Before this movement of the Beaver it appears that the Sikanni had inhabited the area from the mouth of the Smoky River north of Dunvegan to the Rocky Mountain Canyon near today’s W. A. C. Bennett dam-site. The Sikanni who had formerly lived around Fort St. John and Dunvegan were pushed back beyond the portage at Hudson’s Hope, and split at Finlay Forks, where the Peace River is formed by the confluence of the Parsnip and the Finlay Rivers. Mackenzie referred to all the Indians west of Dunvegan as “The Rocky Mountain Indians”.
The old name for the Peace River (before Unchagah) was Tsades, meaning “River of Beavers”, hence the name “Beavers” given to all those who lived along it, and Tsa-tu, meaning “Beaver People” for the subdivisions living around Fort St. John. One may point out that the Crees still maintain that they named the Beavers because of some of that “tribes” customs. It seems strange that the Beaver Indians should have accepted an uncomplimentary nickname for themselves. As the first written history is Mackenzie’s account, it seems impossible to settle the conflict of ideas now. We do know that the area where Dawson Creek now stands was known as “The Beaver Plains” when entered in the late 1880’s, and the Indians then living here were known as Beavers. They also hunted out into the Pine Valley as far as Azouzetta Lake.
As early as 1806 Simon Fraser noted that the “Beavers” from around Hudson’s Hope, and possibly the Pine Valley, used to raid west across the mountains into the territory then occupied by the Sekani who feared them greatly, and told fearsome tales of the Beavers’ warlike and savage conduct. Also the Sikanni or “Meadow Indians” as Simon Fraser called them were often hunger-stricken because of the lack of moose. They used to invade the region east of the Rockies, probably as far as Fort St. John. The old Portage Trail around the Canyon was formerly known as the “Old Sikanni War Trail”.
To add to the confusion, the Chipewyans claim that they are the original people from who the Beaver sprang. Their dialects are very much alike, lending some credence to this claim.
Also, a division of the Athapaskan-speakers now known as “Slaves” does not seem to be the “Slaves” of Mackenzie’s day. The Beavers who lived around Dunvegan have a tradition, passed on to Dr. P. E. Goddard in the early 1900’s, that a tribe of their people “long ago” died out completely.
In 1804 David Thompson called the Indians around Fort Chipewyan “Chipewyans”. He says that in 1788 Chipewyans (under English Chief) did not want to trade at the new Grand Marais Fort because they did not like the Beaver Indians who came to the post to trade. They were so much afraid of them that they (the Chipewyans) surrendered them everything.
One can infer, therefore, that between 1790 and 1804 the fur traders had recognized two different tribes (besides the Crees) around Fort Chipewyan on Lake Athabasca.