What Is A Reserve?

A reserve is land set aside by the Canadian government for use by First Nations. Reserves were created by treaties and other agreements signed between various Indigenous peoples and the Crown. These lands represent a small fraction of the traditional territories Indigenous peoples had before the signing of treaties. The reserve system is governed by the Indian Act.
A reserve is land set aside by the Canadian government for use by First Nations. Reserves were created by treaties and other agreements signed between various Indigenous peoples and the Crown. These lands represent a small fraction of the traditional territories Indigenous peoples had before the signing of treaties. The reserve system is governed by the Indian Act.


Reserves are places where members of First Nations often live. However, some reserves are used only for activities such as hunting and fishing. In addition, some First Nations do not hold any reserve lands. There are reserves in every province in Canada, but many are in rural or remote areas. Few reserves have been established in the territories.

According to the 2016 census, 44.2 per cent of Status Indians — Indigenous peoples whose names appear on the federal Indian Register — lived on reserves. Non-Status Indians Indigenous peoples without status — also may live on reserves. Inuit and Métis people normally do not live on reserves, though many live in communities that are governed by ​land claims​ or self-government agreements.

For more information about reserves in Canada, please see the entry on Reserves.