The definitions provided in this glossary are specific to the curriculum context in which the terms are used.


1973 land claims policy

A policy created by the federal government to negotiate and settle Aboriginal rights and title claims. This policy is also known as the comprehensive land claims policy, and the agreements under the policy are also known as modern treaties.



A term sometimes used for the descendants of the original inhabitants of North America. Section 35(2) of the Constitution Act, 1982, states, “In this Act, ‘aboriginal peoples of Canada’ includes the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.” These separate groups have unique heritages, languages, cultural practices, and spiritual beliefs.

Aboriginal title

The inherent right of Indigenous peoples to their lands. The Canadian legal system recognizes Aboriginal title as sui generis – that is, it is unique in that it derives from Indigenous peoples’ occupation of the land since time immemorial. See also sui generis.


A parka worn by Inuit women that allows a baby or young child to be carried on either the back or front of the woman’s body and to be moved from one position to the other without exposing the child to the elements.


A group of culturally related First Nations peoples living in central Canada and the United States, including the Algonquin, Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, and Oji-Cree.


The traditional Mãori name for New Zealand, the word means “the land of the long white cloud”.



A term used in the Indian Act to refer to “a body of Indians … for whose use and benefit in common, lands … have been set apart”. Each band has its own governing band council, usually consisting of a chief and several councillors. The members of a band usually share common values, traditions, and practices rooted in their language and ancestral heritage. Today, many bands prefer to be known as First Nations. See also First Nations.

band council

A governance structure that is defined and mandated under the provisions of the Indian Act. A band council of a First Nation consists of an elected chief and councillors. See also band.


Carved stones of various shapes and complexity used as counterweights for spear-throwing devices that predated the bow. They may also have been significant for ceremonial, spiritual, or status purposes.

Beaver Wars

A series of wide-ranging conflicts throughout much of the seventeenth century involving a number of First Nations as well as emerging colonial powers (as supporters of specific First Nations or active participants in the conflict) over control of territory in the Great Lakes region that supported the trade in beaver furs.

Berger Commission

Also known as the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry, a commission of inquiry appointed by the federal government in 1974 to investigate the impact of a proposed natural gas pipeline in northern Yukon and the Mackenzie Valley in the Northwest Territories. The inquiry included community hearings to gather local First Nations and Inuit perspectives. The commission’s report, issued in 1977, concluded that no pipeline should be built in Yukon and that the Mackenzie Valley portion should be delayed for at least ten years in order to settle land claims in the region.

Bill C-3, the Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act, 2010

A bill that entitles eligible grandchildren of First Nations women who lost status as a result of marrying non- status men to register under the Indian Act.

birch bark scrolls

Pieces of birch bark on which Anishinaabe communities have recorded events, stories, migration patterns, and cultural teachings. The scrolls, many of which are considered sacred, have been passed from generation to generation, forming a collective history of a people.

blood quantum

A practice used in defining Indigenous ancestry based on the percentage of Indigenous (or status Indian) blood in an individual. In Canada, the Indian Act does not specifically use blood quantum as a factor in determining who can pass on status to the next generation, but it still uses ancestry as a determinant of status.


Calder v. British Columbia, 1973

A land claim case in which Frank Calder and the Nisga’a Nation sued the government of British Columbia, claiming that their title to the land was never extinguished by treaty. Although their argument was rejected by both provincial courts and the Supreme Court of Canada, the case recognized and affirmed Aboriginal title to unceded territory and Aboriginal title’s place in law, and initiated the federal government’s comprehensive land claims process, which led to the Nisga’a Final Agreement in 2000.

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

A part of the Constitution Act, 1982, the Charter guarantees Canadians fundamental freedoms as well as various rights, including democratic, mobility, legal, and equality rights. Section 25 of the Charter specifies that enforcement of the Charter shall not diminish Aboriginal rights, as recognized in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. See also Constitution Act, 1982; fundamental freedoms.


An understanding of the rights of citizens within various communities (local, national, global) and of the roles, responsibilities, and actions associated with these rights.


A system of kinship or extended family used by various First Nations peoples. Clans are usually represented by mammals, birds, or fish that signify each clan’s unique role and respon- sibilities in the community. Clans can be either matrilineal or patrilineal. See also matrilineal; patrilineal.

colonial naming

The practice of colonizers or settlers giving new names in their own language to places or peoples they encounter. Often these names celebrate the act of colonization or the values and icons of the colonizers.

colonial wars

Conflicts that arise as a result of foreign powers establishing and maintaining power over a colony.


A system in which one nation establishes political control over another nation or region, sending settlers to claim the land from the original inhabitants and taking its resources. Colonialism involves subjugation of one or more groups of people by another. See also colonization.


The process in which a foreign power invades and dominates a territory or land base inhabited by Indigenous peoples, imposing its own social, cultural, religious, economic, and political systems and values. A colonized region is called a colony. See also colonialism.