Athabascas, a family of American Indians, comprising two large divisions: one bordering on the Esquimaux in the northwest, and extending from Hudson bay to the Pacific; the other on the Mexican frontier, extending from the gulf of California to Texas," with smaller bands scattered along the Pacific from Cook's inlet to Umpqua river, Oregon. The northern district contains a variety of tribes, the more important being the Tinne (called Chipe-wyans by the Crees), the Tahkali or Carriers, Sicaunies, Kutchin or Loucheux, Dog Ribs, Mauvais Monde, Slaves, Beaver Indians, and Yellow Knives, with the Sursee on the Saskatchewan. Their numbers have not been accurately computed, but are estimated by Kirby at 32,000. The scattered tribes are the Ke-naians or Tnaina on Cook's inlet, numbering about 25,000; the Kwalhioqua and Tlatskanai, about 100 each, on the Columbia; and the Umpquas, about 400 in number, on the river of that name. These tribes are all represented as timid, mild, and gentle in manner, peaceable and industrious.

The southern district includes the sedentary Navajos, who cultivate the soil and weave blankets; the fierce, wandering Apaches, the most troublesome of tribes; and the more quiet Lipans of Texas. These number about 17,000. The name of the family is derived from Lake Athabasca, but the word is taken, not from their language, but from the Cree, meaning cords of hay according to some. They are easily distinguished from other families, having square massive heads, short hands and feet, and a quantity of beard quite unusual in American tribes. They profess to have come from a distant country in the west, over a series of islands amid ice and snow. Some writers trace strong Tartar resemblances in them, and Turner found curious analogies between their language and that of Thibet.