Search for "Indigenous Peoples in Canada"

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Nunavik

Nunavik, the portion of land within the province of Quebec located north of the 55th parallel, covers approximately 500,000 km2 (representing more than one-third of Quebec’s territory). For approximately 4000 years, Indigenous people have inhabited Nunavik, including Inuit who have made the region their homeland. Today, over 13,000 people live in Nunavik’s 14 villages spread along the Ungava Bay, Hudson Strait and Eastern Hudson Bay coasts.

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Jim Brady

James Patrick Brady, prospector, Métis leader (born 11 March 1908 in Lake St. Vincent, AB; disappeared 7 June 1967 in the Foster Lakes area, SK). A grandson of one of Louis Riels soldiers, Brady became a leader among the Métis of northern Alberta and Saskatchewan. He was active in the radical politics of the 1930s, trying in vain to persuade the  Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) in Saskatchewan to implement progressive Indigenous policies. Brady was a founding member of the Association des Métis d’Alberta et des Territoires du Nord-Ouest in 1932 and remained a major figure in the organization as an influential teacher. The last moments of his life are shrouded in mystery as he disappeared on a prospecting trip in 1967.

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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.)

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Hebron Mission National Historic Site of Canada

For generations, Hebron, one of Nunatsiavut’s (see Labrador Inuit and Newfoundland and Labrador) most culturally important and significant sites, was an important meeting place for the Inuit, as well as a primary hunting and fishing area. In the early 1800s, Moravian missionaries chose the site to establish their fourth and northernmost mission in Labrador, officially opening the mission in 1830 (although missions were later established farther north, at Ramah in 1871 and Killinek in 1905). For more than 130 years, Hebron was a thriving community where an average of 200 to 250 Inuit lived. In 1959, without consultation with the Inuit, the community was closed, forcing all Inuit to relocate. Declared a National Historic Site in 1976 by the federal government, the Hebron Mission has been undergoing major restoration since 2004.

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Eva Aariak

Eva Aariak, politician, second premier of Nunavut (born 10 January 1955 in Arctic Bay, Northwest Territories [now Nunavut]). Eva Aariak has the distinction of being Nunavut’s first female premier, and she has been instrumental in the promotion of Inuit languages in the territory. (See also Inuktitut and Indigenous Languages in Canada.)

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Indigenous Political Organization and Activism in Canada

Political activism among Indigenous people in Canada since the late 19th century has largely reflected attempts to organize political associations beyond the band level to pursue common interests. In the wake of persistent criticism of the federal government’s proposed “White Paper” policy (1969), major Indigenous organizations, most notably the Assembly of First Nations, gained political recognition and became established players on the national scene. These organizations were joined in 2012 by the national movement Idle No More.

This article describes Indigenous political organization as it relates to Canadian federal, provincial or territorial political bodies, not the political structures of specific Indigenous communities, which often predate interaction with Europeans and subsequent colonial infrastructure.

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Nunatsiavut

Nunatsiavut (meaning “our beautiful land” in Inuktitut) is the homeland of the Labrador Inuit (Labradormiut). The territory covers 72,520km2 of land and 44,030km2 of sea in the northern part of the Labrador Peninsula. On 1 December 2005, the Labrador Inuit celebrated the creation of the Nunatsiavut Government, their own regional government within the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The Labradormiut became the first Inuit in Canada to achieve self-government. Of the approximately 6,500 beneficiaries, about 2,500 live within the settlement area in five communities: Rigolet, Postville, Makkovik, Hopedale (the legislative capital) and Nain (the administrative capital).

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Enfranchisement (Plain-Language Summary)

Throughout much of Canadian history, a First Nations person would lose their Indian status if they were enfranchised. An enfranchised person is someone who has the right to vote in elections. A First Nations person who is deemed a Status Indian has certain rights and benefits granted to them through the Indian Act.

(This article is a plain-language summary of Enfranchisement. If you are interested in reading about this topic in more depth, please see our full-length entry Enfranchisement).

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Contemporary Indigenous Art in Canada

Contemporary Indigenous art is that which has been produced by Indigenous peoples between around 1945 to the present. Since that time, two major schools of Indigenous art have dominated the contemporary scene in Canada:  Northwest Coast Indigenous Art and the Woodlands school of Legend Painters. As well, a more widely scattered group of artists work independently in the context of mainstream Western artand may be described as internationalist in scope and intent.

Contemporary Inuit art has evolved in parallel with contemporary Indigenous art, producing celebrated artists like Zacharias Kunuk and Annie Pootoogook.

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Gertrude Guerin

Gertrude Guerin (née Ettershank; traditional name Klaw-law-we-leth; also known as “Old War Horse”), chief, politician, community advocate, elder (born 26 March 1917 on the Mission Reserve in North Vancouver, BC; died 25 January 1998). Guerin, born into the Squamish First Nation (see Central Coast Salish), was a fierce protector of Indigenous people and culture. She represented the Musqueam nation locally as an elected chief, and on the national stage in challenges to Canadian jurisdiction over traditional Musqueam territory (see Coast Salish).

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Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea)

Joseph Brant, or Thayendanegea (“two sticks bound together for strength”), Kanyen'kehà:ka (Mohawk) war chief, Loyalist, interpreter, statesman (born circa March 1742/43 at Cuyahoga (near Akron, Ohio); died 24 November 1807 at Burlington Bay, ON); brother of Mohawk leader Mary (Molly) Brant. Loyal to Great Britain during and after the American Revolution, he was an influential military captain. Like his sister Mary, he was a powerful diplomat who encouraged Indigenous tribes to share his political loyalties. A Six Nations (See Haudenosaunee) leader, he met significant political figures such as George Washington and King George III on behalf of his people.

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Nebenaigoching

Nebenaigoching (also spelled Nebenaigooching, Unbenegooching, or Nabunagoging), or Joseph Sayers, Anishinaabeg Ogima or leader (born c. 1808 at Leech Island, Lake Superior, Upper Canada [ON]; died 1899 at Garden River First Nation, ON). Son of Ogima Waubejechauk (Wabechechacke) and Julia Sayer, Nebenaigoching was a hereditary Crane Clan chief, defender of Anishinaabeg (see Ojibwe) rights, and signatory to the 1850 Robinson-Huron Treaty (see Treaties with Indigenous Peoples in Canada).

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Voyageurs

Voyageurs were independent contractors, workers or minor partners in companies involved in the fur trade. They were licensed to transport goods to trading posts and were usually forbidden to do any trading of their own. The fur trade changed over the years, as did the groups of men working in it. In the 17th century, voyageurs were often coureurs des bois — unlicensed traders responsible for delivering trade goods from suppliers to Indigenous peoples. The implementation of the trading licence system in 1681 set voyageurs apart from coureurs des bois, who were then considered outlaws of sorts. Today, the word voyageur, like the term coureur des bois, evokes the romantic image of men canoeing across the continent in search of furs. Their life was full of perilous adventure, gruelling work and cheerful camaraderie.

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Mary Brant (Konwatsi'tsiaiénni)

Mary Brant, Kanyen'kehà:ka (Mohawk), Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) leader, Loyalist, diplomat, political activist (generally known as Molly Brant and as Konwatsi'tsiaiénni in the Mohawk language, meaning “someone lends her a flower”) (born circa 1736; died 16 April 1796 in Kingston, ON). Brant was one of the most important Indigenous women in Canadian history. From her influential position as head of a society of Six Nations matrons, she enjoyed a much greater status within the Mohawk nation than her more colourful, younger brother, Mohawk leader Joseph Brant. Consulted by Indigenous people on matters of importance, she was a powerful ally to the British forces and served as their highly effective intermediary with the Iroquois in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783).

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Donald Marshall Jr

Donald Marshall Jr., Mi'kmaq leader, Indigenous activist, wrongly convicted of murder (born 13 September 1953 in Sydney, NS; died 6 August 2009 in Sydney, NS). Donald Marshall’s imprisonment (1971–82) became one of the most controversial cases in the history of Canada's criminal justice system. He was the first high-profile victim of a wrongful murder conviction to have it overturned, paving the way for others such as David Milgaard and Guy Paul Morin. In the 1990s, Marshall was also the central figure in a significant Supreme Court of Canada case on First Nations hunting and fishing rights.

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Inuit

Inuit — Inuktitut for “the people” — are an Indigenous people, the majority of whom inhabit the northern regions of Canada. An Inuit person is known as an Inuk. The Inuit homeland is known as Inuit Nunangat, which refers to the land, water and ice contained in the Arctic region.

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Reconciliation in Canada

In Canada, the process of reconciliation is tied to the federal government's relationship with Indigenous peoples. The term has come to describe attempts made by individuals and institutions to raise awareness about colonization and its ongoing effects on Indigenous peoples. Reconciliation also refers to efforts made to address the harms caused by various policies and programs of colonization, such as residential schools. For some, the word represents an opportunity to reflect on the past, to heal and to make right. For others, however, current gestures of reconciliation are merely performative and lack meaningful action to address the harms done by colonization.