in search of food. ADKFN has always had a vast material culture. In addition to using tools such as traps and knives for acquiring food, the ADK toolkit has included technology such as sleds, moose-hide boats, and canoes. The women sewed their clothing from animal hides, which quite often would be adorned with intricate beading patterns for decoration. Producing leather from moose hide required tanning tools including scrapers and fleshers. Weapons used for war and the hunts were made from materials that included obsidian and animal bones.
Then the Europeans Come
Contact with European settlers was established in the 18th century, and European presence increased with Alexander Mackenzie’s exploration of the region. Trade between Europeans and the Acho Dene Koe people was facilitated by the Northwest Company and Hudson Bay Company trading post at Fort Liard . 1859 saw the foundation of the Fort Liard Mission by oblate missionary Father Zephirin Gascon, and the presence of the missionaries and Grey Nuns is reflected in the iconography of contemporary material works. ADKFN are Signatory to Treaty No. 11 (Treaty 11).
The impact of missionaries and the Grey Nuns who inhabited the area lives on to this day; the original Mission building stands as part of Fort Liard’s history, and the influence of the nuns on arts and crafts is reflected in popular contemporary patterns like flowers, birds, and animals.
Following the establishment of the Fort Liard Mission, the Acho Dene Koe traditional economy involved the hunting of moose and caribou, trapping of smaller animals, fishing and gathering plant goods for barter and trade. While often referred to as “traditional practices” these activities continue to be performed by contemporary members of Acho Dene Koe First Nation.
Modern Acho Dene Koe First Nation
In recent times, the history of the Acho Dene Koe First Nation parallels the changes brought to northern Canada with prospectors seeking mining, and more recently, oil and gas development.
Today Acho Dene Koe First Nation leadership is committed to preserving our history, culture and the traditional practices of our people in response to increased industrial development in the territory.