FIRST NATIONS STUDENTS/CULTURE
Multiculturalism: describes the existence,
acceptance or promotion of multiple cultural
traditions with a single jurisdiction usually
considered in terms of the culture associated
with an ethnic group.
• First Nations peoples (Mi’kmaq/L’un) lived in the Maritime provinces well before their documented inhabitance of the 16th century.
This area is known as Mi’kmaq’ki. Mi’kmaq people have always had a governmental body called the Grand Council until the
government passed the Indian Act in 1876. This Act was established to require First Nations peoples to establish representative
elected governments when in fact, they already had their own form of government.
• The Grand Council flag of the Mi’kmaq people was designed to be hung vertically. If the flag is hung horizontally it is always with the
star on the upper corner.
• An accurate population count is unknown but communities can vary in size from 3-5 hundred with some communities ranging in size
of up to 3 thousand.
• The Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) Nation are the Indigenous people of the Saint John River valley and its tributaries Their territory
extended across the current borders of New Brunswick and Quebec in Canada, and parts of Maine in the United States. The Houlton
band of Mailseet peoples, based in Maine, are the federally recognized tribe of Maliseet people in the United States.
Map of the 7 districts of Mi’kma’ki
Following is a map of the Atlantic region with all 34 individual
communities shown. Each community has it’s own governing body
consisting of a Chief and council. The number of council members is
related to the size of the community. Some communities are closer
together and others may appear distant. However, all communities are
connected in some way whether through marriage or other family related
The Mi’kmaq society has 3 levels of government. The Mi’kmaq Grand council was the sole form of government before
contact with the Europeans. Changes in the role of the Grand Council are the result of efforts of the British Crown and federal
government to impose its system upon Mi’kmaq people.
• 1) The Grand Council: is the traditional aboriginal government of the Mi’kmaq nation. It draws it’s membership from all
parts of Mi’kmaq territory, has both political and spiritual authority and continues to be the sovereign government of the
• 2) Grand Chief: was a title given to one of the district chiefs, who at one time, was usually from the Mi'kmaq district of
Unamáki (Cape Breton Island). This title was hereditary and usually was passed down to the Grand Chief's eldest son.
• 3) Community Chief: who presides over individual communities along with other elected members called councilors. The
chief of each community is an elected body from
Multicultural exchanges are what happens
when one person , or a group of people, works
or interacts with someone from a cultural
group different from their own.
Indigenous peoples are no different than non-Indigenous
peoples in respect to their basic wants and needs. We all
want and need the support of loving, caring people
around us. We all have a need to feel safe and welcomed
in our immediate environment and surrounding
community. WE are all searching that place to call HOME
away from home.
Some may feel more at home than others.
TERMINOLOGY: So what do I use?
Terminology, particularly as it relates to Indigenous peoples, can be tricky
to navigate. A term that might be acceptable to some might be offensive to
others. Because of this, many people do not feel confident using certain
terms when referring to Aboriginal peoples. Fear of using the "wrong"
word should never stifle important dialogue and discussions that need to
By taking a moment to consider the history of certain terms, it is very
possible to learn and be comfortable with which words to use in which
contexts. We have compiled this guide to help inform your decisions on
Why does terminology matter?
The history of relationships between the Canadian state and Aboriginal peoples is complex, and has oftentimes been
paternalistic and damaging. As a result, terminology can represent something more than just a word. It can represent certain
colonial histories and power dynamics. Terminology can be critical for Indigenous populations, as the term for a group may not
have been selected by the population themselves but instead imposed on them by colonizers. With this in mind, one might
understand how a term can be a loaded word, used as a powerful method to divide peoples, misrepresent them, and control
their identity—what we can see today in Canada with “status” and “non-status peoples," the legally defined categories of
people under the Indian Act.
On the other hand, terms can empower populations when the people have the power to self-identify. It is important to
recognize the potential these words may hold— but it is also important and very possible to understand these terms well
enough to feel confident in using them and creating dialogue. Although many First nations peoples may prefer to identify
themselves by their specific cultural group, some definitions follow. As you will see, the most respectful approach is often to
use the most specific term for a population when possible.
- a formal agreement or contract between two or more governing bodies, such as an alliance or trade
arrangement between the Crown and various Indigenous groups.
During settlement and colonization, treaties were negotiated between the Crown and local Indigenous
peoples, guided by the Royal proclamation of 1763. This Proclamation was a British Crown document
which acknowledged that British settlers would have to address existing rights and title in order to
further settlement. During these treaty negotiations, the then Crown, guaranteed certain rights to the
local First Nations. There has been considerable debate, in and out of courts, as to whether or not
these agreements extinguish Aboriginal rights set out in the treaties. For many First Nations, this
debate is ongoing.
For First Nations peoples the problem lies within the meaning of the signed agreement. Because of
‘language’ differences, the meaning was not always the same.
By the Canadian government, the term “Aboriginal” refers to the first
inhabitants of Canada, and includes First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
This term came into popular usage in Canadian texts after 1982, when
section 35 of the Canadian Constitution defined the term as such and the
Canadian government decided to include the Inuit and Métis into their
policies. When used in Canada it is generally understood to refer to the
Aboriginal peoples in a Canadian context.
First Nation is a term used to describe Aboriginal peoples of
Canada. Ethnically, this group is neither Métis nor Inuit. This
term came into common usage in the 1970s and 80s and
replaced the tern ‘Indian’, although unlike ‘Indian’, the term
First Nation does not have a legal definition.
This term refers to specific groups of people
generally living in the far north who are not
considered "Indians" under Canadian law.
The term Métis refers to a collective of cultures and ethnic identities that resulted
from unions between Aboriginal and European people in what is now Canada.
This term has general and specific uses, and the differences between them are often
contentious. It is sometimes used as a general term to refer to people of mixed
ancestry, whereas in a legal context, "Métis" refers to descendants of specific
The term "Indian" refers to the legal identity of a First Nations person who is registered
under the Indian Act. The term "Indian" should be used only when referring to a First
Nations person with status under the Indian Act, and only within its legal context. Aside
from this specific legal context, the term "Indian" in Canada is considered outdated and may
be considered offensive due to its complex and often idiosyncratic colonial use in governing
identity through this legislation and a myriad of other distinctions (i.e., "treaty" and "non-
treaty," etc.). In the United States, however, the term "American Indian" and "Native Indian"
are both in current and common usage.
You may also hear some First Nations people refer to themselves as "Indians." While there
are many reasons for an individual to self-identify as such, this may be a deliberate act on
their part to position and present themselves as someone who is defined by federal
Indigenous is a term used to encompass a variety of Aboriginal groups. It is most frequently
used in an international, transnational, or global context. This term came into wide usage
during the 1970s when Aboriginal groups organized transnationally and pushed for greater
presence in the United Nations (UN). In the UN, "Indigenous" is used to refer broadly t