Wiliideh Yellowknives Dene are one of the peoples of the T’satsaot’ine (“metal” or “copper” people). The people were known for the pots, knives, and other tools they made from copper collected in the northerly parts of their territory.
Before trapping for the fur trade changed traditional occupancy and land-use pattern north of Tinde’e (Great Slave Lake), the traditional territory of the T’satsaot’ine consisted of lands around Great Slave Lake north to the Copper-mine River, and east to the Theron River. Since 1959, descendants of the T’satsaot’ine tribe have lived mostly at Deninu Kue, Rocher River, Lutsel K’e, Reliance, Ndilo, Dettah and Enodah. Today, the people call themselves and their territory after the great T’satsaot’ine leader Akeh-Cho: The Akaitcho Peoples and Akaitcho Territory.
Wiliideh Yellowknives Dene call themselves after the river (the Wiliideh) in the southerly parts of their territory, where they traditionally spent summer. The Wiliideh (“Coney River”) is shown on government maps as the Yellowknife River. In the Wiliideh Yellowknives dialect, wilii in English means fish known as coney (or inconnu) and deh means flowing water or river. Wiliideh Yellowknives Elders tell a story in which Alexander Mackenzie decided to call the river “Yellowknife” after what the European explorer thought the people camped at the mouth were calling themselves. Elders today believe their ancestors and the interpreter were actually informing Mackenzie about the copper knives they held in their hands at the time.