The Dene (which means "people"), also known as the Athabascans, were the first people to live in the Northwest Territories and Alaska after the retreat of the great ice sheets of the last ice age. They lived in semi-nomadic groups, following established routes in their hunting territories. They used dogs as pack animals, but dogsleds weren't used until after the coming of the Europeans. There is evidence that the Dene could travel as far north as the Arctic coast on snowshoes.

Today, descendants of the Dene speak many different languages, all of which are members of the Athapaskan or Na Dene ("the language of the Dene") language group. Some of the Dene tribes are:

The Navajo and the Apache are decendants of migrating Dene.