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  • Aboriginal Rights

    The legal rights that Indigenous peoples in Canada hold as a result of their ancestors’ long-standing use and occupancy of the land. These rights uphold the customs, practices and traditions that form a group’s distinctive culture. Examples of such rights include the right to hunt, trap and fish on ancestral lands. Aboriginal Rights are protected in the Constitution Act of 1982.

  • Aboriginal Title

    A legal term that recognizes Indigenous interest in land. It is based on the long-standing use and occupancy of the land by today’s Indigenous peoples as the descendants of the original inhabitants of Canada. In Canada, where no treaty has been signed, Aboriginal Title exists.

  • Assimilate

    The process of absorbing one cultural group into another. This can be pursued through harsh and extreme state policies, such as removing the children from their families and placing them in the homes or institutions of another culture. Forcing people to assimilate through legislation is cultural genocide – the intent is to make a culture disappear.


  • Bill C-31

    Bill C-31, or a Bill to Amend the Indian Act, passed into law in April 1985 to bring the Indian Act into line with gender equality under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It proposed modifications to various sections of the Indian Act, including significant changes to Indian status and band membership, with three major goals: to address gender discrimination of the Indian Act, to restore Indian status to those who had been forcibly enfranchised due to previous discriminatory provisions, and to allow bands to control their own band membership as a step towards self-government.


  • Colonial, Colonization & Colonial Power

    Colonial refers to an aspect of something belonging to, or displaying characteristics that identify with being part of a retaining authority.

    Colonialism is the establishment, exploitation, maintenance, acquisition, and expansion of a colony in one territory by a political power from another territory.

    It is a set of unequal relationships between the colonial power and the colony and often between the colonists (those perpetuating their colonial power) over most often an Indigenous population, otherwise considered the colonized.

  • 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.


  • Enfranchisement

    Enfranchisement is a legal process for terminating a person’s Indian status and conferring full Canadian citizenship. Enfranchisement was a key feature of the Canadian federal government’s assimilation policies regarding Aboriginal peoples.


  • 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.


  • Governance

    The process of interaction and decision-making by a group (government, organization, family, etc) that lead to policy, rules, and regulations to guide that group.


  • Indian Act

    The Indian Act of 1876 is a legal document and a set of laws that gave the Government complete control over the lives of First Nations peoples.

  • Indian Status

    Indian status is the legal status of a person who is registered as an Indian under the Indian Act. Under the Indian Act, status Indians, also known as registered Indians, may be eligible for a range of benefits, rights, programs and services offered by the federal and provincial or territorial governments.

  • Indians

    Indian Peoples are one of three peoples recognized as Aboriginal in the Constitution Act, 1982 along with Inuit and Metis. This term collectively describes all Indigenous People in Canada who are not Inuit or Metis. Three categories apply to Indians in Canada: Status Indians, Non-Status Indians and Treaty Indians.


  • Nations or Nation State

    A nation or nation state is a geographical area that can be identified as deriving its political legitimacy from serving as a sovereign nation. A state is a political and geopolitical entity, while a nation is a cultural and ethnic one.


  • 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.


  • Treaties

    Treaties are internationally building 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.

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