Key Terms

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60s Scoop

Refers to the high level of Aboriginal children in state care during the 1960s which resulted in the alienation of many Aboriginal people from their communities of ancestral origin.
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Aboriginal

The most inclusive term in general usage in Canada today, “Aboriginal,” as a term includes Indians (status and Non-status), Métis, and Inuit and was popularized with its use in the repatriated Canadian Constitution of 1982.
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Aboriginal Nations

This term was used by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) in its final report. RCAP defines Aboriginal nations as "a sizeable body of Aboriginal people with a shared sense of national identity that constitutes the predominant population in a certain territory or collection of territories."
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Aboriginal people

When referring to "Aboriginal people," you are referring to all the Aboriginal people in Canada collectively, without regard to their separate origins and identities. OR, you are simply referring to more than one Aboriginal person.
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Aboriginal peoples

The descendants of the original inhabitants of North America. The Canadian Constitution recognizes three groups of Aboriginal people — Indians, Métis and Inuit. These are three separate peoples (in the case of Indians, it is inclusive of several dozen more peoples) with unique heritages, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs. By adding the ‘s’ to people, you are emphasizing that there is a diversity of people within the group known as Aboriginal people. Because the term "Aboriginal people" generally applies to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis, writers must take care in using this term. If they are describing a particular departmental program that is only for First Nations, like band funding, you should avoid using "Aboriginal people" which could cause misunderstanding. USAGE
  • Aboriginal people, Aboriginal persons: more than one Aboriginal person
  • Aboriginal people: entire body of Aboriginal persons in Canada
  •  Aboriginal peoples: different groups of Aboriginal people with distinct cultures (often used
  • when referring to different groups among different communities)
  • Use as an adjective, this should never be used as a noun. Despite the wide use of "Aboriginal" as a proper noun by many Canadian and Aboriginal media, use the term only as a modifier:
  • NOT The government's new strategy will support increased business with Aboriginals.
  • USE The government's new strategy will support increased business with Aboriginal people.
  • Avoid describing Aboriginal people as "belonging" to Canada. Use less possessive terms:  NOT Canada’s Aboriginal people are developing tourism ventures.
  • USE Aboriginal people in Canada are developing tourism ventures.
  • Capitalize "Aboriginal" as you would other designations like "Francophone," "Arabic" or "Nordic."

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Aboriginal rights

The rights that Aboriginal peoples in Canada hold as a result of their ancestors’ long-standing use and occupancy of the land. The rights of Aboriginal peoples to hunt, trap and fish on ancestral lands are examples of Aboriginal rights. Aboriginal rights uphold the customs, practices and traditions that form a group’s distinctive culture. Aboriginal rights are protected in the Constitution Act of 1982.
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Aboriginal Self-Government

Governments designed, established and administered by Aboriginal peoples under the Canadian Constitution through a process of negotiation with Canada and, where applicable, the provincial government.
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Aboriginal title

A legal term that recognizes an Aboriginal interest in land. It is based on the long-standing use and occupancy of the land by today's Aboriginal peoples as the descendants of the original inhabitants of Canada. In Canada, where no treaty has been signed, Aboriginal title exists.
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Accord

An understanding reached before a final agreement; it must be ratified by all parties involved.
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Agreement in Principle (AIP)

A document outlining the major points of an agreement between parties. An AIP is not binding and changes can be made when negotiating the final agreement.
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American Indian

A term used in the United States to describe the descendents of the original peoples of North America. Not commonly used in Canada. See also Native American in this section.
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Assembly of First Nations (AFN)

A national organization of First Nations in Canada. It promotes, supports and advocates for member First Nations in areas such as Aboriginal and treaty rights, environment, economic development, education, housing, health, social services and land claims, and was formerly known as the National Indian Brotherhood (NIB).
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Assimilation

The process by which one cultural group becomes absorbed in whole or in part into the culture of another, either by force or by voluntary acceptance, thereby diminishing their original cultural practices. This is an issue related to the Aboriginal community because Canada has in the past had a deliberate assimilation policy. An example of its implementation is the Residential School era.
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Autonomous

A status of independence, including governance.
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Band

Use First Nation or community in place of band. Historically, and legally, a band is a body of Indians for whose collective use and benefit lands have been set apart or money is held by the Crown, or declared to be a band for the purposes of the Indian Act. However, this term is not preferred and should be replaced in reportage with First Nation or community.
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Band by-law

Use First Nations community by-law instead. A federal law made by the band council to regulate local or internal affairs.
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Band Council

This is the governing body for a First Nation community. It usually consists of a chief and councillors, who are elected for two or three-year terms (under the Indian Act or band custom) to carry out First Nation business, which may include education; water, sewer and fire services; by-laws; community buildings; schools; roads; and other community businesses and services.
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Bill C-31

The pre-legislation name of the 1985 Act to Amend the Indian Act. This act eliminated certain discriminatory provisions in the Indian Act, including the section that deprived Indian women of their status when they married non-Indian men. Bill C-31 enabled first and second generation women and their children to apply to have their status restored.
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British North America Act

See Constitution Act (1982, and 1867)  
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Brown Paper (1970)

A Declaration of Indian Rights: The B.C. Indian Position Paper from the newly formed Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), this document was written in response to the Canadian Government White Paper, 1969. It rejected the proposals put forth in the White Paper and asserted that Aboriginal peoples continue to hold Aboriginal title. It became the cornerstone of UBCIC’s policies for years to come.
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Canadian Constitution

See Constitution Act (1982, and 1867)     
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Capacity-building

The development of human, technical and financial resources in First Nation communities.
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Case Law

Within the last fifty years a number of high profile and supportive cases have been dealt with primarily by the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC). The following are considered significant and provide important decisions that affect all Aboriginal peoples in Canada (for further information on specific decisions visit www.canlii.org/): - Calder v. British Columbia (1973) Established that Aboriginal people have title to the land they have occupied as an organized society since time immemorial. As a result of this judgment, Canada implemented an Indian land claims policy. - In Guerin v. The Queen (1984) the SCC found that Canada has a fiduciary duty to Indians (to act in the interest of Indians). The SCC confirmed that the common law recognizes Aboriginal title based on occupancy and use of land. - In R. v. Sparrow (1990) the SCC recognized that Aboriginal people have the right to carry out certain subsistence activities (hunting, fishing, gathering, etc.) and that this right takes priority over the interests of other user groups. The government can, however, regulate these activities, for example, for conservation purposes. - In R. v. Van der Peet (1996) the SCC set a test holding that an Aboriginal group’s asserted right be “an element of a practice, custom or tradition integral to the distinctive culture of the Aboriginal group claiming the right.” - Delgamuukw v. British Columbia (1997): the Supreme Court ruled that in certain cases, a First Nation can hold collective title to land. This right ensues from their continued occupation of the land before and after contact with the Europeans. Aboriginal title confers certain exclusive rights (e.g., hunting and fishing) to the First Nation on the land. The Delgamuukw judgment also recognized the validity of oral histories as evidence. - R. v. Gladue (1999): the SCC decision sought to interpret the application of Section 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code of Canada, having to do with sentencing of Aboriginal offenders. It found that courts must acknowledge the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in the corrections system, and, for that reason, a judge must take the life circumstances of the accused into account when sentencing and try to develop alternatives to incarceration where possible. The provision held regardless of whether the person lived on a reserve or off a reserve (also R. v. Kakekagamick (2006)). - Corbiere v. Canada (2000) determined that off-reserve band members had the right to vote in band elections. - R. v. Powley (2003) addressed the long-neglected question of Métis rights by establishing legal criteria for Métis identity, including: self-identification as a Métis individual, ancestral connection to an historic Métis community, and acceptance by a Métis community.
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Ceremony

An established or prescribed practice that has spiritual meaning.
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Certainty provisions

Treaty provisions designed to clearly define the authorities, rights and responsibilities for all parties.
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Chief

  • A Band Chief is someone who is elected by members of a recognized governing First Nation council on an Indian Act reserve to govern for a specified term.
  • A Hereditary Chief is a leader, given the power to lead by cultural protocol.

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Circle

The Circle has always been an important symbol for Aboriginal people. Many Aboriginal people see time as cyclical (not linear) and view life as a circle from birth, to death, to spiritual rebirth. When meeting in a circle, everyone is equal, with an equal voice. See also Talking Circle in this section.
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Citizens Plus

The document written by the Indian Chiefs of Alberta, led by Harold Cardinal, in response to the Government’s White Paper was a condemnation of the federal government’s Indian policy. Also known as the Red Paper, Citizens Plus advocates for a return to the treaty relationship and the idea that Aboriginal people have additional rights to Canadian citizens. The document can be accessed at: http://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/aps/article/view/11690/8926 
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Civil Rights

A person’s entitled freedoms. There are several fundamental freedoms; freedom of expression, association and assembly; freedom to practice and preach one’s religion; freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, and the right to a fair trial; and freedom from discrimination based on sex, race, religion and nationality.
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Claim area

Area identified by a First Nation as the basis for negotiating treaty settlement land. A First Nation’s claim area may or may not be the same as their traditional territory.
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Claims

Deal with rights and title to lands not already ceded by treaty. In 1973, the federal government recognized two broad classes of claims: comprehensive and specific.
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Clan

Many First Nations have clan identities. People of these nations are born into or assigned a clan identity. Belonging to the clan provides one with responsibilities one must follow.
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Clan Mother

In Haudenosaunee culture, a matrilineal society, the Clan Mother (or Iakoiane) holds important political and societal roles. She works within the clan to select the candidate for Chief and presents him for approval. She also acts as an advisor to the chief. She is responsible “to look out for the welfare of the clan by overseeing the actions of the Chief and ensuring that he is performing his duties in accordance with the Great Law.” (http://www.haudenosauneeconfederacy.ca/clanmothers.html). She has a duty to ensure that the Haudenosaunee ways continue. Clan Mothers have an important role in raising children, in providing names to babies in her clan, and, in ensuring that children are raised in the ways and customs of the Longhouse. They can also be called upon to help or give advice to families in crisis. The Clan Mother title is hereditary through a clan, and is usually passed on to a female relative.

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Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Following Judith Herman’s work, the concept of CPTSD applies to the damage done to the collective, to Indigenous culture as a whole through contact and disease, colonization, assimilation, residential schools, and legal attacks on the integrity of Aboriginal cultures and governments across Canada.
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Comprehensive claim

A claim made by a First Nation based on the concept of continuing Aboriginal rights and title that have not been dealt with by treaty or other legal means.
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Confederacy

An organized alliance or union of Nations, or groups of individuals, established for mutual support or action, for example, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy or the Council of the Three Fires Confederacy (of the Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi).
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Connectedness

A relationship of the self with family, community, nation and world.
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Constitution Act (1982, and 1867)

The supreme law of Canada that recognizes the obligation of Canada to Aboriginal Peoples. - Section 25 of the Charter of Rights (in Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982) guarantees that Aboriginal, treaty or other rights pertaining to Aboriginal peoples of Canada shall not be abrogated by other rights and freedoms. - Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 recognizes and affirms Aboriginal and Treaty rights. Canadian Governments have an obligation not to infringe, abrogate, or derogate from Aboriginal and treaty rights as a result of this constitutional protection. - Section 91.24 of the Constitution Act of 1867 (formerly 1867’s British North America Act) grants the federal government jurisdiction over Indians and lands reserved for Indians.
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Cooperative management

Arrangements made between a provincial or federal government and First Nations to involve First Nations in land and resource management processes.
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Creation Stories

The stories of a people that explain how the world and living things came to be the way they are. In some Aboriginal traditions these kinds of stories are accorded a different class or status from everyday stories with protocols governing when and how to tell them.
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Creator

Many Indigenous peoples believe in a Creator. How the Creator is referenced and the story of creation is culture specific. The Creator is seen as present everywhere and informs respect for all of creation.
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Crown grant

Usual mechanism by which the Crown conveys land to persons or corporate bodies who then hold the land in private ownership.
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Crown lands

Land under the control of the federal or provincial government.
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Crown tenure

A legal interest in Crown lands or resources issued by the Province in the form of permit, license, lease or approval.
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Cultural appropriation

Use of Aboriginal cultural motifs, themes, “voices” or images without appropriate context or in a way that may not represent the real experience of the people from whose culture it is drawn.


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Culture

A way of life that determines the attitudes, values, beliefs and behaviour of groups of people and has language as a base.
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Culture Shock

A disturbance of mind and emotions that affects behaviour. It’s caused by sudden and prolonged exposure to a social situation of a culture that is unfamiliar or hostile.
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Custom

A traditional Aboriginal practice. For example, First Nations peoples sometimes marry or adopt children according to custom, rather than under Canadian family law. Band councils chosen “by custom” are elected or selected by traditional means, rather than by the election rules contained in the Indian Act.
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Devolution

Refers to the transfer of programs and services management from the federal government to First Nations, tribal councils and other Native authorities.
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Dream Catcher

Hoops on which a web resembling a spider’s is crafted, they are used as a protective measure to filter away bad dreams and negative energies. The Dream Catcher is now part of the material culture of many First Nations; its origin is apparently Ojibwe.
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Drum

Often regarded as an evocation of the heartbeat of Mother Earth, the drum is an intrinsic part of ceremony.
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Eagle Feather

A symbol of respect and honour, often used in ceremonies. It is “a representation of a life lived according to principle and to the desire to be spiritual, good hearted, kind and compassionate, a symbol of principled life in action.” (Richard Wagamese)
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Education

This is considered an inherent right by many First Nations and protected under Section 35 of the Constitution. Some of the recent significant policies and legislation relating to Aboriginal education include:
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Elder

A man or a woman whose wisdom about spirituality, culture and life is recognized. The community and individuals will normally seek the advice and assistance of elders in various areas of traditional as well as contemporary issues. There are cultural protocols that should be followed when seeking an Elder’s assistance. Protocols vary, so ask, and remember deference and respect figure highly. Advanced age is usual, though not compulsory, for an elder.
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Elder Protocol

There are certain protocols specific to elders of various backgrounds. Whenever approaching a First Nations or Métis Elder, start by asking if the Elder will accept tobacco for you to speak with him or her. An Inuit Elder does not usually accept tobacco. All Elders appreciate and must be shown respect. An acknowledgement by way of a gift, which can also sometimes be money in the form of an honourarium, is appreciated. If you are inviting the person to the meeting, always ensure they have transportation and the directions to your venue.
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Eligibility

Entitlement to treaty benefits, to be registered under the Indian Act, to live on Reserve and hold membership, to have Indian status conferred by the Federal Government.
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Enfranchisement

Used to describe the process by which one’s rights to register for Status under the Indian Act was removed. This process was also predominant during the era of government policy for Indian assimilation. Bill C-31 put a stop to this practice in 1985.
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Enrolment

A process for registering eligible treaty beneficiaries.
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Epistomology

Applies to the theory of knowledge and knowledge acquisition.  Little regard has been paid to Indigenous knowledge in Canadian educational institutions, there is however, a drive to embed Indigenous epistemology into curriculum from k-post secondary.
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Ethnocentric

The attitude that one’s own group or culture is more important or superior to another’s group or culture.
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Eurocentric

Presupposing the supremacy of Europe and European thought, knowledge, and civilization.
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Extinguishment

The process used to enable Canada to finalize title to lands and resources from Indigenous Nations to Canada. Today, Canada continues to require full or partial extinguishment to conclude modern land claims that may or may not be constitutionally protected as Treaties.
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Fasting

A ceremony common to many Aboriginal cultures. It often takes place over a period of days, usually with the support of an elder, medicine person or guardian helper. Fasting is usually done in the spring and fall – otherwise it is specific to something needed for the person or family.
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Fiduciary obligation

A legal duty described by the Supreme Court as the obligation of one party to look after the well being of another. Canada has fiduciary obligations to Aboriginal people, meaning that Canada must consult and negotiate with Aboriginal people whenever their interests are concerned.
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First Nation fee simple land

First Nation fee simple land is land held in fee simple by a First Nation who chooses not to have their land returned to reserve status and used for economic purposes.
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First Nation(s)

A term that came into common usage in the 1970s to replace the word "Indian," which many people found offensive. Although the term First Nation is widely used, no legal definition of it exists. Some Aboriginal peoples have also adopted the term "First Nation" to replace the word "band" in the name of their community. USAGE Use as a noun and a modifier. The term "First Nation" is acceptable as both. When using the term as a modifier, the question becomes whether to use "First Nation" or "First Nations." Note the different uses in the following examples. USE The number of First Nations students enrolled at Canadian universities and colleges has soared over the past twenty years. (Plural modifier, plural noun) USE The association assists female First Nation entrepreneurs interested in starting home businesses. (singular modifier, plural noun) USE Containing recipes from across the country, the First Nations cookbook became an instant hit at church bazaars. (plural modifier, singular noun) USE Many people have said that North of 60 and The Rez were the only shows on television that depicted life in a First Nation community with any realism. (singular modifier, singular noun) There is no clear right or wrong in this area, provided that writers are consistent about the way they choose to use modifiers. Capitalize "First Nation" as you would other designations like "Francophone," "Arabic" or "Nordic."
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First Nations people

Many people today prefer to be called "First Nations" or "First Nations people" instead of "Indians,” a term they never agreed to under the Indian Act. Generally, "First Nations people" can be used to describe both Status and Non-Status Indians, although it generally applies only to those people who are members of a First Nation. The term is rarely used as a synonym for "Aboriginal peoples" because it usually doesn't include Inuit or Métis people. USAGE Because the term "First Nations people" generally applies to both Status and Non-Status Indians, writers should take care in using this term. If they are describing a departmental program that is for only Status Indian youth, for example, they should avoid using "First Nations youth," which could cause misunderstanding.
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Fiscal arrangements

Government financial arrangements, including settlements, revenue raising powers, cost sharing arrangements between Canada and the Province, financial transfer arrangements with First Nations, and compensation arrangements with third parties.
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Four Directions

In the Aboriginal culture, the four sacred colours signify the four races of human beings. These colours also represent the four directions and are as follows: Yellow in the east | Red for the south | Black for the west | White for the north
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Four Medicines

Cedar for purification (South on the Medicine Wheel) Sage releases the troubled mind and removes bad energy (West on the Medicine Wheel.) Sweet Grass used to remind others of love, gentleness and calmness. (North on the Medicine Wheel.) Tobacco for communication with the spirit world (East on the Medicine Wheel.)

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Giveaway

This ceremony is held at social gatherings or to celebrate a special event, such as a birth or wedding, or to commemorate a death. It is the occasion to give gifts of blankets, beadwork or crafts to family, friends or visitors. Giveaways usually include ceremonial dancing and singing.
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Governance

The internal regulation of a First Nation by its own people.
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Great Law of Peace

The Kaianerekowa or Great Law of Peace is the constitution of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The Great Law of Peace sets out protocols for maintaining peace, power and righteousness among members.
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Guswentah

See Two-Row Wampum in this section.
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Indian

The term ‘Indian’ collectively describes all the Indigenous people in Canada who are not Inuit or Métis. Indian peoples are one of three peoples recognized as Aboriginal in the Constitution Act, 1982. It specifies that Aboriginal people in Canada consist of the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples. There are three categories of Indians in Canada: Status Indians, Non-Status Indians, and Treaty Indians, although Treaty Indians may also be Status Indians, and non-Status may also be Treaty Indians.
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Indian Act

The principal federal statute dealing with Registered Status Indians and or Treaty Indians. The Act was created in 1876 in an attempt by the federal government to consolidate various Acts which had been put in place to assimilate Native people into Euro-Canadian society and assume Native land for European settlement, development and agricultural purposes. Since 1876 the Act has undergone numerous amendments, revisions, and repeals, with the 1951 revisions being the most comprehensive. The act controls almost every aspect of an Indian’s life from identity and citizenship, to government and economic structures.
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Indian Government

The system of governments imposed on reserves in Canada in 1869, represented by the Chief and council, and currently under stipulation of the Indian Act.
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Indian reserve

Defined in Section 2 of the Indian Act as a tract of land that has been set apart for the use and benefit of an Indian band. The federal government assumed jurisdiction over reserve lands and the Native people living on them in 1867 under the BNA Act.
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Indians

A term used historically to describe the first inhabitants of what Europeans described as the ‘New World’ and used to define Indigenous people under the Indian Act.
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Indigenous

Native to the area, peoples who have occupied a territory since time immemorial. The term has gained prominence as a term to describe Aboriginal peoples in an international context. Indigenous is considered by some to be the most inclusive term of all, since it identifies peoples in similar circumstances without respect to national boundaries or local conventions. However, for some it is a contentious term, since internationally, and in the United Nations context, it often defines groups primarily in relation to their colonizers.
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Inherent Rights

Rights that a person is born with into their nation. Canada has recognized that Aboriginal peoples have an inherent right to self-government.
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Inuit

Inuit are the Aboriginal people of Arctic Canada. This region is referred to by Inuit as “Inuit Nunagnat”: it includes the Inuvialuit Region of the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Nunavik (Northern Quebec), Nunatsiavut (Northern Labrador), and the ice, land, and water within these regions. Although the majority of Inuit live above the tree line there are communities in the Inuvialuit region, Nunavik, and Nunatsiavut that are treed communities.
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Inuktitut

The language spoken by Inuit.


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Inuvialuit

Inuit who live in the Western Arctic. Note: there is sometimes confusion regarding the Innu (Naskapi and Montagnais First Nations people) who live in Northern Quebec and Labrador. The Innu are not Inuit.
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Kelowna Accord

In 2004 and 2005, an unprecedented national process of Aboriginal policy negotiation was carried out under the direct authority of then Prime Minister Paul Martin. Beginning with the Canada-Aboriginal Peoples Roundtable in Ottawa on 19 April 2004 and ending with the First Ministers’ Meeting in Kelowna on 24-25 November 2005, this 18‑month process produced an ambitious ten-year plan to “close the gap” between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians. The meeting resulted in a five-year, $5-billion plan to improve the lives of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples that was accepted by Aboriginal, provincial and federal governments. It was subsequently abandoned.
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Land claim agreement

A term used by the federal government to refer to negotiated settlement with a First Nation on lands and land usage and other rights.
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Land claims

In 1973, the federal government recognized two broad classes of claims — comprehensive and specific.
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Language

According to the Site for Language Management in Canada (www.salic-slmc.ca), "Native languages are among the oldest languages in the world, many of them dating back thousands of years. They are thus far older than English and French."
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Legal obligations

Refers to obligations regarding Crown activity, which arise from Supreme Court decisions.  When the Province engages in Crown activity, it must determine if Aboriginal rights exist in the area of the proposed activity, whether the activity will infringe upon those rights.  If either is the case, government must make efforts to avoid or minimize the infringement of those rights to the extent possible.
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Longhouse

An elongated dwelling structure utilized by many Aboriginal groups across pre- contact Canada. The word Longhouse may also be used to refer to the traditional teachings of the Haudenosaunee. Haudenosaunee (Hodinohso:ni) is a Cayuga word for people of the Longhouse; it symbolizes the governance system, matrilineal clanship and physical layout of the Confederacy in the original territories (from east to west: Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca; later joined by the Tuscarora). To this day the Longhouse exists as an important and functioning institution for the Haudenosaunee where ceremonies take place.
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Matrilineal

Family lineage followed through the mother and the female line of the family.
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Medicine

Medicine is a good example of how translation can obfuscate the meaning of a word. While it is a correct translation, the word in the Indigenous languages usually has a good deal more subtext. Eating the first wild berry of the season and sipping the first of the year’s maple syrup while giving thanks are medicine, ceremonies are medicine; even encounters with other people can be medicine. Some of the many facets of this word are evident in the descriptions for other “medicine” related entries in this document.
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Medicine Bundle

A bundle is the collection of medicines a person carries with him or her and includes physical objects and medicines such as tobacco, sage, sweet grass, feathers, or a pipe, as well as those medicines that cannot be seen or touched, such as songs and stories.
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Medicine People

These are men and women who are respected healers and spiritual leaders recognized within their communities.
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Medicine Wheel

Structures made of stones found mostly on the plains that are thought to represent connections between life forms and how time passes. The term also refers to symbolic teachings of the balance and interactions among four directions, four stages of life and the balance of our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual selves. It is now often represented as a circle with the four colours (see Four Directions in this section).
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Métis

Métis are people of First Nation and European ancestry. They have a unique culture that draws on their diverse ancestral origins, including Scottish, French, Ojibwe and Cree. Prior to Canada's crystallization as a nation, Métis were the children of First Nation women and European men.
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Nation

A group whose members share laws and language associated with a particular territory.
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National Aboriginal Day

Many Aboriginal cultures mark the summer solstice so this day was chosen to celebrate the contributions of Aboriginal people to Canada. Initially proposed as National Aboriginal Solidarity Day by the National Indian Brotherhood in 1981, June 21st was officially proclaimed by the federal government as National Aboriginal Day in 1996. It continues to be celebrated annually on that date.
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Nationhood

First Nations believe treaties were entered into on a nation-to-nation basis, meaning that authority/jurisdiction over land, resources and people actually resides in the First Nation itself and not with Canada or the Crown.
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Native

A collective term referring to Indians (status and Non-status), Métis, and Inuit. It continues to be supplanted by Aboriginal. It nonetheless appears in legitimate form as program and departmental names at universities and in academic journal titles.
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Native American

A term commonly used in the United States to collectively refer to the First Nations people in the United States.
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Northerner(s) vs. northerner(s)

USAGE USE There are many Northerners living in Yukon. USE There are many northerners living in Cochrane. Capitalize the "N" in Northerner(s) is capitalized only when referring to a person or persons living in one of the three territories (Nunavut, Northwest Territories or Yukon).
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Nunavut

The territory created in the Canadian North on April 1, 1999 when the former Northwest Territories was divided in two. Nunavut means "our land" in Inuktitut. Inuit, whose ancestors inhabited these lands for thousands of years, make up 85% of the population of Nunavut. The territory has its own public government.  
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Off-Reserve

A term used to describe people, services or objects that are not part of a reserve, but relate to First Nations.
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Oral History

Evidence taken from the spoken word of persons who have knowledge of past events and/or traditions. This oral history is now being recorded on tape, and video, and put into writing. It is used in history books and to document land claims.
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Oral Tradition

Beyond oral history most Aboriginal cultures maintained a strong oral tradition. This made it possible to carry history, law, literature and other knowledge from generation to generation without reliance on written documentation. The loss of ancestral languages in Aboriginal communities has seriously compromised this de facto academic tradition.
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Patrilineal

Family lineage followed through the father and the male line of the family.
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Pipes

Sacred Pipes are used for private and group prayers and ceremonies. Both men and women may have responsibility for a pipe. The Pipe is not a personal possession. It belongs to everyone who asks for its help in a good and positive way.
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Potlatch

The Potlatch ceremony illustrates the importance of sharing and giving. This ceremony was the cultural backbone of the Northwest Coast Aboriginal peoples. A potlatch was hosted by high-ranking chiefs to celebrate important public events such as initiation, marriage, the investiture or death of a chief, or the raising of a totem pole. The ceremony lasted anywhere from a day to several weeks, and involved feasts, spirit dancing and theatrical performances. In 1884, the Canadian government banned potlatch ceremonies, questioning their moral basis. The ban was lifted in 1951.
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Pow-wow

The Pow-Wow is a time of celebration for Aboriginal people. There are two types of Pow-Wows. There is the traditional Pow-Wow to offer up the songs and dances for all the people, using singing, dancing and drumming as a prayer. There is also the competition Pow- Wows and they attract singers and dancers from all over North America.
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Protocol

Many relationships and ceremonies have cultural protocols guiding them. It can be an offence to not follow the protocols that govern the relationship or the practice.
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Ratification

The official acceptance of an agreement by one of the negotiating parties.
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Red Paper

This document refers to Citizens Plus, it was written in response to the Canadian Government’s White Paper, 1969. See Citizens Plus.  
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Regalia

The preferred term when referring to traditional dress. Do not use the term costume.
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Registered Indian

An Indian whose name is recorded in the Indian register maintained by the federal government in accordance with the Indian Act. See INDIAN in this section.
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Repatriation

The return of cultural artifacts to the people to whom they originally belonged.
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Reserve

A reserve is a tract of land, set aside through the Indian Act or through treaties for the use of a specific band or First Nation. The band has “exclusive user rights” to the land, but the legal title is held by the Crown. Some bands have more than one reserve. The Indian Act states this land cannot be owned by individual band members. Use caution in determining whether this word is appropriate. Many First Nations now prefer the term “community” or “First Nation community”, and no longer use “band” or “reserve” when referring to the community.
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Residential Schools

Beginning in the 1800s, the federal government funded church-run residential schools designed to prepare Indian children for assimilation into the mainstream society. Children were removed from their families and placed in boarding schools where they were prepared for domestic and farm labour. The children were punished for speaking their Indigenous languages or practicing their faith traditions. There was rarely enough nutritious food for the children and health conditions were terrible. Mortality rates were quite high and there are documented cases of encouraging ill children to attend lessons, even when the diseases were highly contagious. Mental, emotional and physical abuse were common. Sexual abuse has been widely documented as well. The last federally operated residential school was closed in 1996.
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Riel Day

The Métis Nation holds commemorative ceremonies every November 16th to mark the day Louis Riel was executed in 1885. It is a day for recognizing Métis rights.
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Rites of passage

Ceremonies that mark a transition in the life of an individual from one phase of the life cycle to another.
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Ritual

An established or prescribed procedure that often has a religious meaning (for example, the potlatch ceremony).
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Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP)

This 4,000-page, five volume document released in 1996 makes 440 recommendations calling for changes in the relationship between Aboriginal people, non-Aboriginal people and governments in Canada. Given its broad community consultations and highly respected Aboriginal leadership, the commission’s work is a great resource for background on any Aboriginal issue in Canada.
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Royal Proclamation of 1763

King George III of England issued a Royal Proclamation to organize England’s newly acquired lands. The Royal Proclamation makes reference to lands belonging to the Indians. Only a representative of the British Crown had the right to purchase these lands from them, in the name of the sovereign, at a public assembly. This protected First Nations from private land usurpation and established the grounds and requirement for the treaty process in what would become Canada.
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Scrip

Certificates redeemable for land or money issued to Métis during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Métis would have to apply for the scrip in order to qualify; it was designed to extinguish Métis Aboriginal title.
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Self Determination

The reclaiming of political power by Aboriginal peoples and the communal exercise of determining their own future.
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Self-Government

Governments designed, established and administered by Aboriginal peoples under the Canadian Constitution through a process of negotiation with Canada and, where applicable, the provincial government.
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Shaman

The source of this word is the Tungusic language of Siberia. Its base comes from the verb ša- which means to know. See Medicine People in this section.
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Smudge

Common to some nations, this is a ceremony of purification, involving the burning of sacred medicines, and using the smoke to cleanse spaces and clear the senses.
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Sovereignty

See Nationhood.  
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Specific claim

A claim made by a First Nation based on the alleged non-fulfilment of treaty obligations by Canada or from the alleged improper administration of lands and other assets under the Indian Act.
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Spirit and Intent

Spirit and intent refers to the agreements and treaties negotiated between Aboriginal peoples in Canada and the French state or British Crown. The treaty period in Canada ranged from early Peace and Friendship agreements during the 1600's to modern agreements of the 21st century. Balancing and implementing the collective vision and intention of the parties involved, and the scope of the treaty terms deliberated, NOT JUST the final written text, speaks to the underlying Spirit and Intent of the agreements and the relationships.
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Status Indians

Aboriginal people who meet the requirements of the Indian Act and who are registered under the Act.
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Sui Generis

Aboriginal title and treaties are sui generis, meaning that it is unique and of its own kind or class.
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Sundance

A ceremony practiced by First Nations, particularly those on the plains. It involves dance, prayers, offerings and sometimes piercing. It is typically held on or around the summer solstice. Some practices and protocols are shared; some are distinct to a nation. Sacred ceremonies like the Sundance were actively discouraged, and some aspects made illegal in the late 1800’s (prohibitions that stood until the 1950’s) as part of the assimilation policies of the Canadian government implemented through the Department of Indian Affairs.
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Surrender

A formal agreement by which a First Nation consents to give up part of its territory in exchange for equitable compensation.
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Sweat Lodge

The traditions associated with the sweat lodge vary widely. The sweat lodge is used in purification ceremonies, healing or medicine ceremonies, to begin and end a fast, and other ceremonies. A lodge leader, usually an elder or medicine person conducts the ceremony.
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Talking Circle

A gathering where a group sits in a circle to discuss a topic, usually healing in nature. Often, a sacred object, such as a talking stick or eagle feather, is passed around to ensure everyone’s truth or point of view is shared and considered on the matter being discussed.
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Territorial Jurisdiction

First Nations peoples have a right to use the lands surrounding ‘Indian Act’ reserves, formerly and formally used for hunting, trapping, gathering and fishing for food and various necessary resources.
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Thanksgiving Address

In traditional Haudenosaunee ways, the Thanksgiving Address is a prayer of reconciliation with the universe. It pays tribute to multiple forms of life such as plants and animals, the natural elements, the four directions, the four seasons, and everything that exists.
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the North vs. the north

USAGE USE I look at different circumstances, having been up in the North and looked at the company that is building diamond mines in the Northwest Territories. USE Inuit reside in the North. USE I travelled to Thunder Bay to see the north. Capitalize the "N" in North only when used in reference to the three territories (Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon) as a geographical region.
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Title

See Aboriginal Title.  
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Tobacco

Among many First Nations, tobacco is the medicine that is offered to spirits to ensure safe passage, or to make requests or questions of the spirit world. Tobacco is offered to others when seeking knowledge and in some communities may be expected when requesting spiritual knowledge, ceremony or advice.
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Totem Pole

A traditional way of representing stories from West Coast First Nations families and clans, and of keeping records of important historical events.
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Tradition

Longstanding spiritual, cultural and economic activities and values of Indigenous nations which continue to be practiced today.
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Traditional Land/Territory

This is land a First Nations community and its members use for economic, spiritual and social purposes; it is an area which a First Nation identifies as land which they or their ancestors traditionally occupied.
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Traditionalists

A name given to individuals or groups within a society, who recognize, practice and promote traditional ways and values.
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Treaty

An agreement between government and a First Nation that defines the rights of both parties with respect to lands and resources over a specified area. A treaty may also define the jurisdiction of a First Nation. Treaties are relationship agreements which have been ratified by both parties.
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Treaty rights

Rights protected under section 35 of the Constitution that are held by First Nations people pursuant to a treaty. Note that the wording in actual treaty documents vary from the oral agreements made, and the understandings of the chiefs at the time. As a consequence, there is disagreement between Canada and treaty nations on the precise meaning of promises in a contemporary context regarding matters such as education, health, access to lands and natural resources, etc.
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Treaty settlement land

An area of land that is owned and managed by a First Nation pursuant to a treaty. The precise legal status of treaty settlement land, and the extent of First Nation jurisdiction on it remain to be determined. Some areas within treaty settlement lands will be held in private ownership, or otherwise designated for uses incompatible with public access. Other areas will accommodate public access as provided for in treaties. The underlying title to treaty settlement lands will rest with the Provincial Crown.
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Tribal council

Traditionally, an autonomous body with legislative, executive and judicial components. Contemporary councils usually represent a group of First Nations to facilitate the administration and delivery of local programs and services to their members. A tribal council’s communities are united by kinship and such social units as clans, or relationships through religious, economic and political affiliations.
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Tribe

A tribe is a group of Aboriginal people sharing a common language and culture. The term is used frequently in the Unites States, but only in a few areas of Canada (e.g., the Blood Tribe in Alberta). Use caution in determining whether this word is appropriate.
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Trickster

A being in many First Nations’ stories who has the ability to transform into other beings, and genders. They are often regarded as culture-heroes while also driven to foolish mistakes by appetites that are recognizably human, such as hunger, lust, greed, and vanity. Some better-known tricksters include the Raven, Coyote, Wiisakejak, Nanabush/Nanaboozhoo, and Glooscap.
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Truth and Reconciliation Commission

A public engagement process undertaken across Canada by a Federal Commission consisting of three appointed persons. This commission conducts hearings on the “Truth” from the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community on the experiences and effects of Indian Residential Schools in Canada, with the ultimate goal of facilitating reconciliation of those truths for victims and perpetrators. The mandate for this commission expires in 2013. Note that there is a “Truth Commission into Genocide in Canada” headed by Kevin Annett that is not the same organization nor affiliated with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
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Turtle Island

A name used by some Aboriginal peoples when referring to the North American continent. Several origin stories tell of how the land we are on was recovered from below the waters of a great flood and deposited on turtle’s back for the benefit and use of people.
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Two-Row Wampum

This wampum belt recorded an agreement made between the Haudenosaunee and the Dutch in the 1600s and symbolizes the relationship between Native people and settlers more generally. One purple row of beads represents the path of the Haudenosaunee’s canoe which contains their customs and laws. The other row represents the path of the White man's vessel, the sailing ship, which contains their customs and laws. The meaning of the parallel paths is that the paths should remain separate, yet parallel, with neither party attempting to “steer the others’ vessel.” It is a message of peaceful co-existence, but it also establishes the principles used in many treaty relationships.
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United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

In 2010 Canada endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration addresses both individual and collective rights, cultural rights and identity, rights to education, health, employment, language, and others. The declaration was over 25 years in the making with input from Working Groups with global reach and participation. Around the world, 144 states have signed on to the Declaration.
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Vision quest

A ceremony in which a person, often a young male coming of age, finds a place in nature, refrains from food, drink or sleep until a vision appears. Aided by elders or medicine people, the young person seeks assistance from other than human guardian spirits in search of answers to questions.
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Wampum

Beads usually fashioned from quahog, whelk or other shell. They are known for their use in trade and as a record of political accords and important events for Eastern Woodland and Haudenosaunee nations. Nations used a belt made with wampum to pledge the truth of their words. Wampum signified a spiritual commitment to act, work and relate in a certain manner. Decorative and symbolic, they were also signs of high office.
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White Paper

In 1969, the federal government tabled a White Paper (its official name was the Statement of the Federal Government on Indian Policy, 1969) indicating its intention to repeal the Indian Act and eliminate separate legal status for Native people, arguing that the “special status” of First Nations had put them at a disadvantage. First Nations overwhelmingly rejected the White Paper and the government withdrew it in 1971. A copy of the document, including a link to a pdf version, can be accessed at: www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100010189
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Worldview

The philosophy of life of a people usually defined through their cultural and spiritual beliefs, practices and stories, and, implicitly expressed and coded in their languages.
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