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  • Accessibility

    Creating a flexible and respectful environment where people feel culturally safe and know that they will be heard and treated with dignity.


  • Bias

    Prejudice in favour of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.

    Examples of bias include omitting relevant information, referring to negative attributes and ignoring positive attributes, using unverified and invalid statements, perpetuating stereotypes, and making generalizations.

  • Broadcloth

    A dense, woven cloth usually made of cotton.


  • Cedar

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

  • Ceremonial Pipe

    The pipe is smoked on ceremonial occasions, as a means of communication with the Great Spirit or Creator.

  • Colonization

    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 geographical intrusion in the form of agricultural, urban or industrial encroachments, resulting 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.

  • Contact

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

  • Cultural Competency

    The capacity to interact compassionately, sensitively, knowledgeably, and effectively with people of different cultures.

  • Cultural Profiency

    The capacity to interact compassionately, sensitively, knowledgeably, and effectively with people of different cultures, andthe capacity to recognize the diversity within and between cultures.

  • 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.


  • Dance

    Dancing is a form of prayer and respect for the Creator. The many styles of dancing, regalia and adornments represent historical and cultural events and teachings.

  • Department of Indian and Northern Affairs

    This federal department within the Government of Canada oversees all programs and services for First Nations, Inuit and Metis. The name of this department has changed frequently over the years.

  • Drum

    A drum is a round musical instrument made by stretching a hide over a carved wooden frame. It is often said that the sound of the drum represents the heartbeat of Mother Earth.


  • Eagle

    The eagle is a sacred bird that symbolizes qualities that are important to First Nations—great courage, strength, and vision, and acts as a messenger between people and the Creator.

  • 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.

  • Equality

    Equality means each person gets the same treatment or the same amount of something. It involves systematically dividing something into equal parts.

  • Equity

    Equity recognizes that not everyone has the same needs. Equity is about justice and a fair process that leads to an equal outcome. It takes into account the injustices of the past and how they have placed some in positions of privilege while others face significant barriers to achieving well-being.


  • 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 Education

    A model developed in 2007 to articulate the recognition that the world of First Nations learners is one of interconnectedness, in which experiences and relationships are circular, cumulative and holistic.


  • Inclusiveness

    Treating all groups or all members of a group equally and equitably, and without exception.

  • 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, Native 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.


  • Jessica Diemer-Eaton

    Jessica Diemer-Eaton (author and illustrator) has been a historical interpreter of Woodland Indian lifeways since 2001, serving as a museum interpreter, Native American Studies instructor, and history park educational director. She studied anthropology at Indiana University and majored in commercial art at Sussex County Technical School (NJ). Jessica is owner of Woodland Indian Educational Programs, where she conducts programs and provides educational materials for museums, schools, living history events, and powwows.


  • Medicine Pouch

    A sacred pouch, often made of hide or leather that may contain medicines (such as tobacco, sweet grass, sage, and/or cedar) as well as other objects important to the carrier. Generally, the medicine pouch is worn around the neck or waist or carried in a pocket as spiritual protection for the carrier.

  • Medicine Wheel

    This is used by many First Nations in different ways as symbolic representation of First Nations worldview. It is circular and sectioned into 4 colours (red, yellow, white and blue or black.) It has many teachings and can represent many things, including: the four directions, elements, seasons, human races, spirit animals, stages of life, and dimensions of personal development (mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual).

  • 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.

  • Mother Earth’s Children’s Charter School

    A private school in Alberta with a focus on incorporating traditional Indigenous knowledge into all aspects of the curriculum.


  • Peace and Friendship Treaties

    To strengthen their commercial interests, a significant part of which was the fur trade, the British and the French developed various types of agreements and alliances with First Nations.

    These “Peace and Friendship” treaties were expected to end hostilities between the Europeans and the First Nations and establish ongoing peaceful and respectful nation to nation relations. Included in these treaties were agreements establishing how treaty partners would co-exist, the granting of rights and permissions to the settlers and their colonial governments on areas such as land and resources and assurances that First Nations would continue to trade with the Europeans, and to hunt, fish, and observe traditional customs and religious practices. No First Nations land was surrendered in these treaties.

  • Pipe

    A device for smoking tobacco, consisting of a narrow tube made from wood, clay, etc. with a bowl at one end in which the tobacco is burned, the smoke from which is drawn into the mouth. The pipe is smoked on ceremonial occasions, as a means of communication with the Great Spirit or Creator. The bowl of the pipe represents the female aspect, while the stem represents the male aspect. Together the pipe symbolizes union and balance of female and male.

  • Potlatch

    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.

  • Pow Wow

    An opportunity for First Nations peoples to gather, socialize, celebrate and share cultural activities like dancing, drumming, and feasting according to certain protocols. Traditional practices like sunrise, sunset and pipe ceremonies may take place.


  • Regalia

    Regalia is the proper term for the outfits (clothing and adornments) dancers wear at traditional gatherings and ceremonies including Pow wows and Sun Dances. There is much meaning and symbolism in the colours and choices of accessories that regalia makers use. Regalia also matches the style of dancing it is intended for.

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • Smudge

    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 to speak kindly, the heart to feel love for yourself and others.

  • Songs

    First Nations traditionally sing as a form of prayer and respect for the Creator, often accompanied by the drum. Many traditional songs are sung as important parts of ceremonies and celebrations.

  • Stereotypes

    A stereotype is a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing. Canada is a country whose citizens prides themselves on our diversity and promotion of multiculturalism yet turn a blind eye to the continued stereotypical views and depictions of First Nations people represented in textbooks, education systems, media, sports, and industry.

  • 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.

  • Sun Dance

    The Sun Dance is a ceremony practiced by some First Nations inCanada. It usually involves the community gathering together to pray for healing. Individuals make personal sacrifices on behalf of the community. Although it originated in the Plains, the Sun Dance is expanding across Canada.

  • 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.

  • Sweet Grass

    One of the four 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 speaking all others are listening with respect.

  • The Creator

    First Nation peoples acknowledge the Creator or Great Spirit as the giver of life. This is part of the First Nations worldview.

  • The Western and Northern Canadian Protocol

    An agreement between the western and northern provinces and territories of Canada to share in the development and use of common curriculum frameworks.

  • Tobacco

    One of the four 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.

  • Transcendental Meditation

    Transcendental Meditation is a quiet, self-reflective practice that complements First Nations traditional ceremonies and teachings such as Sweat Lodge Ceremony, Fasting, and Vision Quest. This is world-renowned as a scientifically evidence-based tool for creating social cohesion and self-development.

  • 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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