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  • Aboriginal

    This is a collective name for all of the original peoples of Canada and their descendants. The Constitution Act of 1982 specifies that the Aboriginal Peoples in Canada consist of three groups – First Nations, Inuit and Metis – with unique heritages, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs. The term Aboriginal peoples should not be used to describe only one or two of the groups.

    Other terms include Indigenous Peoples, Native Peoples, Original Peoples, or First Peoples. Because Aboriginal peoples is the term used in Canada’s constitution, it has specific importance within a Canadian legal context.

  • Assimilation

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


  • 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 Control of First Nations Education

    An AFN Policy Paper published in 2010 that outlines the First Nations position on control of education, updated from Indian Control of Indian Education (1972).


  • Indian

    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.

  • Indian Act, 1867

    This is the Canadian federal legislation, first passed in 1876, which sets out certain federal government obligations, and regulates the management of Indian reserve lands

    The Canadian government used the Indian Act to attack the identity of First Nations peoples. It limited hunting and fishing and made spiritual ceremonies like the Potlatch, Pow-wow and Sun Dance against the law. This didn’t change until the 1950s. The act has been amended several times, most recently in 1985.

    To this day, the Indian Act still controls many aspects of First Nations peoples’ lives.There is much discussion about dismantling the Indian Act, but leaders are reluctant to do so until there is a viable alternative in place.

  • Indian Control of Indian Education

    An AFN Policy Paper published in 1972 that outlines the First Nations position on control of education. It was the precursor to First Nations Control of First Nations Education (2010)

  • Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement

    The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA), announced in 2006, is the largest class action in Canada’s history. It was negotiated by the AFN, in collaboration with and on behalf of, former students of Indian Residential Schools in Canada.

    The agreement is between the government of Canada and the approximately 86,000 Indigenous people removed from their families as children and placed in theCanadian Indian residential school system during the 20th century. The IRSSA recognized the damage inflicted by the residential schools and established a $2 billion compensation package for the victims.It also provided for the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC).

  • 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.

  • Intergenerational legacy

    When an individual or a group of people experience violence, abuse or some other form of trauma, the negative impacts of these experiences are felt by their children and grandchildren. The trauma inherited by future generations can show itself in many ways including destructive behaviours and health problems.

  • 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.


  • 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.


  • Survivors

    This is a term that former students of residential schools applied to themselves as a demonstration of resilience for the horrors they suffered in residential schools. The term gained prominence in 1994 when the Indian Residential School Survivors Society was formed to support the litigation process pertaining to residential school abuses. Their work lead to the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement.


  • The Truth and Reconciliation Commission

    The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was a truth and reconciliation commission organized by the parties to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

    The commission was part of a holistic and comprehensive response to the charges of abuse and other ill effects for First Nations children that resulted from the Indian residential school legacy. The Commission was officially established on June 2, 2008, and was completed in December 2015.

  • 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.

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