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Arctic Indigenous Peoples in Canada

The term Arctic peoples in Canada generally refers to the Inuit population, descendants of the Thule people, who lived in the Arctic from 400 to 1,000 years ago. The Inuit refer to their homeland as Inuit Nunangat. In 2011, there were nearly 60,000 Inuit in Canada, 73 per cent of whom lived in Inuit Nunangat.

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Nehiyawak (Cree)

The Cree or Nehiyawak (neh-HEE-oh-wuk) in the Cree language, are the most populous and widely distributed Indigenous peoples in Canada. Cree First Nations occupy territory in the Subarctic region from Alberta to Québec, as well as portions of the Plains region in Alberta and Saskatchewan. According to 2016 census data, 356,655 people identified as having Cree ancestry and 96,575 people speak the Cree language.

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Tsimshian

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.

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Blackfoot Confederacy

The Blackfoot Confederacy, sometimes referred to as the Blackfoot Nation or Siksikaitsitapi, is comprised of three Indigenous nations, the Kainai, Piikani and Siksika. People of the Blackfoot Nation refer to themselves as Niitsitapi, meaning “the real people,” a generic term for all Indigenous people, or Siksikaitsitapi, meaning “Blackfoot-speaking real people.” The Confederacy’s traditional territory spans parts of southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, as well as northern Montana. In the 2016 census, 22,490 people identified as having Blackfoot ancestry.

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Dinjii Zhuh (Gwich'in)

Dinjii Zhuh (also Gwich’in, formerly Kutchin), meaning “one who dwells (in)” or “the inhabitant of,” are Dene (Athabaskan)-speaking Indigenous peoples who live in northwestern North America. These communities are often referred to collectively as Dinjii Zhuh, although some First Nations and the Gwich’in Tribal Council retain the Gwich’in name. There are thought to be between 7,000 and 9,000 Dinjii Zhuh living in communities in Alaska, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

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Beothuk

Beothuk (meaning “the people” or “true people” in their language) were the now-extinct inhabitants of Newfoundland. At the time of European contact, they may have numbered no more than 500 to 1,000. Their population is difficult to estimate owing to a reduction in their territories in the early contact period and the absence of surviving documentation.

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Kaska Dena

The Kaska Dena or Denek’éh (often referred to simply as Kaska) are a Dene-speaking people who live in southern Yukon and northern British Columbia, primarily in the communities of Lower Post, Upper Liard (near Watson Lake), Watson Lake and Ross River in the Pelly drainage. In the 2016 census, 1,440 people reported having Kaska ancestry.

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Haida

Haida are Indigenous people who have traditionally occupied the coastal bays and inlets of Haida Gwaii in British Columbia. In the 2016 census, 501 people claimed Haida ancestry, while 445 people identified as speakers of the Haida language.

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Tlicho (Dogrib)

Tlicho (Tłı̨chǫ), also known as Dogrib, are an Indigenous people in Canada. They fall within the broader designation of Dene, who are Indigenous peoples of the widespread Athapaskan (or Athabascan) language family. Their name for themselves is Doné, meaning "the People." To distinguish themselves from their Dene neighbours, including the DenesulineSlaveySahtu Got'ine and K'asho Got'ine, they have come to identify themselves as Tlicho, a Cree word meaning “dog's rib,” referring to a creation story. In 2005, the Tlicho Agreement, which saw the Tlicho gain control of 39,000 km2 of their traditional lands, became the first combined self-government agreement and comprehensive land claim in the Northwest Territories. According to the Northwest Territories Bureau of Statistics (2019), the population of the Tlicho region of the territory was 2,983.

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Tahltan

Tahltan are Dene, an Indigenous people in Canada. Tahltan have traditionally occupied an area of northwestern British Columbia centered on the Stikine River. Although the Tahltan use several terms to refer to themselves, the designation "Tahltan" comes from the language of their neighbours, the Tlingit. Today, the Tahltan Central Government represents the interests of the Tahltan members, both on and off reserve.

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Tlingit

The Tlingit (sometimes also known as the Łingít) are Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America who share a common cultural heritage. Tlingit means “people of the tides.” In the 2016 Census, 2,110 people identified as having Tlingit ancestry.

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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.

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Peace and Friendship Treaties

Between 1725 and 1779, Britain signed a series of treaties with various Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet), Abenaki, Penobscot and Passamaquoddy peoples living in parts of what are now the Maritimes and Gaspé region in Canada and the northeastern United States. Commonly known as the Peace and Friendship Treaties, these agreements were chiefly designed to prevent war between enemies and to facilitate trade. While these treaties contained no monetary or land transfer provisions, they guaranteed hunting, fishing and land-use rights for the descendants of the Indigenous signatories. The Peace and Friendship Treaties remain in effect today.

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Cayuga

The Cayuga (also known as Guyohkohnyo and Gayogohó:no', meaning “People of the Pipe” or “People of the Great Swamp”) are Indigenous peoples who have traditionally occupied territories along the northern shore of the St. Lawrence River and south into the Finger Lakes district of New York State. The Cayuga are one of six First Nations that make up the Haudenosaunee Confederacy.

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Onondaga

The Onondaga are an Indigenous nation in Canada. They make up one-sixth of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy; the rest include the Mohawk, Cayuga, Seneca, Oneida and Tuscarora. Onondaga traditional territory is located outside Syracuse, New York. Onondaga peoples also live on Six Nations territory near Brantford, Ontario. According to the Government of Canada, in 2021, there were 675 registered members of the Bearfoot Onondaga First Nation and 858 registered members of the Onondaga Clear Sky First Nation. (See also First Nations.)

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Indigenous Music Awards

The Indigenous Music Awards (formerly the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards) were founded by Catherine Cornelius and Ron Robert in 1999 to recognize, honour, and celebrate the breadth of Aboriginal music making in Canada.