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Indigenous Topics

Terms and Definitions

Indigenous – Indigenous is often used as an umbrella term for status and non-status First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people. While it refers to all these groups collectively or separately, for many, it is the preferred term.

First Nations – A term developed by Indigenous Peoples in the 1970s - Métis and Inuit peoples are excluded in this term’s definition. Most reserve-based communities in Canada refer to themselves as ‘First Nations,’ but specific names are preferred, like the Tsuu T’ina Nation. This term can also refer to individuals who have obtained status under the Indian Act.

Aboriginal – A general term referring to First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people, founded in the Canadian constitution. ‘Aboriginal’ should never be used as a noun, but rather as an adjective, as Aboriginal people do not ‘belong to’ Canada.

Métis – Referring to people of mixed ancestry between European settlers and Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

Inuit – Indigenous Peoples living in Canada’s North (Nunavut, North West Territories, Quebec, and Labrador)

Innu- A separate group located in Northeastern Quebec and Southern Labrador often incorrectly included as part of Inuit. They are the Montaigne people of Quebec.

FNMI – A common abbreviation of “First Nations, Métis, and Inuit

Indian – Unless referenced in a legal context (Indian Act, Indian Status, etc.) this term should be avoided due to its negative connotation for Indigenous people.

Native – An outdated, collective term referring to all Indigenous people of Canada. Considering that the general term “native” refers to something that has originated from a particular place, this term can be offensive to Indigenous people. With this understanding, the term may be problematic as some non-Indigenous individuals may argue that they are too, “native.”

Indian Act – The Indian Act was passed in 1876 to regulate reserves and their Indigenous occupants. This legislation does not include Métis or Inuit people.

Status – Any individual who is recognized by the federal government as registered under the Indian Act. Eligibility is dependent on familial descent.

Non-Status – Any Indigenous individual who is not recognized under the Indian Act. Non-status could result from numerous factors.

MMIWG2 – A common abbreviation of “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2Spirit.”

Decolonization - The process of undoing colonization by addressing historical and current practices which harm Indigenous peoples.

Indigenization - Incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing into colonial institutions to maintain Indigenous perspectives in Western society. Indigenization requires non-Indigenous people to be aware of and respect Indigenous worldviews as equal to others.

Reconciliation - The Truth and Reconciliation Commission defines reconciliation,  “about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country” (volume 6, p. 3). This can only happen with “ awareness of the past, acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour” (volume 6, p. 3). 

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2015). The Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (Vol. 6). Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press.