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A group of Indigenous peoples, which include the Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Oji-Cree, Mississaugas, Chippewa and Algonquin, who have lived and continue to occupy the Northeast Woodlands and Subarctic regions of North America. The Anishinaabe speak Anishinaabemowin, a language that is part of the Algonquin language family.



One of the sacred plant medicines that have traditional healing, ceremonial and spiritual meanings and applications. Cedar is used for purifying a person or a place.

  • Chief

    A band or First Nations chief is someone who is elected by members of a recognized governing First Nation council on an Indian Act reserve to govern for a specified term. A hereditary chief is a separate title for a possible separate leader, who is given the power to lead by cultural protocol. Hereditary chiefs inherit the title and responsibilities according to the history and cultural values of their community.

  • Colonization & Colonizers

    Colonization can be defined as some form of invasion, dispossession and subjugation of a peoples as a means of gaining control of land and resources. It involves one group of people, the colonizers, coming into an area and dominating the people who are already living there.

    The invasion can begin or continue as a geographical intrusion in the form of agricultural, urban or industrial encroachments, resulting in the dispossession of vast amounts of lands from the original inhabitants. This is often legalized after the fact.

    Historically, First Nation peoples lost approximately 98% of their original lands through various means. The long-term result of such massive dispossession is institutionalized inequality. The colonizer/colonized relationship is by nature an unequal one that benefits the colonizer at the expense of the colonized.

  • Confederacy of the Six Nations

    Today, the Confederacy of the Six Nations consists of the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Tuscarora and Mohawk nations. All of which reside around the lower Great Lakes and upper St. Lawrence River valley of north-eastern North America.

  • Contact

    The first appearance of and interaction with Europeans in the land area of what is now Canada.

  • Creation Stories or Legends

    Stories or legends that explain how the world and living things came to be the way they are. In some Indigenous traditions, creation stories are accorded a different class or status from everyday stories with protocols governing when and how to tell them.

  • Culture

    The customs, history, values and languages that make up the heritage of a person or people and contribute to that person’s or people’s identity.



Some Indigenous communities identify an Elder as an individual whose wisdom about spirituality, culture and/or life is recognized and given designation by the community. Elders can be any age although they generally have many years of experience. The use of the term is most common amongst Anishinaabe and Cree communities, but in other societies, such as the Haudeonsaunee, the equivalent term is referred to as Clanmother or Cultural Advisor in the modern context. Community members will normally seek the advice and assistance of elders in various traditional and contemporary areas.


  • First Nations

    First Nations is not a legal term but came into common use in the 1970s to replace Indian, which some people found offensive. Many communities have also replaced “band” with “First Nation” in their names.

    In 1980, hundreds of chiefs met in Ottawa and used “First Nations” for the first time in their Declaration of the First Nations. Symbolically, the term elevates First Nations to the status of “first among equals” alongside the English and French founding nations of Canada. It also reflects the sovereign nature of many communities, and the ongoing quest for self-determination and self-government.

    First Nations people may live on or off reserve, they may or may not have legal status under the Indian Act, and they may or may not be registered members of a community or nation.

    “First Nations” should be used exclusively as a general term as community members are more likely to define themselves as members of specific nations or communities within those nations. For example, a Mohawk (Kanienkehaka) person from Akwesasne who is a member of the Bear clan may choose any of those identifiers. Others may identify themselves as members of one of the many other Nations in Canada – Innu, Cree, Salteaux, Ojibwe, Haida, Dene, Maliseet, Mi’kmaq, Blood, Secwepmec, etc., each with its own tribal history, culture, and traditions.



Haudenosaunee is a Cayuga word for people of the Longhouse, and refers to a group of nations that have joined together as a confederacy (Seneca, Onondaga, Cayuga, Tuscarora, Oneida, Mohawk.)

  • Hiawatha Belt

    A wampum belt that is the national belt of the Haudenosaunee nations (Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, & Mohawk), and named after Hiawatha, the Peacemakers helper. Each square represents a nation and the line connects each nation in peace. The center symbol represents the Onondaga, as it was in this territory that Peacemaker planted the Tree of Peace.



There is no official definition of Indigenous peoples. In part, Indigenous communities, peoples and nations can be described as those which, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing on those territories. Other terms include Aboriginal Peoples, Natives Peoples, Original Peoples, or First Peoples. It is often used to refer to Indigenous peoples in Canada and internationally.


Kaianere’kó:wa or Great Law of Peace

The Great Law of Peace was established by the Peacemaker as a method for the Haudenosaunee to gather as one to think about decisions concerning the whole of the Five Nations Confederacy.



An elongated dwelling structure utilized by some First Nations communities across pre-contact Canada. The word Longhouse may also be used to refer to the traditional teachings of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Haudenosaunee is a Cayuga word for people of the Longhouse; it symbolizes the governance system, matrilineal clanship and physical layout of the Confederacy in the original territories (from east to west: Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca; later joined by the Tuscarora). To this day the Longhouse exists as an important and functioning institution for the Haudenosaunee where ceremonies take place.



The action, state, or period of occupying, settling, residing in a place that had or has others whom live there or have lived there prior to the newcomers.



The Potlatch is a sacred traditional social ceremony held by many of coastal First Nations groups. It involved hosting a feast and giving gifts to build community spirit, honour a member of a nation, and to mark historic events. It was outlawed, as most First nations culture in Canada for many years, but is once again openly practiced.

The Potlatch signifies the value of generosity as a mark of social stature. Traditionally, those who lived in abundance shared their material belongings with others openly and publicly. Most First Nations throughout Canada practice some form of gift giving or give-away during feasts, celebrations, and ceremonies.


Sacred Medicines

Spiritual healers and practitioners use medicines that have been prepared for and through ceremony. There are several widely acknowledged sacred plant medicines that have traditional healing, ceremonial and spiritual meanings and applications. Four of which include cedar, sage, tobacco, and sweetgrass and these are often used in smudging.

  • Sage

    One of the sacred plant medicines that have traditional healing, ceremonial and spiritual meanings and applications. Sage is used for releasing the mind of its troubles and for ridding a space or negative energy. It can also be used to purify a home.

  • Settler

    A person who has migrated and settles in an area, typically one with no or few previous inhabitant, establishing permanent residency.

  • Smudging

    This is a ceremonial practice that involves burning sacred medicines for purification and cleansing. You can smudge items and people. Typically, one smudges the mind to think good thoughts, the ears to hear good things, the eyes to see good things, the mouth the speak kindly, the heart to feel love for yourself and others.

  • Storytelling

    First Nations people have traditionally been an oral society. Storytelling connects individuals to their past, their legends, their history, their identity, and their culture. Every First Nation has its own stories that reflect and reinforce the society and its values.

  • Sweat Lodge

    A sweat lodge is usually a dome-shaped structure made of tree saplings and covered with tarps and blankets. This is a place for spiritual, mental and physical renewal. People enter a Sweat Lodge according to certain rituals and customs. Inside, water is poured on hot rocks to produce steam and high temperatures, and additional prayers and rituals are performed for purification and cleansing.

  • Sweetgrass

    One of the sacred plant medicines that have traditional healing, ceremonial and spiritual meanings and applications. Sweetgrass brings in good spirits and good influences.


Talking Circles

First Nations use Talking Circles as a way to communicate in a respectful way. Individuals sit in a circle because there is no hierarchy in a circle. All participants are equal. Individuals are given an opportunity to talk about their opinions and feelings without being interrupted. The person talking may hold an object like a feather or a talking stick, and the group understands that when a person is all others are listening with respect.

  • Teachings of the Seven Grandfather

    Among the Anishinaabe people, the Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers, otherwise known as the Seven Teachings or Seven Grandfathers, is a set of teachings on human conduct towards others. To live a ‘good way of life’ every human is said to abide by the daily teachings of offering to all things a sense of bravery/courage, honesty, humility, love, respect, truth, and wisdom.

  • The Creator

    Many Indigenous peoples acknowledge the Creator or Great Spirit as the giver of life. The Creator is considered an entity in Indigenous worldview.

  • Tobacco

    One of the sacred plant medicines that have traditional healing, ceremonial and spiritual meanings and applications. Tobacco is used to communicate with the spirit world and is often presented as an offering or gift, especially before collecting medicine herbs. It can also be used for smudging.

  • Totem Poles

    Totem poles are monuments created by First Nations of the Pacific Northwest to represent, document, and commemorate ancestry, histories, people, or events. These could be specific to community, family or clan members.

    Most totem poles display beings, or crest animals that convey a family’s lineage and validating the rights and privileges that the family held. Totem poles are typically created out of red cedar wood and would be erected to be visible within a community.

  • Tree of Peace

    The tree of peace represents the central location, on Onondaga territory. It is said that the five nations of the Haudenosaunee buried their weapons of war under this tree to form the Confederacy of Five Nations under the Great Law of Peace.

  • Turtle Island

    A name used by First Nations and Métis to refer to the North American continent. Several origin stories tell of how the land was recovered from below the waters of a great flood and deposited on a turtle’s back for the benefit and use of people.

  • Tuscarora Nation

    Tuscarora, or hemp gatherers, are a member of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy having joined several generations after the original Five Nation Confederacy formed. Many of the Tuscarora people moved, or were pushed from the southern Mississippi valley toward their northern homelands today in North Carolina, New York and Ontario due to inter-nation warfare and European colonization. Their language is set in the same root dialect as the other Haudenosaunee groups, and so joining their confederacy was fluid.


Wampum Belt

Beads usually fashioned from quahog, whelk or other shells. Used in trade and as a record of political accords and important events by Eastern Woodland and Haudenosaunee nations. Nations used a belt made with wampum to pledge the truth of their words. Wampum signified a spiritual commitment to act, work and relate in a certain manner. Decorative and symbolic, they were also signs of high office.

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