Sahtu Got'ine are Dene-speaking people who live around Great Bear Lake in the NWT. Their trading post and settlement is Déline (formerly Fort Franklin), at the western end of the lake. The Sahtu Got'ine were not considered a distinct people by self-designation or by outsiders until the 20th century.
Historically, and probably before records exist, Great Bear Lake was exploited by various small bands of K'asho Got'ine, Tlicho and Slavey intercepting the caribou herds and fishing the shores and tributaries. An Aboriginal enemy of the Dene peoples were the Inuit, who sometimes approached the northwest area of the lake in pursuit of caribou. Occasionally this contact may have produced open hostilities, but mutual fear was generally handled by avoidance, and hostility was gradually reduced during the historical period.
Social Pattern and Language
Déline, on Keith Arm near the entrance of Great Bear River, is close to one of the few fishing sites open all year at this latitude. It was an obvious place for friendly neighbouring peoples to enjoy a dependable resource and to mingle socially. With the coming of the fur trade, and a trading post intermittently active since 1804, there was increased contact among native groups. Through the 19th century and into the 20th, these groups gradually began to consider themselves "Bear Lakers" as a larger unit. They also developed their own dialect, incorporating features from Tlicho, K'asho Got'ine and Slavey-Shuta Got'ine languages.
In 1996 the population of the band was only 754. In 1930 uranium and silver were discovered at the eastern end of Great Bear Lake. Uranium mining during the 1940s brought some involvement in the Canadian economy for the Sahtu Got'ine, but by the 1950s this involvement was minimal. The Sahtu Got'ine still rely on traditional hunting and fishing activities, with trapping and limited employment providing cash for other necessities.