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Indigenous Resources

We created this guide to help St. Clair College students who are researching or interested in learning more about Indigenous peoples in Canada.


Familiarizing yourself with Indigenous terminology before starting your search is an important step in the researching process. Many terms used to address and refer to Indigenous peoples in Canada and worldwide have changed throughout the years.  Using any or a combination of the following terms will be helpful in your search: 

  • Indigenous peoples: the preferred term used to collectively refer to all indigenous groups in Canada: First Nations, Métis, and Inuit. It also the preferred term used to refer to other first nations people around the world. 
  • First nations/peoples: the preferred term used to describe the original people who inhabited Canada. This term has since replaced Native or Indian and are generally considered to specifically represent the Indigenous groups that are not Métis or Inuit.  
  • Métis: group of people with mixed European and Indigenous ancestry, particularly individuals that came from intermarriages from the earliest European settlers involved with the fur trade and Indigenous peoples.  
  • Inuit: collective term used to describe Indigenous peoples living in the artic, Canada’s most Northern region.  
  • Native peoples (American or Canadian): a broad term used to refer to Indigenous people, including First Nations, Métis, and Inuit in Canada.  
  • Indian: term used to legally identify Indigenous peoples of Canada that are registered under the Indian Act.  
  • Aboriginal peoples: collective and legal term (found in section 35.2 of the Canadian Constitution Act of 1982) used to identify Indigenous peoples (First Nations, Métis, and Inuit in Canada).  

Keep in mind terms such as aboriginal, Indian and Native may be considered outdated and potentially offensive. However, these are legal and historical terms that have been used to refer to Indigenous peoples and may be useful when searching for older sources. 

Some of the following terms may be useful for researching Indigenous related topics:

  • Colonization: involves a foreign group of people migrating and settling in a new area, such as the Europeans in North American, and taking over control from the indigenous peoples. 
  • Decolonization: means reclaiming the past traditions, languages, and cultures for many peoples that have been negatively affected by colonization. In simple terms, decolonization is the “process by which colonies become independent of the colonizing country” (From Encyclopedia Britannica, Decolonization n.d, para. 1).
  • Indian Act: Canadian legislation “used by federal government to administer Indian status, local First Nations governments and the management of reserve land. It also outlines governmental obligations to First Nations peoples” (From Henderson, The Canadian Encyclopedia Indian Act 2016, para. 1).
  • Status Indian: legal status given to a person registered under the Indian Act.
  • Non-status Indian: a First Nations person who is not registered under the Indian Act. 

Suggested Resources For Further Reading

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