Northern Athapaskan prehistory is quite literally about a myriad of different “plays” upon the salient features, made against a backdrop consisting of the variety of political and environmental settings typical of northwestern North America. The formal qualities of the proto-Athapaskan terminology require that at least the precursor population to the first Athapaskan peoples used the form of marriage, since that is how the logical structure arises. For the Arctic Drainage Athapaskans, local group alliance systems dominated the scene. The situation for the Pacific Drainage Athapaskans was quite different. It involved geography with more sharply bounded habitats and territories. There existed a higher density of Athapaskan and other societies, with greater linguistic and cultural diversity. As Athapaskan societies expanded outward from their homeland, they came increasingly into contact with regions in which powerful cultural forces were at work during the later prehistory of western North America.