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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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Nisga'a

The Nisga’a are the original occupants of the Nass River Valley of Northwestern British Columbia. As of 2011, 1,909 Nisga’a continue to live on traditional lands in this area. Granted self-government in a landmark case in 2000, the Nisga’a Lisims Government now governs the Nisga’a nation.

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Métis National Council

The Métis National Council represents more than 350,000 members of the Métis Nation, defined as Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and parts of Ontario, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories.

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Maria Campbell

Maria Campbell, O.C., Cree-Métis writer, playwright, filmmaker, scholar, teacher and elder (born 26 April 1940 in Park Valley, SK). Campbell’s memoir Halfbreed (1973) is regarded as a foundational piece of Indigenous literature in Canada for its attention to the discrimination, oppression and poverty that some Métis women (and Indigenous people, in general) experience in Canada. Campbell has authored several other books and plays, and has directed and written scripts for a number of films. As an artist, Campbell has worked with Indigenous youth in community theatre and advocated for the hiring and recognition of Indigenous people in the arts. She has mentored many Indigenous artists during her career.

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Indigenous Peoples' Medicine in Canada

Since time immemorial Indigenous peoples in Canada have been using plants and other natural materials as medicine. Plant medicines are used more frequently than those derived from animals. In all, Indigenous peoples have identified over 400 different species of plants (as well as lichens, fungi and algae) with medicinal applications. Medicine traditions — the plants used, the ailments treated, protocols for harvesting and application, and modes of preparation — are similar for Indigenous peoples across the country. In many Indigenous communities, there are recognized specialists trained in traditional medicine, and their practice often reflects spiritual aspects of healing as well as physical outcomes. In many cases, the therapeutic properties of Indigenous medicines are attributable to particular compounds and their effects on the body, but in other instances, their application is little understood by western medical practitioners. Within Indigenous communities, specific methods of harvesting and preparation of medicines are considered intellectual property of particular individuals or families.

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Two-Spirit

​Two-Spirit, a translation of the Anishinaabemowin 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. (See also Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights in Canada.)

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Darren Zack

Darren Zack (nicknamed Z-Man), pitcher in fastpitch softball (born 9 August 1960 in Garden River First Nation, ON). Compared in his skill to Babe Ruth, Zack dominated fastpitch softball in the 1990s. In addition to many other athletic accomplishments, Zack helped Team Canada win the Pan American Games fastpitch medal in 1991, 1995 and 1999. Though a fearsome competitor, Zack is known for his modest and humble demeanor off the field. He is actively involved in his Garden River First Nation community and in encouraging youth involvement in sports. (See also Baseball.)

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Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada

It is difficult to generalize about definitions of Indigenous rights because of the diversity among First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples in Canada. Broadly speaking, however, Indigenous rights are inherent, collective rights that flow from the original occupation of the land that is now Canada, and from social orders created before the arrival of Europeans to North America. For many, the concept of Indigenous rights can be summed up as the right to independence through self-determination regarding governance, land, resources and culture.

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Highway of Tears

The Highway of Tears refers to a 724 km length of Yellowhead Highway 16 in British Columbia where many women (mostly Indigenous) have disappeared or been found murdered. The Highway of Tears is part of a larger, national crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. In 2015, the federal government launched a national inquiry into these cases.

This article contains sensitive material that may not be suitable for all audiences.

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K'asho Got'ine (Hare)

The K'asho Got'ine are Athapaskan-speaking people whose ancestors lived in small, nomadic bands along the lower Mackenzie River valley of the NWT. The K'asho Got'ine had a precontact population of 700-800.

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Assembly of First Nations

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is a political organization representing approximately 900,000 First Nations citizens in Canada. The AFN advocates on behalf of First Nations on issues such as treaties, Indigenous rights, and land and resources. The AFN's Chiefs assemblies are held at least twice a year, where chiefs from each First Nation pass resolutions to direct the organization’s work. There are over 600 First Nations in Canada.

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Phil Fontaine

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.

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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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Tseshaht (Sheshaht)

The Tseshaht (also Ts’ishaa7ath or Ć̓išaaʔatḥ; formerly Sheshaht) are a Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation living in Barkley Sound and Alberni Inlet, Vancouver Island, BC. As of September 2018, the federal government counted 1,212 registered members of the Tseshaht First Nation, the majority of whom (728) live off reserve.

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Elsie Knott

Elsie Marie Knott (née Taylor), Ojibwe chief, community leader, entrepreneur (born 20 September 1922 on Mud Lake Reserve [now Curve Lake First Nation], ON; died there on 3 December 1995). Knott was the first elected female First Nations chief in Canada, after a 1951 amendment to the Indian Act permitted Indigenous women to vote and participate in band governments. She was also chief of her First Nation for 14 years, from 1954 to 1962 and from 1970 to 1976. Knott was dedicated to preserving the Ojibwe language and was known for her community activism and support of education.

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Cree Language

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.