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Article

Haudenosaunee (Iroquois)

The Haudenosaunee, or “people of the longhouse,” commonly referred to as Iroquois or Six Nations, are members of a confederacy of Aboriginal nations known as the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. Originally a confederacy of five nations inhabiting the northern part of New York state, the Haudenosaunee consisted of the Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga and Mohawk. When the Tuscarora joined the confederacy early in the 18th century, it became known as the Six Nations. Today, Haudenosaunee live on well-populated reserves — known as reservations in the United States — as well as in off-reserve communities.

Article

Métis Scrip in Canada

Scrip is any document used in place of legal tender, for example a certificate or voucher, where the bearer is entitled to certain rights. In 1870, the Canadian government devised a system of scrip — referred to as Métis scrip — that issued documents redeemable for land or money. Scrip was given to Métis people living in the West in exchange for their land rights. The scrip process was legally complex and disorganized; this made it difficult for Métis people to acquire land, yet simultaneously created room for fraud. In March 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the federal government failed to provide the Métis with the land grant they were promised in the Manitoba Act of 1870. Negotiations between various levels of government and the Métis Nation concerning the reclamation of land rights continue.

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Indigenous-French Relations

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.

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Indigenous Language Revitalization in Canada

Before European settlement in Canada, Indigenous peoples spoke a wide variety of languages. As a means of assimilating Indigenous peoples, colonial policies like the Indian Act and residential schools forbid the speaking of Indigenous languages. These restrictions have led to the ongoing endangerment of Indigenous languages in Canada. In 2016, Statistics Canada reported that for about 40 Indigenous languages in Canada, there are only about 500 speakers or less. Indigenous communities and various educational institutions have taken measures to prevent more language loss and to preserve Indigenous languages.

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History of Métis Settlements in Canada

Métis communities are found across Canada; however, the only legislated Métis land base is in Alberta. Eight Métis settlements are located across the northern and central-eastern part of the province: Paddle Prairie, Peavine, Gift Lake, East Prairie, Buffalo Lake, Kikino, Elizabeth and Fishing Lake. As of 2016, the settlements cover 512,121 hectares of land and are home to approximately 5,000 people. The Métis Settlements are self-governing and provide for the protection of Métis culture and identity.

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Indigenous Territory

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.

Indigenous territories are constantly evolving in both a Canadian legal context and on the basis of kinship ties and relationships between Indigenous nations. This article addresses some of the difficulties in mapping Indigenous territories and explores how it is challenging, if not impossible, to accurately capture Indigenous worldviews and understandings of ancestral territories within a colonial map framework.

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Indigenous Peoples and Government Policy in Canada

For most of the history of political interaction between Indigenous people and the Canadian government (and its colonial predecessors) government policy has focused on First Nations. The Inuit were barely acknowledged until the 1940s, while special responsibility for Métis and Non-Status Indians was largely denied until 2016. The early history of Indigenous policy in Canada is characterized by the presence of both France and Britain as colonizing powers. British colonial policy acknowledged Indigenous peoples as sovereign nations. Post-Confederation Canadian Indigenous policy initially was based on a model of assimilation, with one of its main instruments being the Indian Act. Since the late 1960s, government policy has gradually shifted to a goal of self-determination for Indigenous peoples, to be achieved through modern-day treaties and self-government agreements.

Article

Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet)

Wolastoqiyik (also Welastekwewiyik or Welustuk; pronounced wool-las-two-wi-ig), meaning “people of the beautiful river” in their language, have long resided along the Saint John River in New Brunswick and Maine, and the St. Lawrence River in Quebec. Historically, the Europeans referred to the Wolastoqiyik by a Mi’kmaq word, Maliseet (or Malecite), roughly translating to English as “broken talkers.” The name indicates that, according to the Mi’kmaq, the Wolastoqiyik language is a “broken” version of their own. Today, there are Wolastoqiyik communities in Quebec and the Maritimes as well as in Maine. In the 2016 census, 7,635 people identified as having Wolastoqiyik ancestry.

Article

Joseph Benjamin Keeper

Joseph Benjamin “Joe” Keeper, world-class athlete and war hero of the Norway House Cree Nation (born 21 January 1886 in Walker Lake, MB; died 29 September 1971 in Winnipeg, MB). Keeper competed at the 1912 Stockholm Summer Olympics, where he participated in the 5,000 and 10,000 m track events. Keeper later served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War and received the Military Medal for his actions at the front. After his death, Keeper was inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame in 1977 and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.

Article

Louis Riel

Louis Riel, Métis leader, founder of Manitoba, central figure in the Red River and North-West resistances (born 22 October 1844 in Saint-BonifaceRed River Settlement; died 16 November 1885 in ReginaSK). Riel led two popular Métis governments, was central in bringing Manitoba into Confederation, and was executed for high treason for his role in the 1885 resistance to Canadian encroachment on Métis lands. Riel was initially dismissed as a rebel by Canadian historians, although many now sympathize with Riel as a Métis leader who fought to protect his people from the Canadian government.

Article

Indian Status

Indian Status is a legal identity defined by the Indian Act. It applies to some Indigenous peoples in Canada. People with status, known as Status Indians (or Registered Indians), fit the criteria for status as laid out in the Act. The terms of status — including who is considered Indian under the law — have changed over time. Outside legal contexts, Indian is a term that is now considered outdated and offensive.

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Indigenous Peoples and the World Wars

Thousands of Indigenous peoples served in the Canadian military forces in the First World War and Second World War; most were volunteers. On the home front, most Indigenous communities participated in the national war effort in diverse ways. The world wars were dramatic events for Indigenous peoples in Canada (see Indigenous Peoples and the First World War and Indigenous Peoples and the Second World War). Conflict offered these marginalized populations opportunities to renew warrior cultural traditions, reaffirm sacred treaties, prove their worth to indifferent non-Indigenous Canadians, break down social barriers and find good jobs.

Article

Autumn Peltier

Autumn Peltier, Anishinaabe water-rights advocate, Anishinabek Nation Chief Water Commissioner (born 27 September 2004 in Wiikwemikoong Unceded Territory, Manitoulin Island, ON). Autumn Peltier is a world-renowned water-rights advocate and a leading global youth environmental activist. In April 2019, Peltier was appointed Chief Water Commissioner by the Anishinabek Nation and has spoken about the issue of contaminated water on Indigenous reserves in Canada at the United Nations. For her activism, Peltier was nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

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Indigenous Women's Issues in Canada

First Nations, Métis and Inuit women (collectively referred to as Indigenous women) face many socio-economic issues today because of the effects of colonization. Europeans forced a male-controlled system of government and society (known as patriarchy) on Indigenous societies. The 1876 Indian Act disadvantaged certain Indigenous women by excluding them from band council government and enforcing discriminatory measures that took away Indian Status rights. Many Indigenous women today are leading the way in the area of healing the wounds of colonization, as they grapple with the issues of residential schools, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, abuse and violence, and drug, alcohol and other addictions. (See also Indigenous Feminisms in Canada.)

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National Indigenous Peoples Day

Celebrated in Canada every 21 June, National Indigenous Peoples Day is an official day of celebration to recognize and honour the heritage, cultures and valuable contributions to society by First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. National Indigenous Peoples Day is the same day as the summer solstice (the longest day of the year) and was chosen for its important symbolism to many Indigenous peoples (see Religion and Spirituality of Indigenous 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.

Article

Piikani

Piikani (Peigan, Pikuni, Piikuni) are one of the three nations of the Blackfoot Confederacy. (The other two are the Siksika and Kainai.) The Piikani once occupied a vast hunting ground which ranged along the foothills from Rocky Mountain House to Heart Butte, Montana, and extended eastward onto the Plains. According to the federal government, there are 3,884 registered members living and working both on and off their reserves located near Pincher Creek, Alberta.

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Turtle Island

For some Indigenous peoples, Turtle Island refers to the continent of North America. The name comes from various Indigenous oral histories that tell stories of a turtle that holds the world on its back. For some Indigenous peoples, the turtle is therefore considered an icon of life, and the story of Turtle Island consequently speaks to various spiritual and cultural beliefs.

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Shawnadithit

Shawnadithit (also known as Nance or Nancy April), record keeper of Beothuk history and culture (born circa 1800-6 in what is now NL; died 6 June 1829 in St. John’s, NL). Shawnadithit was captured by English furriers in 1823 and later worked as a housekeeper for merchant John Peyton Jr. In 1828, Shawnadithit was brought to Scottish merchant and naturalist William Cormack, who wanted to record information about the language and customs of the Beothuk. Shawnadithit drew maps of Beothuk territory as well as items of Beothuk material culture. While it is popularly believed that Shawnadithit was the last Beothuk, Mi’kmaq oral histories reject that claim. They argue that Shawnadithit’s people intermarried with inland Indigenous peoples after fleeing their homeland. The legacy of Shawnadithit as an important record keeper of Beothuk history and culture remains undisputed. In 2007, the federal government announced the unveiling of a Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaque recognizing Shawnadithit’s importance to Canadian history.

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Inuktitut

Inuktitut is an Indigenous language in North America, spoken in the Canadian Arctic. The 2016 census reported 39,770 speakers, of which 65 per cent lived in Nunavut and 30.8 per cent in Quebec. Inuktitut is part of a larger Inuit language family, stretching from Alaska to Greenland. Inuktitut uses a writing system called syllabics, created originally for the Cree language, which represent combinations of consonants and vowels. The language is also written in the Roman alphabet, and this is the exclusive writing system used in Labrador and parts of Western Nunavut. Inuktitut is a polysynthetic language, meaning that words tend to be longer and structurally more complex than their English or French counterparts. (See also Indigenous Languages in Canada.)