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The Cree language (also called Cree-Montagnais-Naskapi) is spoken in many parts of Canada, from the Rocky Mountains in the west to Labrador in the east. Cree is also spoken in northern Montana in the United States. Often written in syllabics (i.e., symbols representing a combination of consonant
and vowel, or just a consonant or vowel), Cree is one of the most widely spoken Indigenous languages in Canada. In the 2016 census, 96,575 people reported speaking Cree.
Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) are Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast in Canada. When explorer Captain James Cook encountered Nuu-chah-nulth villagers at Yuquot (Nootka Island, west of Vancouver Island) in 1778, he misunderstood the name for their nation to be Nootka, the term historically used to describe the Nuu-chah-nulth. The inlet where Cook first encountered the Nuu-chah-nulth is now known as Nootka Sound. In 1978, the Nuu-chah-nulth chose the collective term Nuu-chah-nulth (nuučaan̓uł, meaning “all along the mountains and sea”) to describe the First Nations of western Vancouver Island. In the 2016 census, 4,310 people identified as having Nuu-chah-nulth ancestry, 380 people reported the Nuu-chah-nulth language as their mother tongue.
Louis Levi Oakes
Louis Levi Oakes (also known as Tahagietagwa), Mohawk soldier, war hero, steelworker, public works supervisor (born 23 January 1925 in St. Regis, QC; died 28 May 2019 in Snye, QC). During the Second World War, Oakes was a code talker for the United States Army. Code talkers used their Indigenous languages to encode radio messages to prevent the enemy from understanding them. When he passed away at age 94, Oakes was the last Mohawk code talker. (See also Cree Code Talkers and Indigenous Peoples and the World Wars.)
Nadine Rena Caron, surgeon, researcher, mentor, educator, patient advocate, community leader (born 1970 in Kamloops, BC). Nadine Caron was the first female First Nations student to graduate from the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine. She was also the first female First Nations general surgeon in Canada. For many years, Caron has highlighted the needs and voices of northern, rural and Indigenous populations in Canada.
The Dene comprise a far-reaching cultural and linguistic family, stretching from the Canadian North and Alaska to the American southwest. In Canada, the Dene, which means “the people” in their language, comprise a variety of First Nations, some of which include the Denesoline (Chipewyan), Tlicho (Dogrib) and Dinjii Zhuh (Gwich’in). The Dene are also known as Athabascan, Athabaskan, Athapascan or Athapaskan peoples. In the 2016 census, 27,430 people identified as having Dene ancestry.
Tionontati (also known as Petun) are an Iroquoian-speaking Indigenous people, closely related to the Huron-Wendat. The French called them Petun because they were known for cultivating tobacco or petún. The people call themselves Tionontati. After war with the Haudenosaunee in the mid-1600s, Tionontati and some other survivors, including the Attignawantan (a Huron-Wendat people) and the Wenrohronon (or Wenro), joined to become the Wendat, now known as the Wyandotte (or Wyandot) Nation. Today, the Wyandotte Nation is a federally recognized tribe of Oklahoma in the United States. There are also Wyandotte communities in Michigan (Wyandot of Anderdon Nation) and Kansas (Wyandot Nation of Kansas).
Historically, plank houses were structures built by various Indigenous peoples on the Northwest Coast of Canada, such as the Coast Salish, Kwakwaka’wakw, Nuu-chah-nulth, Nuxalk, Haida, Tsimshian, Gitxsan and Nisga'a. Plank houses varied in size and design, depending on the community. Plank houses still exist in some communities and are used mainly for community and ceremonial purposes. (See also Architectural History of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)
Christie Blatchford, journalist, newspaper columnist, writer, broadcaster (born 20 May 1951 in Rouyn-Noranda, QC; died 12 February 2020 in Toronto, ON). Christie Blatchford was one of Canada’s best-known journalists. In a career spanning five decades, she wrote for all of Canada’s national daily newspapers — the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the National Post — as well as the Toronto Sun. She also published several books, including Fifteen Days: Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death from Inside the New Canadian Army (2008), which won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction. Blatchford won a National Newspaper Award for her columns in 1999 and was inducted into the Canadian News Hall of Fame in November 2019. She was a conservative writer who focused mainly on crime, human suffering and criminal justice. Her often controversial views prompted strong reactions and media responses.
Central Coast Salish
Central Coast Salish peoples historically occupied and continue to reside in territories around the Lower Fraser Valley and on southeast Vancouver Island in Canada. They include the Squamish, Klallum, Halkomelem and Northern Straits peoples.
Tsimshian (Tsim-she-yan, meaning “Inside the Skeena River”) is a name that is often broadly applied to Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, speaking languages of the Tsimshian language family. In the 2016 census, 2,695 people reported speaking a Tsimshian language, with the largest concentration (98.1 per cent) living in British Columbia. Another 5,910 people claimed Tsimshian ancestry.
The Tsuut’ina (Sarcee) are a Dene (or Athabaskan) First Nation whose reserve borders the southwestern city limits of Calgary, Alberta. The name "Sarcee" is believed to have originated from a Siksikáí’powahsin (Blackfoot language) word meaning boldness and hardiness. The Sarcee people call themselves Tsuut’ina (also Tsuu T'ina and Tsúùt'ínà), translated literally as "many people" or "every one (in the Nation)."
Larry Phillip (Phil) Fontaine, OC, OM, National Chief of AFN, activist, advisor on Indigenous relations (born 20 September 1944 in Sagkeeng First Nation on the Fort Alexander Reserve, MB). Phil Fontaine served as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) for an unprecedented three terms. Under his leadership the AFN negotiated both the Kelowna Accord and the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. Fontaine has received many honours and awards, including the National Aboriginal Achievement Award, the Order of Canada, and numerous honorary doctorates. In 2017, he launched Recognition2Action, a campaign to legally recognize Indigenous peoples as Founding Nations of Canada.
Frank Arthur Calder, OC,
Nisga’a politician, chief, businessman (born 3 August 1915, Nass Harbour, BC; died 4 November 2006 in Victoria,
BC). Frank Calder was the first Indigenous member of the BC legislature, elected in 1949. Calder is best known for his role in the Nisga’a Tribal Council’s Supreme Court case
against the province of British Columbia (commonly known as the Calder
case), which demonstrated that Aboriginal
title (i.e., ownership) to traditional lands exists in modern Canadian law.
The Interior Salish peoples include the Lillooet (or Lil’wat, see also Lillooet, British Columbia), Shuswap (now Secwepemc), Thompson (now Nlaka'pamux), Sinixt and Okanagan (Syilx) First Nations. These First Nations occupy territory in the interior of British Columbia(although some territory extends into the state of Washington in the United States). They speak languages belonging to the Interior Salish division of the Salishan language family. In the 2016 Census (Canada), 5,620 peoples identified themselves as Salish speakers, including 1,290 that speak Shuswap (Secwepemctsin). (See also Indigenous Languages in Canada).
Historically, Inuit used a simple tent, known as a tupiq (the plural form is tupiit), while travelling or hunting during the summer months. Today, the traditional tupiq is rarely used (because modern variations have largely replaced it), but some Inuit elders and communities are working to keep the tupiq, and other Inuit traditions, alive. (See also Architectural History of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)
Northwest Coast Indigenous Peoples in Canada
The Northwest Coast cultural area, one of six contained in what is now Canada, is home to many Indigenous peoples, such as the Nuu-chah-nulth, Kwakwaka’wakw, Haida, Coast Salish and Haisla. Geographically, the region features extremes in topography, from wide beaches to deep fjords and snow-capped mountains.
Laure Waridel, CM, CQ, social activist, author, environmentalist, lecturer and columnist (born 10 January 1973 in Chesalles-sur-Oron, Switzerland). Regarded as one of the 25 most influential political personalities in Québec, Laure Waridel holds an honorary doctorate from the Université du Québec à Rimouski, the Insigne du mérite from the Université de Montréal, and the rank of Knight of the Order of La Pléiade. She is a co-founder of Équiterre, a Québec organization that encourages individuals and governments to make choices that are fair, ecological and consistent with the principles of solidarity. The author of a number of books and essays on environmental issues, Waridel has contributed to many magazines, such as Voir and Reader’s Digest, in addition to hosting the radio show Acheter, c’est voter on Radio-Canada. She is currently strategic advisor for CIRODD, an interdisciplinary centre for research on operationalization of sustainable development. This centre is based at Polytechnique Montréal, and its membership includes over 80 researchers.
Dakelh, also known as Carrier, are Dene people traditionally occupying areas in north-central British Columbia. The Carrier name derives from the former custom of a widow carrying the ashes of her deceased husband in a bag during a period of mourning, at which time a ceremonial distribution of goods released her of the obligation. The name is also an English translation of Aghele, the Sekani name for Dakelh people. They call themselves Dakelh (people who “travel upon water”), and add the suffixes -xwoten, “people of” or -t’en, “people” to village names or locations to refer to specific groups (e.g., Tl’azt’en, Wet’suwet’en). In the 2016 census, 7,810 people claimed to have Dakelh ancestry.
French fishermen, settlers, fur traders, missionaries and colonial agents were among the earliest Europeans to have sustained contact with Indigenous peoples in what is now Canada and North America. The relationship between French and Indigenous people of the Eastern Woodlands in the early colonial period was complex and interdependent. France saw Indigenous nations as allies, and relied on them for survival and fur trade wealth. Indigenous people traded for European goods, established military alliances and hostilities, intermarried, sometimes converted to Christianity, and participated politically in the governance of New France. With the transfer of New France to Britain in 1763, diplomatic relations between the French and Indigenous people in Canada ceased. Naturally, social and economic interaction between the European and Indigenous inhabitants of New France continued.