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Indian Agents in Canada

Indian agents were the Canadian government’s representatives on First Nations reserves from the 1830s to the 1960s. Often working in isolated locations far from settler communities, Indian agents implemented government policy, enforced and administered the provisions of the Indian Act, and managed the day-to-day affairs of Status Indians. Today, the position of Indian agent no longer exists, as First Nations manage their own affairs through modern band councils or self-government.

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Siksika (Blackfoot)

The Siksika, also known as the Blackfoot (or Blackfeet in the United States), are one of the three nations that make up the Blackfoot Confederacy (the other two are the Piikani and Kainai). In the Blackfoot language, Siksika means “Blackfoot.” As of 2018, the Siksika registered population is 7,497, with 4,095 living on reserve in Alberta.

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Algonquin

The Algonquin are Indigenous peoples that have traditionally occupied parts of western Quebec and Ontario, centring on the Ottawa River and its tributaries. Algonquin should not be confused with Algonquian, which refers to a larger linguistic and cultural group, including First Nations such as Innu and Cree. In the 2016 census, 40,880 people identified as having Algonquin ancestry.

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Northern Coast Salish

Northern Coast Salish peoples live along the northern half of the Strait of Georgia, east-central Vancouver Island and the western part of the mainland. Northern Coast Salish peoples include the Pentlatch, K’ómoks (Comox) and Shíshálh (Sechelt).

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Demasduwit

Demasduwit (also known as Shendoreth, Waunathoake, Mary March), one of the last of the Beothuk (born 1796; died 8 January 1820 at Bay of Exploits, Newfoundland). Demasduwit helped to preserve the Beothuk language and culture. In 2007, the Canadian government recognized her as a person of national historic significance.

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Nellie J. Cournoyea

Nellie J. Cournoyea, OC, politician, premier of the Northwest Territories 1991–95 (born on 4 March 1940 in Aklavik, NT). Cournoyea is the first Indigenous woman to lead a provincial or territorial government in Canada.

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Cree

The Cree (Nehiyawak 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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Helen Mamayaok Maksagak

Helen Mamayaok Maksagak, CM, politician, public servant, community leader (born 15 April 1931 in Bernard Harbour, NT [NU]; died 23 January 2009 in Cambridge Bay, NU). Maksagak was the first woman and Inuk to serve as the commissioner of the Northwest Territories. A vocal and engaged advocate for Inuit affairs, she contributed to efforts to establish Nunavut as Canada’s third territory in the 1990s. In March of 1999, she was chosen as the first commissioner of the newly created Nunavut territory; her term lasted until March 2000. Maksagak returned to a formal political role in November 2005, when she was appointed deputy commissioner of Nunavut. In addition to her political career, Maksagak performed advocacy work, focusing on Inuit and, more broadly, Indigenous initiatives, such as improving access to social services.

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Indigenous Land Claims

In 1973, federal policy divided Indigenous legal claims into two broad categories: ​comprehensive (known as modern treaties); and ​specific, which make claims based on pre-existing treaties or agreements.

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Kainai (Blood)

The Kainai, also known as the Blood or Kainaiwa, are one of three nations comprising the Blackfoot Confederacy. (The other two include the Siksika and Piikani.) The Kainai have a land base of about 1,362 km2, bordered on all sides by the Oldman, St. Mary and Belly rivers in Alberta. According to the 2016 census, 1,000 people identified as having Kainai ancestry.

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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 Rocky Mountain House to Heart Butte, Montana, and extended eastward onto the Plains. According to the Piikani Nation, there are about 3,600 registered members living and working both on and off their reserves located near Pincher Creek, Alberta.

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Daniels Case

On 14 April 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in Daniels v. Canada that the federal government, rather than provincial governments, holds the legal responsibility to legislate on issues related to Métis and Non-Status Indians. In a unanimous decision, the court found that Métis and Non-Status peoples are considered Indians under section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867 — a section that concerns the federal government’s exclusive legislative powers. Recognition as Indians under this section of law is not the same as Indian Status, which is defined by the Indian Act. Therefore, the Daniels decision does not grant Indian Status to Métis or Non-Status peoples. However, the ruling could result in new discussions, negotiations and possible litigation with the federal government over land claims and access to education, health programs and other government services.

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Gerald Stanley and Colten Boushie Case

On 9 February 2018, Gerald Stanley, a white farmer from rural Saskatchewan, was acquitted of murder and manslaughter in the killing of a 22-year-old Cree man, Colten Boushie. The acquittal caused great controversy but was not appealed by prosecutors. However, it led the Justin Trudeau government to abolish the peremptory challenges that allowed Stanley to keep five Indigenous people off the all-white jury that acquitted him.

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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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Pit House

A pit house is a type of dwelling historically used by various Indigenous peoples living in the Plateau region of Canada. Partially built into the ground, pit houses provided warmth and shelter during the winter season. While pit houses no longer serve as common dwellings, they retain cultural significance for many Indigenous peoples. Archeological remains and replicas of pit houses can be found in various parts of Canada. (See also Architectural History of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)

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Suicide among Indigenous Peoples in Canada

First Nations in Canada have suicide rates double that of the national average, and Inuit communities tend to have even higher rates. Suicide in these cases has multiple social and individual causes. To date, there are a number of emerging programs in suicide prevention by Indigenous organizations that attempt to integrate Indigenous knowledge with evidence-informed prevention approaches.

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Cuthbert Grant

Cuthbert Grant, fur trader, Métis leader (born circa 1793 in Fort de la Rivière Tremblante, SK; died 15 July 1854 in White Horse Plains, MB). Grant led the Métis to victory at Seven Oaks in 1816 and founded the Métis community Grantown (later St. François Xavier), Manitoba, in 1824. Today, Cuthbert Grant is hailed as a founder of the Métis nation. (See also Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)