Skip to section on the page:
Indigenous Peoples in Canada comprise three distinct groups: First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples. Globally, the United Nations estimates that there are Indigenous peoples in 70 countries.
Always capitalize Indigenous Peoples, First Nations, Inuit and Métis, as well as names of groups or territories: Innu, Cree, Anishinabek, Six Nations of the Grand River.
U of G uses the term Indigenous Peoples rather than Aboriginal Peoples, a term that many First Nations, Inuit and Métis people feel does not accurately describe them. Prefer Indigenous for modifiers: Indigenous Peoples (distinct groups as above) or Indigenous people (generic groups of people), Indigenous language, Indigenous homelands.
Avoid “Indigenous Canadian” and “Canada’s Indigenous people,” which may imply possession or colonialism. Prefer: Indigenous people in Canada.
Avoid using the more general “Indigenous Peoples” if you can refer to a single, specific group, whether First Nations, Inuit or Métis.
Don’t use the term Native to refer to Indigenous Peoples. In the United States, the term Native American is in common use to describe Indigenous Peoples.
More generally, avoid the generic term native in referring to a person’s geographic or cultural roots. Instead of saying someone is a Guelph native, say the person is Guelph-born, originally from Guelph, hails from Guelph, was raised in Guelph, etc.
Also prefer specific groups within First Nations alone. First Nations also come from different areas and have their own cultures, languages and traditions. Try to identify a specific community or Nation: a Cree scholar, Mississaugas of the Credit, Mohawk, Nishnawbi Aski Nation. Instead of saying “Theresa is an Indigenous person,” say: “Theresa is a Cree from Saddle Lake Cree Nation.”
First Nations refers to ethnicity of First Nations peoples generally. A singular First Nation may be a band or a reserve-based community. First Nation(s) does not include Inuit or Métis people.
Use First Nation, not Indian. Use Indian when referring to the federal Indian Act or if preferred by a First Nations person with status under the Indian Act and only within its legal context. Also use Indian to refer to people or institutions from the country of India.
The federal government recognizes 619 First Nations, defined as communities for whom, based on treaty agreements, land has been set apart and for whom money is held in trust by the Crown. More than half of First Nations people with registered or treaty status do not live on reserve.
Métis refers to descendants of Indigenous and European people in northwestern Canada. Generations of intermarriages led to the genesis of a new group of Indigenous people with a distinct identity and culture. Avoid “Métis” as a generic term for people of mixed descent. Many have this mixed ancestry but not all can be described as Métis. Use Métis only when individuals and communities use the term themselves: a Métis scholar, Grand River Métis Council, Métis Nation of Ontario. The acute accent is used in Ontario, although not throughout Canada.
Inuit are from the Arctic region of Inuit Nunangat, which is spread across Nunavut, Nunavik (Arctic Quebec), Nunatsiavut (Arctic Newfoundland and Labrador) and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (Western Arctic). Inuit means “the people,” so don’t say “Inuit people.” The singular of Inuit is Inuk. Their language is Inuktitut. As dialects vary across Inuit Nunangat, follow the subject’s preference.
Don’t use the term Eskimo.
Innu are a First Nations group in northeastern Quebec and central Labrador. Don’t confuse them with the Inuit in these regions.
U of G and Treaty Territory
The University of Guelph resides on the treaty lands and territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit (Between the Lakes, Treaty 3), an Anishinaabe community. Anishinaabe refers to Ojibwe, Odawa, Potawatomi and other Algonquin-speaking groups.
Locally, Six Nations of the Grand River is the closest Haudenosaunee territory (Haldimand Tract). “Haudenosaunee peoples” refer to the members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (Seneca, Cayuga, Tuscarora, Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk nations).
Avoid Biased Language
Avoid paternalistic-sounding language that effectively removes agency from Indigenous Peoples. Instead of: “The Numbered Treaties provided First Nations with reserves, education and health care,” write: “First Nations negotiated the Numbered Treaties with Canada’s government to secure their rights, territories, education and health care.”
Consider the difference between “demanding” something or “asserting” something. For example, the Nisga’a did not spend a century demanding title to their traditional territory. It is an Indigenous right they always had. Instead: “The Nisga’a spent a century asserting Indigenous title to their traditional territory.”
Use language that recognizes resilience and agency rather than pessimistic language that conveys subtle bias. Not: “Indigenous Peoples struggle with the legacy of the residential school system.” Instead: “Indigenous Peoples acknowledge the legacy of the residential school system and the importance of appropriate compensation and apology from the Canadian government.”