Prior to the 1960s, only a few periodicals were published for Aboriginal people, mainly by non-Aboriginal missionary and government organizations. Notable examples were the Chinook-language Kamloops Wawa (1891-1905) and the Inuktitut-language Oblate publications of the 1940s and 1950s.
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (formerly Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada) is a federal department responsible for the development of policies pertaining to First Nations, Métis, Inuit and Northern communities. As of 28 August 2017, it was dissolved to create two new ministries: Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs and Indigenous Services. As the primary links between the federal government and Indigenous peoples in Canada, the departments' main focus is Indigenous self-government, economic development, improved quality of life, efficient management of Indigenous land, resources and money, and northern development.
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.3
Treaty Day commemorates the day that certain treaties were signed by the Government of Canada and Indigenous peoples between the 18th and 20th centuries. Treaty Day is also a celebration of the historic relationship between Indigenous peoples and the federal government. It promotes public awareness about Indigenous culture, history and heritage for all Canadians.
To a tremendous extent, the enslavement of Indigenous peoples defines slavery in Canada. Fully two-thirds of the slaves in the Canadian colony of New France — which held the most slaves and for the longest duration in Canada — were Indigenous. These people were products of the slave trade that developed in the southernmost of Britain’s thirteen colonies during the late 1600s. It was there that settlers turned an Indigenous practice of slavery into a devastating cycle of events that tore apart Indigenous nations and affected all of the European colonies in North America.
Indigenous territory — also referred to as traditional territory — describes the ancestral and contemporary connections of Indigenous peoples to a geographical area. Territories may be defined by kinship ties, occupation, seasonal travel routes, trade networks, management of resources, and cultural and linguistic connections to place.
During the 20th century, the federal government established racially segregated “Indian hospitals” for the treatment of First Nations and Inuit peoples in Canada. With the coming of medicare in the late 1960s, the government began to close most of the Indian hospitals, though it continues to operate hospitals at Norway House and Hodgson in Manitoba.
Two-Spirit, a translation of the Anishinaabeg (Ojibwe) 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.
Contemporary Indigenous (Aboriginal) art is that which has been produced by Indigenous peoples between around 1945 up to the present. Since that time, two major schools of Aboriginal art have dominated the contemporary scene in Canada: West Coast Aboriginal art and the Woodlands school of Legend Painters.
Before contact with Europeans, Indigenous peoples educated their youth through traditional means — demonstration, group socialization, participation in cultural and spiritual rituals, skill development and oral teachings. The introduction of European classroom-style education as part of a larger goal of assimilation disrupted traditional methods and resulted in cultural trauma and dislocation. Reformers of Indigenous education policies are attempting to reintegrate traditional teachings and provide more cultural and language-based support to enhance and improve the outcomes of Indigenous children in the education system.
The Aboriginal population is the most rural in Canada. One-half of a million Aboriginal people are committed to the land by heritage, by rights in a rural land base, and by a broad range of bureaucratic mandates provided by the federal government. These conditions are supported by the Constitution Act, 1982, a legal guarantee that is unique in the world for an Aboriginal population with a predominantly hunting heritage.
Health and Disease The health of Indigenous people suffered drastic changes after the arrival of Europeans from the 16th to the 19th century. The introduction of "new" diseases, particularly infections such as smallpox, measles, and influenza, resulted in epidemics, famines, and social disruptions.
Over 1.8 million people reported having an Aboriginal ancestry, or ancestors with an Indigenous identity in Canada in 2011. More than 1.4 million people (over 4 per cent of the total population in Canada) identified themselves as an Aboriginal/Indigenous person.
The social conditions of Indigenous peoples in Canada vary greatly according to place of residence, income level, family and cultural factors and classification (i.e., First Nations, Métis and Inuit). Areas of particular social concern include housing, employment, education, health, justice, and family and cultural growth.
Indigenous peoples in Canada developed rich building traditions thousands of years before the arrival of the first Europeans. Each of the six broad cultural regions of Indigenous peoples in Canada, defined by common climatic, geographical and ecological characteristics — the Arctic, Subarctic, Northwest Coast, Plateau, Plains and Eastern Woodlands — gave rise to distinctive building forms which reflected these conditions, as well as the available building materials, means of livelihood, and social and spiritual values of the resident peoples.
It is difficult to make generalizations 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.2
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) was officially launched in 2008 as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA). Intended to be a process that would guide Canadians through the difficult discovery of the facts behind the residential school system, the TRC was also meant to lay the foundation for lasting reconciliation across Canada.
The “Sixties Scoop” refers to the large-scale removal or “scooping” of Indigenous children from their homes, communities and families of birth through the 1960s, and their subsequent adoption into predominantly non-Indigenous, middle-class families across the United States and Canada. This experience left many adoptees with a lost sense of cultural identity. The physical and emotional separation from their birth families continues to affect adult adoptees and Indigenous communities to this day.