First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples are members of a cultures and societies that are profoundly distinct, diverse and numerous. Commonly referred to as Aboriginal, in governmental terms, many identify themselves by a wide selection of geographical, cultural or linguistic terms that appear confusing.
The following is a guide to various terms associated with First
Nations peoples, issues and treaties. Please note that individual
preferences may vary and should be respected when known. When unsure, it is polite and appropriate to ask how a person, band or council wishes to be addressed.
as used in the context of the program is defined according to the Canadian Constitution Act (1982) as “North American Indian (First Nations), Métis and Inuit peoples of Canada.
The following are definitions specific to each Aboriginal Group:
Descendants of the original inhabitants of North America. Although the term “First Nation: is now widely used there is no legal definition for it (INAC, 2005).
originally used to refer to the descendants of the
early 18th and 19th century French or Scottish fur traders and
Aboriginal women in western Canada, specifically, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Today, Métis means a person who self identifies as Métis; is of historic Métis Nation Ancestry, is distinct from other Aboriginal peoples and is accepted by the Métis Nation (Métis National Council, 2002).
Inuit are an original people of the land now known as the Canadian high arctic and live primarily in Nunavut, Nunavik and Nunatsiavut (Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, 2008).
a legal term defined in the
Indian Act, some Aboriginal people still refer to themselves as
Indians, but the term Aboriginal is becoming increasingly common.
However, do not substitute Aboriginal for Indian when it is part of a
title, for example Indian and Northern Affairs, the Indian Act, or part
of a band name.
person defined as an Indian under the Indian Act. See also registered Indian.
person who is defined as an Indian under the Indian Act, and who is registered under the Act.
Refers to those persons who reported they were registered under the Indian
Act of Canada and can prove descent from a Band that signed a
Aboriginal people who consider themselves to be Indian or members of a First Nation, however are not recognized as such by the Federal Government.
initially created by colonial governors and
later, the Canadian government, reserves are defined in Section 2 of
the Indian Act as parcels or tracts of land that have been set apart by
the federal government for the use and benefit of an Indian band. The
legal title to Indian reserve land is vested in the federal government.
See also s.91(24).
a group of people that holds
reserve land or has funds held for it by the federal government, or has
been declared a band by the Governor-in-Council. Its definition is
provided in the Indian Act. Across Canada there are 608 bands in total.
elected according to provisions of the Indian Act, charged with the
responsibility for "the good government of the band" and delegated the
authority to pass by-laws on Indian reserve lands.
federal legislation designed
to give effect to the legislative authority of Canada for "Indians, and
Lands reserved for the Indians," pursuant to s.91(24) of the
Constitution Act, 1867.
acronym for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. INAC
is responsible for negotiating treaties on behalf of Canada. (Also
referred to as the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern
Rights that some Aboriginal peoples
of Canada hold as a result of their ancestors' long-standing use and
occupancy of the land. The rights of certain Aboriginal peoples to
hunt, trap and fish on ancestral lands are examples of Aboriginal
rights. Aboriginal rights vary from group to group depending on the
customs, practices and traditions that have formed part of their
A legal term that recognizes an
Aboriginal interest in the land. It is based on the long-standing use
and occupancy of the land by today's Aboriginal peoples as the
descendants of the original inhabitants of Canada.
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