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Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous Peoples are the original inhabitants of the land that is now Canada. Inuit and First Nations history extends well before the arrival of Europeans in Canada, while Métis emerged as a distinct culture after intermarriage between European settlers and First Nations people. Indigenous people were essential to the development of early Canada, but suffered massive population declines due to the arrival of European disease. In addition, though they were often military allies, they faced persecution at the hands of colonial governments in the form of displacement, starvation, land seizure and cultural genocide through residential schools and destructive legislation. Indigenous people live throughout Canada and continue to strive to reinvigorate traditional culture and ways of life.

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Nadine Caron

Nadine Rena Caron, surgeon, researcher, mentor, educator, patient advocate, community leader (born 1970 in Kamloops, BC). Nadine Caron was the first female First Nations student to graduate from the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine. She was also the first female First Nations general surgeon in Canada. For many years, Caron has highlighted the needs and voices of northern, rural and Indigenous populations in Canada.

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Ontario Schools Question

The Ontario schools question was the first major schools issue to focus on language rather than religion. In Ontario, French or French-language education remained a contentious issue for nearly a century, from 1890 to 1980, with English-speaking Catholics and Protestants aligned against French-speaking Catholics.

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Oronhyatekha

Oronhyatekha (pronounced O-RON-ya-day-ga, meaning "Burning Sky" or “Burning Cloud”), also known as Peter Martin, a Kanyen'kehà:ka (Mohawk) medical doctor and businessman (born 10 August 1841 on the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve near Brantford, Canada West [now Ontario]; died 3 March 1907 in Savannah, Georgia, US). In 1867, Oronhyatekha became the second Indigenous person in Canada to earn a medical degree. Passionate about Indigenous issues, he was elected to the Grand General Indian Council of Ontario and Quebec in 1872, where he fought against the restrictive measures of the Indian Act. Oronhyatekha was also a businessman and, in 1881, headed the Independent Order of Foresters.

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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.

timeline

Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous nations tell their own stories about the origins of the world and their place in it; all claim their ancestry dates to Time Immemorial. At the same time, there is considerable archeological debate about when humans first came to North America, though broad assumptions suggest waves of migration from northeastern Asia, by both land bridge and boat, between 30,000 and 13,500 years ago. Note: This timeline presents key events and developments in Indigenous history in what is now Canada, from Time Immemorial to present. While no timeline can be exhaustive in its coverage, it provides a broad chronological overview to support educators and students.

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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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Religion and Spirituality of Indigenous Peoples in Canada

First Nation, Métis and Inuit religions in Canada vary widely and consist of complex social and cultural customs for addressing the sacred and the supernatural. The influence of Christianity — through settlers, missionaries and government policy — significantly altered life for Indigenous peoples. In some communities, this resulted in hybridized religious practices; while in others, European religion replaced traditional spiritual practices entirely. Though historically suppressed by colonial administrators and missionaries, especially from the late 19th- to mid-20th centuries, many contemporary Indigenous communities have revived, or continue to practice, traditional spirituality.

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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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Indigenous Feminisms in Canada

At their root, Indigenous feminisms examine how gender and conceptions of gender influence the lives of Indigenous peoples, historically and today. Indigenous feminist approaches challenge stereotypes about Indigenous peoples, gender and sexuality, for instance, as they appear in politics, society and the media. Indigenous feminisms offer frameworks for learning about and understanding these, and other issues, regardless of one’s gender or ethnicity.

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Native People's Caravan

The Native People’s Caravan was a cross-country mobile protest that took place in 1974. Its main purpose was to raise awareness about the poor living conditions and discrimination experienced by Indigenous peoples in Canada. It travelled from Vancouver to Ottawa, where the subsequent occupation of a vacant warehouse on Victoria Island, near Parliament Hill, extended into 1975. The caravan brought various Indigenous groups together in protest of broken treaties, as well as a lack of government-supported education, housing and health care. As a result, meetings between Cabinet ministers and Indigenous leaders became more frequent. The protest is remembered as an important turning point in Indigenous activism in Canada.

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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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Anahareo

Anahareo, or Gertrude Philomen Bernard, CM, conservationist, prospector (born 18 June 1906 in Mattawa, ON; died 17 June 1986 in Kamloops, BC). An independent, forceful animal welfare advocate, Anahareo is credited with converting her well-known husband, Grey Owl, into a conservationist.

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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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Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake)

Emily Pauline Johnson (a.k.a. Tekahionwake, “double wampum”) poet, writer, artist, performer (born 10 March 1861 on the Six Nations Reserve, Canada West; died 7 March 1913 in VancouverBC). Pauline Johnson was one of North America’s most notable entertainers of the late 19th century. A mixed-race woman of Mohawk and European descent, she was a gifted writer and poised orator. She toured extensively, captivating audiences with her flair for the dramatic arts. Johnson made important contributions to Indigenous and Canadian oral and written culture. She is listed as a Person of National Historic Significance and her childhood home is a National Historic Site and museum. A monument in Vancouver’s Stanley Park commemorates her work and legacy. In 2016, she was one of 12 Canadian women in consideration to appear on a banknote. (See Women on Canadian Banknotes.)

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Dene

The Dene comprise a far-reaching cultural and linguistic family, stretching from the Canadian North and Alaska to the American southwest. In Canada, the Dene, which means “the people” in their language, comprise a variety of First Nations, some of which include the Denesoline (Chipewyan), Tlicho (Dogrib) and Dinjii Zhuh (Gwich’in). The Dene are also known as Athabascan, Athabaskan, Athapascan or Athapaskan peoples. In the 2016 census, 27,430 people identified as having Dene ancestry.

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Plains Indigenous Peoples in Canada

The Plains cultural area is a vast territory that extends from southern Manitoba and the Mississippi River westward to the Rocky Mountains, and from the North Saskatchewan River south into Texas. The term “Plains peoples” describes a number of different and unique Indigenous nations, including the Siksika, Cree, Ojibwe, Assiniboine (Nakota) and Dakota.

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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 2021, the Siksika registered population is 7,565, with 4,136 living on reserve in Alberta.

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Jackson Beardy

Jackson Beardy (also known as Quincy Pickering Jackson Beardy), Oji-Cree artist (born 24 July 1944 in Island Lake, MB; died 8 December 1984 in Winnipeg, MB). Beardy was part of the Woodlands School of Indigenous art, and in 1973 he became part of a group of Indigenous artists popularly known as the Indian Group of Seven. His stylized artworks — sometimes painted on canvas, birch bark or beaver skins — were often concerned with the interdependence of humans and nature. They also tended to depict figures from Ojibwe and Cree oral traditions. From the late 1960s to his death in the early 1980s, Beardy promoted Indigenous art as a valid category of contemporary art. His influence as a Woodland artist has contributed to the development of contemporary Indigenous art in Canada.