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Reserves in Quebec

There are 30 reserves in Quebec, held by 25 First Nations. In addition, there are 15 Inuit, 9 Cree and 1 Naskapi community whose lands fall under the jurisdiction of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and the Northeastern Quebec Agreement. Because they are not governed by the Indian Act, these communities are technically not reserves. There are also five First Nations in Quebec that do not have reserve lands (Long Point First Nation, Communauté anicinape de Kitcisakik, Wolf Lake First Nation, Montagnais de Pakua Shipi and Nation MicMac de Gespeg). This is the largest number of First Nations without reserve land of any province. Finally, the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne has a reserve that is partly in Quebec, Ontario and New York state. As of 2019, there are 91,293 registered Indians in Quebec, 63 per cent of whom live on reserve.

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Kainai Nation (Blood Tribe)

The Kainai (G-ai-nah) Nation, otherwise known as the Blood Tribe, is a First Nation based in southern Alberta. Kainai Nation holds two reserves, Blood 148 and Blood 148A. Blood 148, the nation’s primary reserve, is the largest First Nation reserve by area in Canada. It covers 1,342.9 km², and is located southwest of the city of Lethbridge, north of the town of Cardston, and east of Pincher Creek. The nation’s second reserve is known as a “timber limit” and is used for hunting and fishing. As of 2021, there are 8,517 people living on the primary reserve, making it one of the most populous reserves in Canada. In total, Kainai Nation has 12,738 registered band members. (See also Reserves in Alberta.)

The Kainai Nation is a signatory to Treaty 7. Mi’k ai’stoowa (Red Crow) signed on behalf of the nation in 1877. ( See also History of Kainai Nation (Blood Tribe).)

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Reserves in Alberta

There are 138 reserves in Alberta, held primarily by the province’s 46 First Nations (see also First Nations in Alberta). A handful of these reserves are held by First Nations based outside the province, namely Salt River First Nation and Smith’s Landing First Nation, whose administrative headquarters are in the Northwest Territories. Onion Lake Cree Nation, based in Saskatchewan, holds a reserve that straddles the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. In 2020, there were 133,051 Registered Indians living in Alberta, 60 per cent of whom lived on reserves. First Nations in Alberta are typically grouped into three areas based on Treaties 6, 7 and 8 (see also Numbered Treaties). While historically the Canadian government assigned reserves to First Nations people and not Métis or Inuit, Alberta is the only province in which Métis people were given a collective land base (see Métis Settlements).

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Reserves on Prince Edward Island

There are four reserves on Prince Edward Island, held by two First Nations. Three of these reserves, Morell, Rocky Point and Scotchfort, are held by Abegweit First Nation, while Lennox Island is held by Lennox Island First Nation. PEI is just one of two provinces, the other being Nova Scotia, that is part of the traditional territory of only one Indigenous people. In both cases, it is the Mi'kmaq. Of PEI’s 1,405 registered Mi'kmaq (2021), 615 live on the four reserves. The reserves vary in size from less than 1 km 2 to 5.4 km2. Both Lennox Island and Abegweit First Nations are headed by Chiefs, who are required to live on-reserve, and Councillors, who may live on- or off-reserve. Elections are held in a three-year and four-year cycle, respectively.

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Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory

Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory is a reserve located on the eastern peninsula of Manitoulin Island in Ontario. The reserve is held by the Wiikwemkoong First Nation, which is composed of Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi peoples. Together, these nations form the Three Fires Confederacy. As an unceded reserve, Wiikwemkoong has not relinquished its land through treaty or other means. (See also Reserves in Ontario.)

The Wiikwemkoong First Nation has a registered population of 8,330, with an on-reserve population of 3,208 (2020). Formerly known as Manitoulin Island Unceded Indian Reserve, the reserve changed its name to Wiikwemkong Unceded Indian Reserve in 1968 when it amalgamated with Point Grondine First Nation and South Bay First Nation. The name was changed again, in 2014, to its current name, though the federal government still refers to the reserve as the Wikwemikong Unceded Reserve.

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Reserves in Nova Scotia

There are 42 reserves in Nova Scotia, held by 13 First Nations (see First Nations in Nova Scotia). Nova Scotia is one of just two provinces, the other being Prince Edward Island, that is part of the traditional territory of only one Indigenous people. In both cases, it is the Mi'kmaq. In 2020, there were 17,895 registered Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia, about 63 per cent of whom (11,202 people) lived on reserve. Reserves in Nova Scotia vary in size from over 3,500 hectares to less than one, though almost every First Nation has more than one land tract.

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Six Nations of the Grand River

Six Nations of the Grand River, Ontario, is the common name for both a reserve and a Haudenosaunee First Nation. The reserve, legally known as Six Nations Indian Reserve No. 40, is just over 182 km2, located along the Grand River in southwestern Ontario. As of 2019, Six Nations has 27,559 registered band members, 12,892 of whom live on-reserve. Six Nations is the largest First Nations reserve in Canada by population, and the second largest by size. There are several individual communities within the reserve, the largest of which is Ohsweken, with a population of approximately 1,500. (See also Reserves in Ontario.)

Six Nations is home to the six individual nations that form the Hodinöhsö:ni’ Confederacy (Haudenosaunee). These nations are the Kanyen’kehaka (Mohawk), Onyota’a:ka (Oneida), Onöñda’gega’ (Onondaga), Gayogohono (Cayuga), Onöndowága’ (Seneca) and Skaru:reh (Tuscarora).

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Grassy Narrows

Grassy Narrows, ON, is the common name for both a reserve and an Ojibwe First Nation. The reserve, legally known as English River Indian Reserve 21, is just over 41 km2 of land located about 55 km northeast of Kenora. There are 1,594 registered members of Grassy Narrows First Nation (also known as Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek), 971 of whom live on-reserve (2019). Grassy Narrows is a signatory to Treaty 3.

Approximately 90 per cent of Grassy Narrows residents suffer from mercury poisoning. The poisoning is the result of Dryden Chemicals Ltd. dumping mercury into the English-Wabigoon river system between 1962 and 1970. The effects of the pollution are ongoing, and have also affected Whitedog First Nation (also known as Wabaseemoong Independent Nations).

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Reserves in Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador is home to two First Nation groups: the Mi’kmaq living on the island of Newfoundland, and the Innu, living in central and northern Labrador. The province has three reserves. Two of the reserves are Innu: the Sheshatshiu and Natuashish reserves are home to the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation and Mushuau Innu First Nation respectively. The third, Miawpukek Mi’kamawey Mawi’omi (commonly known as Miawpukek, or in English, Conne River), is Mi’kmaq. Indigenous people live in these communities, as well as in other, non-Indigenous communities throughout the province. As of March 2019, there were 28,293 registered Indians living in Newfoundland and Labrador, 12 per cent of whom lived on reserve. One reason the province has a relatively small on-reserve population is because the Qalipu Mi’kmaq, a band from the West Coast of Newfoundland and one of the largest in the country, does not have reserve lands. Labrador is also home to many Inuit communities who, like Inuit living in other parts of the country, do not have reserves.

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Reserves in Ontario

There are 207 reserves in Ontario, held by 127 of Ontario’s 128 First Nations (see also First Nations in Ontario). (Beaverhouse First Nation, first recognized by the federal government as a First Nation in 2022, does not have reserve land.) In 2020, there were 221,822 registered Indians living in Ontario, about 44 per cent of whom lived on reserves. Reserves in Ontario are held by AnishinaabeCree, Oji-Cree, Haudenosaunee, Delaware and Algonquin peoples.

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Reserves in Manitoba

There are 376 reserves in Manitoba, held by 63 First Nations. In addition, Animakee Wa Zhing, a First Nation based in Ontario, has a reserve that straddles the Ontario-Manitoba border. As of 2019, there were 162,787 registered Indians in Manitoba, 58 per cent of whom lived on-reserve. Manitoba is also a key part of the Métis Nation’s homeland and has a large Métis population. However, for a variety of historical reasons, Métis do not hold reserves (see Métis Scrip in Canada; Manitoba Act of 1870).

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Reserves in the Northwest Territories

There are two reserves in the Northwest Territories. In addition, of the territory’s remaining 32 communities, 28 have a majority Indigenous population. Dene, Inuvialuit and Métis people are the primary Indigenous groups living in these communities. The territory’s two reserves are Hay River Dene 1, held by the Kátł’odeeche First Nation, and Salt River No. 195, held by the Salt River First Nation (see also First Nations in the Northwest Territories). The Northwest Territories differs from much of southern Canada, where several provinces have hundreds of reserves, and where large percentages of First Nations people live in these communities. While Treaty 8 and Treaty 11 — which taken together cover most of the territory — provided for reserves, none were created in the years immediately following their signing. The reasons for the limited number of reserves in such a large region are rooted in a complicated history.

timeline event

First Nation Issues State of Emergency After Evacuation Request Denied

The Neskantaga First Nation, located about 450 km north of Thunder Bay, issued a state of emergency after its request for emergency evacuations was refused by Indigenous Services Canada. The request was made after the town’s water pump and backup water pump broke down, resulting in contaminated and unfiltered water. A spokesperson for Indigenous Services said that technicians would arrive within days to repair the pumps. The Neskantaga reserve has been under a boil water advisory since 1995.

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Wauzhushk Onigum Nation

Wauzhushk Onigum Nation (pronounced Waa-JUSHK oh-KNEE-gum), commonly referred to as Rat Portage, is an Anishinaabe community based on the north shore of Lake of the Woods in northwestern Ontario. Wauzhushk Onigum’s primary reserve, Kenora 38B, is 22.3 km2. As of 2021, the First Nation has 802 registered members, 383 of whom live on this reserve. Wauzhushk Onigum is a member of Treaty 3, signed in 1873. The City of Kenora is 3 km northwest and is the closest service hub for the First Nation.

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Reserves in Canada

A reserve is land set aside by the Canadian government for use by First Nations. Reserves are managed under the Indian Act. Reserve lands represent a small fraction of the traditional territories First Nations had before European colonization. While reserves are places where members of a First Nation live, some reserves are used for hunting and other activities. Many First Nations hold more than one parcel of reserve land, and some reserves are shared by more than one First Nation. There are reserves in every province in Canada, but few have been established in the territories. Most reserves are rural, though some First Nations have created urban reserves, which are reserves within or neighboring a city.

This is the full-length entry about Reserves in Canada. If you are interested in reading a plain-language summary, please see Reserves in Canada (Plain Language Summary).

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Reserves in Canada (Plain-Language Summary)

A reserve is land set aside by the Canadian government for use by First Nations. Reserves are managed under the Indian Act. Reserves are places where First Nations often live. However, some reserves are only for practices like hunting. Not all First Nations have reserve lands. There are reserves in every province in Canada, but most are in rural or remote areas. Few reserves have been established in the territories.

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

timeline event

Ottawa Ordered to Compensate First Nations Children in On-Reserve Child Welfare System

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal issued a ruling that called for the federal government to pay $40,000 to each child who was taken from their home on reserve since 1 January 2006, regardless of the reason. The tribunal’s ruling stated, “Canada was aware of the discrimination and of some of its serious consequences… Canada focused on financial considerations rather than on the best interests of First Nations children and respecting their human rights.” About 50,000 children were affected, making the total cost around $2 billion. (See also: Canadian Human Rights Act.)

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Elsipogtog First Nation

Elsipogtog (pronounced El-see-buk-tuk) First Nation is a Mi’kmaq community about 91 km northwest of Moncton, New Brunswick. Known for many years as Big Cove, in 2003 the First Nation officially changed its name to Elsipogtog, meaning “river of fire.” However, they are still commonly referred to as Big Cove. Community members largely speak Mi’kmaw and English.

As of 2021, Elsipogtog has 3,509 registered members, 2,703 of whom live on the First Nation’s reserve. The reserve, also known as Elsipogtog, is still referred to as Richibucto 15 in some official documents. It encompasses 19.56 km2.