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  • 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.


  • Elders

    A man or woman whose wisdom about spirituality, culture and/or life is recognized by the community. Elders can be any age although they generally have many years of experience. The First Nations community and individuals 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.

  • First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada

    A not-for-profit national organization who serves Aboriginal children, youth, and families.


  • Indigenous

    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.

  • Indigenous Knowledge

    Also called Traditional Knowledge, this incorporates a traditional world view into understanding both historical and contemporary concepts and systems, often related to environment and ecology, based on detailed personal observation and experience, and informed by generations of elders. It demonstrates the unique holistic perspective of the world and the interconnectedness to one another in the circle of life. It is recognized and used around the world as an important environmental assessment tool.

  • Inuit

    Inuit are the Indigenous People of Arctic Canada. The word Inuit means “the people” in Inuktitut and is the term by which Inuit refer to themselves. The Inuit in Canada are known collectively as Inuit Nunangat which includes land, water and ice.

    The Inuit consider the land, water and ice of their homeland to be integral to their culture and way of life.There are four Inuit comprehensive land claims regions covering one-third of Canada: Nunavut, Inuvialuit(Northwest Territories), Nunavik (Northern Quebec), and Nunatsiavut(Labrador).

    The Indian Act does not cover Inuit. However, in 1939, the Supreme Court of Canada interpreted the federal government’s power to make laws affecting “Indians, and lands reserved for Indians” as extending to Inuit. Inuit live in communities and settlements, not reserves, therefore the terms on-reserve or off-reserve do not apply to them.Many Inuit also live in southern Canadian cities.


  • Jordan´s Principle

    A principle used in Canada when there are jurisdictional disputes between Canada, a province, a territory, or government departments regarding services to a First Nation child.


  • Métis

    This is the French word for “mixed blood”. The Constitution Act of 1982 recognizes Metis as one of the three Aboriginal Peoples. Historically, the term Metis applied to the children of First Nations women and European fur traders.

    Metis society and culture were established before European settlement was entrenched, thus they have their own culture and history. As is the case with many First Nations languages, the Metis language, Michif, is endangered.

    Metis never lived on reserves and the terms on/off reserve do not apply to them.In 1938, the Alberta government set aside 1.25 million acres of land for eight Metis settlements. Today, the term is used broadly to describe people with mixed First Nations and European ancestry who identify themselves as Metis. Metis organizations in Canada have differing criteria about who qualifies as a Metis person.


  • Residential Schools

    Indian Residential Schools (IRS) were boarding schools for Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit and Metis) children and youth, financed by the federal government but staffed and run by several Christian religious institutions. They had the nominal objective of educating First Nations children but also the more damaging objectives to indoctrinating them into Euro-Canadian and Christian ways of living and assimilating them into mainstream Canadian society.

    Children were forcibly removed from their families for extended periods of time and forbidden from acknowledging their Indigenous heritage and culture or to speak their own languages. Children were severely punished if these strict rules were broken. Former students of residential schools have spoken of horrendous abuse at the hands of residential school staff: physical, sexual, emotional, and psychological.

    Residential schools provided Indigenous students with an inferior education, often only up to grade five, that focused on training students for manual labour in agriculture, light industry such as woodworking, and domestic work such as sewing, cooking, and laundry work.

  • Role models

    Role models are people who inspire us, they help guide people in the right direction as they make life decisions, they provide inspiration and support when needed, and they provide examples of how to live a fulfilling, happy life. Role models can be anyone, someone you know or someone in the media that you look up to.


  • Shannen´s Dream

    A Canadian movement for equitable education for First Nations living on reserve. Named after Shannen Koostachin, a youth education advocate from Attawapiskat First Nation.

  • 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.


  • Treaty

    Treaties are internationally binding agreements between sovereign nations. Hundreds of treaties of peace and friendship were concluded between the European settlers and First Nations during the period prior to confederation.

    These treaties promoted peaceful coexistence and the sharing of resources. After Confederation, the European settlers pursued treaty making as a tool to acquire vast tracts of land. The numbered treaties 1 through 11 were concluded between First Nations and the Crown, after Confederation. Modern Treaties take the form of Comprehensive and Specific Land Claims.

    Effective cultural education practices involve opportunities for experiential on-the-land learning. It dispels the notion that learning must happen in the classroom.

  • Turtle Island

    Many First Nation creation stories believe that North American was created from a turtles back. Turtle Island refers to the land of North America.

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