The federal government is responsible for the development of policies related to First Nations, Métis, Inuit and Northern communities. After Confederation, the British — who had created the first Indian Department after 1755 — transferred this responsibility to the Canadian government. Since then, different departments have been responsible for the portfolios of Indigenous and Northern affairs. There are currently two departments: Indigenous Services Canada is concerned with providing and supporting the delivery of services (health care, child care, education, etc.) to Indigenous communities; while Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada oversees Indigenous-government relations, such as matters pertaining to treaty rights and self-government, as well as issues concerning Northern communities.
The social conditions of Indigenous peoples in Canada vary greatly according to place of residence, income level, family and cultural factors and classification (i.e., First Nations, Métis and Inuit). Areas of particular social concern include housing, employment, education, health, justice, and family and cultural growth.
To a tremendous extent, the enslavement of Indigenous peoples defines slavery in Canada. Fully two-thirds of the slaves in the colony of New France — which held the most slaves and for the longest duration in Canada — were Indigenous. These people were products of the slave trade that developed in the southernmost of Britain’s thirteen colonies during the late 1600s. It was there that settlers turned an Indigenous practice of slavery into a devastating cycle of events that tore apart Indigenous nations and affected all of the European colonies in North America.
The Arctic Winter Games (AWG) are biennial games initiated in 1970 to provide northern athletes with opportunities for training and competition, and to promote cultural and social interchange among northern peoples. Although the Games originated in North America, they have grown to include athletes from other parts of the world, including Greenland and parts of Russia, including Magadan, Sápmi and Yamal.
National Indigenous Peoples Day, 21 June, is an official day of celebration to recognize and honour the achievements, history and rich cultures of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada. This day has been celebrated as a statutory territorial holiday in the Northwest Territories since 2001 and in the Yukon since 2017.
Indigenous peoples in Canada developed rich building traditions thousands of years before the arrival of the first Europeans. Each of the six broad cultural regions of Indigenous peoples in Canada, defined by common climatic, geographical and ecological characteristics — the Arctic, Subarctic, Northwest Coast, Plateau, Plains and Eastern Woodlands — gave rise to distinctive building forms which reflected these conditions, as well as the available building materials, means of livelihood, and social and spiritual values of the resident peoples.
Two-Spirit, a translation of the Anishinaabeg (Ojibwe) term niizh manidoowag, refers to a person who embodies both a masculine and feminine spirit. Activist Albert McLeod developed the term in 1990 to broadly reference Indigenous peoples in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community. Two-spirit is used by some Indigenous peoples to describe their gender, sexual and spiritual identity.
Before contact with Europeans, Indigenous peoples educated their youth through traditional means — demonstration, group socialization, participation in cultural and spiritual rituals, skill development and oral teachings. The introduction of European classroom-style education as part of a larger goal of assimilation disrupted traditional methods and resulted in cultural trauma and dislocation. Reformers of Indigenous education policies are attempting to reintegrate traditional teachings and provide more cultural and language-based support to enhance and improve the outcomes of Indigenous children in the education system.
Chanie “Charlie” Wenjack (born 19 January 1954; died 23 October 1966 near Redditt, ON). Chanie Wenjack, an Anishinaabe boy from Ontario, ran away from his residential school near Kenora at age 12, and subsequently died from hunger and exposure to the harsh weather. His death in 1966 sparked national attention and the first inquest into the treatment of Indigenous children in Canadian residential schools.
During the 20th century, the federal government established racially segregated “Indian hospitals” for the treatment of First Nations and Inuit peoples in Canada. With the coming of medicare in the late 1960s, the government began to close most of the Indian hospitals, though it continues to operate hospitals at Norway House and Hodgson in Manitoba.
Indigenous territory — also referred to as traditional territory — describes the ancestral and contemporary connections of Indigenous peoples to a geographical area. Territories may be defined by kinship ties, occupation, seasonal travel routes, trade networks, management of resources, and cultural and linguistic connections to place.
In Canada, the term Indigenous peoples (or Aboriginal peoples) refers to First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. These are the original inhabitants of the land that is now Canada. In 2011, more than 1.4 million people in Canada identified as Indigenous. Though severely threatened — and in certain cases extinguished — by colonial forces, Indigenous culture, language and social systems have shaped the development of Canada, and continue to grow and thrive despite extreme adversity.1
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) was officially launched in 2008 as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA). Intended to be a process that would guide Canadians through the difficult discovery of the facts behind the residential school system, the TRC was also meant to lay the foundation for lasting reconciliation across Canada.
The Oka Crisis was a 78-day standoff (11 July–26 September 1990) between Mohawk protesters, police, and army. At the heart of the crisis was the proposed expansion of a golf course and development of condominiums on disputed land that included a Mohawk burial ground. Tensions were high, particularly after the death of Corporal Marcel Lemay, a police officer, and the situation was only resolved after the army was called in. While the golf course expansion was cancelled, and the land purchased by the federal government, it has not yet been transferred to the Kanesatake community.
The “Sixties Scoop” refers to the large-scale removal or “scooping” of Indigenous children from their homes, communities and families of birth through the 1960s, and their subsequent adoption into predominantly non-Indigenous, middle-class families across the United States and Canada. This experience left many adoptees with a lost sense of cultural identity. The physical and emotional separation from their birth families continues to affect adult adoptees and Indigenous communities to this day.
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (formerly known as the Eskimo Brotherhood of Canada) is a national advocacy organization that promotes awareness about political, social, cultural and environmental issues that impact Inuit communities, from the Inuvialuit Settlement Region in the Northwest Territories, to Nunavut, Nunavik in Northern Québec, Nunatsiavut in Northern Labrador and land claims regions.