Kanyen'kehà:ka or Kanien'kehá:ka (“People of the Chert”), commonly known as Mohawk by non-Kanyen'kehà:ka, are Indigenous peoples in North America. They are the easternmost member of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, also referred to as the Iroquois or Six Nations Confederacy. In the early years of the 17th century, they resided on the banks of the Mohawk River in what is now upstate New York. They became intensely involved in the fur trade and in the colonial conflicts of the next two centuries. Many had moved to the St. Lawrence River before 1700 and following the American Revolution, the remainder moved to Canada to reside in territories controlled by their ally, Great Britain. Here, the Kanyen'kehà:ka have garnered a reputation of militancy in maintaining their language and culture, and for defending their rights.
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. The National Household Survey recorded more than 95,000 speakers of Cree in 2011.
First Nations and Métis peoples played a significant role in Canada in the War of 1812. The conflict forced various Indigenous peoples to overcome longstanding differences and unite against a common enemy. It also strained alliances, such as those in the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) Confederacy in which some branches were allied with American forces. Most First Nations strategically allied themselves with Great Britain during the war, seeing the British as the lesser of two colonial evils and the group most interested in maintaining traditional territories and trade.
The Shuta Got'ine are an Aboriginal group living on the Mackenzie Mountain slopes down to the Mackenzie River. Historically, various small groups using the eastern slopes of the mountain range have been called Mountain and have traded at all the posts between Fort Liard and Fort Good Hope.
Known as Maliseet to the Europeans, the Wolastoqiyik (also spelled Welastekwewiyik or Welustuk) — whose name means “people of the beautiful river” in their language — have long resided along the Saint John River in New Brunswick and Maine, and the St Lawrence River in Québec.
Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka) are Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast in Canada. When explorer Captain James Cook encountered Nuu-chah-nulth villagers at Yuquot (Nootka Island, west of Vancouver Island) in 1778, he misunderstood the name for their nation to be Nootka, the term used to describe the Nuu-chah-nulth until 1978. The inlet where Cook first encountered the Nuu-chah-nulth is now known as Nootka Sound. In 1978, the Nuu-chah-nulth chose the collective term Nuu-chah-nulth (nuučaan̓uł, meaning “all along the mountains and sea”) to describe the tribes of western Vancouver Island.
Mi’kmaq (Mi’kmaw, Micmac or L’nu, “the people” in Mi’kmaq) are Indigenous peoples who are among the original inhabitants in the Atlantic Provinces of Canada. Alternative names for the Mi’kmaq appear in some historical sources and include Gaspesians, Souriquois, Acadians and Tarrantines. Contemporary Mi’kmaq communities are located predominantly in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, but with a significant presence in Québec, Newfoundland, Maine and the Boston area. As of 2015, there were slightly fewer than 60,000 registered members of Mi’kmaq nations in Canada. In the 2011 National Household Survey, 8,935 people reported knowledge of the Mi’kmaq language.
Gwich’in, meaning “one who dwells (in)” or “the inhabitant of,” are Dene (Athabaskan)-speaking Indigenous peoples who live in northwestern North America. These communities comprise the Gwich’in nation, which is often referred to collectively as Dinjii Zhuh. There are thought to be between 7,000 and 9,000 Gwich’in living in communities in Alaska, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
In Canada, the term Indigenous peoples (or Aboriginal peoples) refers to First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. These are the original inhabitants of the land that is now Canada. In 2011, more than 1.4 million people in Canada identified as Indigenous. Though severely threatened — and in certain cases extinguished — by colonial forces, Indigenous culture, language and social systems have shaped the development of Canada, and continue to grow and thrive despite extreme adversity.1
The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation (meaning the “people from Clayoqua” or the people from “Tla-o-qui”) are a member of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council. Tla-o-qui-aht territory is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. As of March 2017, the nation has a registered population of 1,133 registered members.
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.
Abenaki (also referred to as Wobanaki or Wabanaki) take their name from a word in their own language meaning “dawn-land people” or “people from the east.” Their traditional lands included parts of southeastern Québec, western Maine and northern New England. As of 2016, the total registered population of Abenaki people on the Wôlinak and Odanak reserves in Québec is 1,909 and 2,457, respectively.