Aboriginal peoples: The descendants of the original inhabitants of North America. Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 defines Aboriginal peoples to include First Nations (Indians), Inuit and Métis peoples. The Constitution does not define membership in First Nations (Indians), Inuit and Métis groups. First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples have unique heritages, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs. Aboriginal peoples is also a term used in other parts of the world to refer to the first inhabitants of a given area.
Elder: Any person regarded or chosen by an Aboriginal nation to be the keeper and teacher of its oral tradition and knowledge. This is a person who is recognized for his or her wisdom about spirituality, culture and life. Not all Elders are "old". An Aboriginal community and/or individuals will typically seek the advice and assistance of Elders in various areas of traditional as well as contemporary issues. (Source: Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.)
First Nations: This term, preferred by many Aboriginal peoples and the Assembly of First Nations, refers to the various governments of the first peoples of Canada. First Nations is a term preferred to the terms Indians, Tribes, and Bands that are frequently used by the federal, provincial, and territorial governments in Canada. There are over 600 First Nations across Canada with 46 First Nations in Alberta. The main Alberta-based tribal communities include the Blackfoot, Tsu'u T'ina, Stoney, Plains Cree, Woodland Cree, Chipewyan, Beaver and Slavey. (Source: Assembly of First Nations and Aboriginal Studies Glossary.) Some 117,465 persons in Alberta identified themselves as North American Indian during the 1996 Canada Census. It should be noted that some First Nations in Alberta chose not to participate in the 1996 Census.
First Nations Authorities: First Nations Chiefs and Councils are the local governing authorities for First Nations. All First Nations in Alberta are a member of one of three Treaty organizations: Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta, the Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations, or the Treaty 7 First Nations. First Nations have developed Tribal Councils or similar organizations to act for them under delegated authority including the Athabasca Tribal Council, Kee Tas Kee Now Tribal Council, Lesser Slave Lake Indian Regional Council, North Peace Tribal Council, Tribal Chiefs Ventures Inc., Western Cree Tribal Council and Yellowhead Tribal Council. (Source: Department of Alberta Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.)
Indian: A term used to define indigenous people under Canada's Indian Act. According to the Indian Act, an Indian is "a person who pursuant to the Act is registered as an Indian or is entitled to be registered as an Indian." This is a highly selective legal definition subject to historical events and legislation. The use of the term "Indian" has declined since the 1970s when the term "First Nations" came into common usage. There are three legal definitions that apply to Indians in Canada: Status Indian, Non-Status Indian and Treaty Indian. (Source: Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.)
- Status Indians are registered or entitled to be registered under the Indian Act. The Act sets out the requirements for determining who is a Status Indian.
Non-Status Indians are not entitled to be registered under the Indian Act. This may be because their ancestors were never registered or because they lost their status under former provisions of the Indian Act (e.g., enfranchised Indian).
Treaty Indians belong to a First Nations whose ancestors signed a treaty with the Crown and as a result are entitled to treaty benefits. Non-treaty Indians have no such benefits.
Inuit: Aboriginal people in northern Canada living generally above the tree line in the Northwest Territories, northern Quebec and Labrador. The Inuit are not covered by the Indian Act but the federal government makes laws concerning the Inuit. According to the 1996 Canada Census there were 1,105 individuals who identified themselves as Inuit living in Alberta. (Source: Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.)
Métis people: People of mixed First Nations and European ancestry who identify themselves as Métis people and are accepted as such by a Métis leadership. They are distinct from First Nations, Inuit or non-Aboriginal peoples. The Métis history and culture draws on diverse ancestral origins such as Scottish, Irish, French, Ojibway and Cree. According to the 1996 Canada Census, 45,745 people in Alberta identified themselves as Métis.
Métis Authorities: There are two recognized Métis authorities in Alberta who speak on behalf of their membership: Métis Nation of Alberta Association and Métis Settlements General Council.
- Métis Nation of Alberta Association's (MNAA) Provincial Council consists of an elected Provincial President and Vice-President and six elected Zone Presidents and six Vice Presidents from each of six zones across Alberta. There are approximately 65 MNAA Locals across Alberta.
Métis Settlements General Council consists of 40 councilors, representing the 8 Alberta Métis Settlement councils and 4 non-voting executive officers. The General Council was established in 1990 under Alberta's Métis Settlements Act, and serves as the collective governing body for the Settlements. It is established as a corporate entity (separate from the Settlement corporations) and holds the fee-simple title to the land within the Settlement areas. (Source: Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.)
Métis Settlements: Eight distinct geographic areas in northern Alberta covering approximately 1.25 million acres with a total population of 6,500 in 1995. Métis Settlements were established in the 1930s in response to recommendations contained in the Ewing Commission, 1932. Although 12 colonies were originally established, 4 of the colonies ceased to operate because the land was unsuitable for farming. Under the 1989 Alberta Métis Settlements Accord, and resulting 1990 legislation, the Settlements collectively acquired title to the Settlement areas and were established as corporate entities, similar to municipal corporations, with broad self-governing powers. The Settlements are governed locally by elected 5-member councils and collectively by the Métis Settlements General Council. (Source: Aboriginal Studies Glossary and Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada)
Treaties: Treaties are legal documents between government and a First Nations that confer rights and obligations on both parties. No two Treaties are identical but the western Treaties provide certain Treaty rights including, but not restricted to, entitlement to reserve lands and hunting fishing and trapping. To First Nations peoples, the Treaties are more than simply legal commitments. The Treaties are sacred documents made by the parties and sealed by a pipe ceremony. Prior to Confederation, Treaties in Canada were made between First Nations and the British Crown. Subsequent Treaties, including the western Treaties, were made with the Crown in right of Canada.
The province of Alberta is included in three populated treaty areas covered by Treaties 6, 7, and 8. (Treaties 4 and 10 have some Alberta land but are not populated.) When Treaty 8 was signed in 1899, it became the last in a series of agreements concluded between the Government of Canada and the First Nations in what is now Alberta. Because of the legal, historic and sacred elements of the Treaties, First Nations consider these documents to be the essential factor in any relationship between the Government of Alberta and First Nations people, leaders, governments and organizations in Alberta. (Source: Department of Alberta Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.)
Treaty Rights: Treaty Rights are special rights to lands and entitlements that Indian people legally have as a result of treaties. Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 recognizes and affirms, the "existing Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal people of Canada." Rights can include freedom from taxation, conscription into foreign wars, etc. (Source: Department of Alberta Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.)