The term “Aboriginal” is appropriate when referring to matters that affect First Nations (Indian) and Métis peoples. The word is most appropriately used as an adjective (e.g. Aboriginal person).

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC)

A federal department that deals with issues related to Aboriginal peoples.

Aboriginal Ancestry

Refers to a person who can trace his or her ancestry to Aboriginal linguistic family whose traditional lands fell in total or in part in the geographic area that is now Canada. Aboriginal ancestry also refers to a person who has been accorded Aboriginal rights by legislation, for example, by marriage to an Aboriginal person.

Aboriginal Identity

Aboriginal identity refers to a person who reports he or she identifies with, or is a member of, an organic political or cultural entity that stems historically from the original persons of North America. The term includes the Indian (First Nation), Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.

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 with unique heritages, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs.

The term “Aboriginal peoples of Canada” is defined in the Constitution Act of 1982, Part II, Section 35(2), as including “the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada”. Canada’s Aboriginal population is distinct and diverse. “First Nation” is the term generally preferred by Indian peoples of Canada. The term “Indian” is still used when referring to legislation or government statistics.

Aboriginal Rights

Rights that some Aboriginal peoples of Canada hold as a result of their ancestors’ long-standing use and occupancy of the land. The rights of certain Aboriginal peoples to hunt, trap and fish on ancestral lands are examples of Aboriginal rights. Aboriginal rights vary from group to group depending on the customs, practices and traditions that have formed part of their distinctive cultures.

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.

Aboriginal Title

A legal term that recognizes an Aboriginal interest in the 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.

Agreement-in-Principle (AIP)

The second stage in the negotiation process. AIP negotiations are often the longest stage in the negotiation process, as parties address and attempt to resolve the broad range of subject matters set out in the Framework Agreement. The AIP generally contains all of the major elements of the Final Agreement. The AIP is not legally enforceable.


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. A band may also be known as a First Nation. Each band has its own governing band council, usually consisting of one chief and several councillors. Community members choose the chief and councillors by election. The members of a band generally share common values, traditions and practices rooted in their ancestral heritage. Today, many bands prefer to be known as First Nations.

Band Chief

The leader of the local Band and Band Council. The Chief is elected by eligible voters of the Band, or by the councillors according to the regulations of the Indian Act.

Band Council

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

Band Council Resolution

Refers to a written resolution of the Council adopted at a duly convened meeting of the Council.

Band List

A list of persons who are members of a particular band.

Band Membership

What an individual Indian has when he or she is a recognized member of a Band and whose name appears on an approved Band List. Where a Band has adopted its own membership code, it may define who has a right to membership in the Band, so being a status Indian is not necessarily synonymous with being a Band member. Status Indians who are not Band members are listed in the General List.

Bill C-31

The pre-legislation name of the 1985 Act to Amend the Indian Act. This act eliminated certain discriminatory provisions of the Indian Act, including the section that resulted in Indian women losing their Indian status when they married non-Status men. Bill C-31 enabled people affected by the discriminatory provisions of the old Indian Act to apply to have their Indian status and membership restored.

Canada Gazette

The Canada Gazette is the Government of Canada’s “official newspaper” where the federal government publishes new laws and regulations, proposed regulations, decisions of administrative boards and an assortment of government notices. Private sector notices required by law to be published to inform the public also appear in the Canada Gazette.

Part I contains all public notices, official appointments and proposed regulations from the federal government, as well as other public notices from the private sector that are required to be published by a federal statute or by regulations. Part I is published every Saturday. Part II contains all regulations that have been enacted as well as other classes of statutory instruments, such as orders in council, orders and proclamations. Only government departments and agencies publish in Part II. Part II is published every other Wednesday.

Collective Rights

Rights based on membership in a distinct group of people. These may include language rights, education rights based on religious affiliation, and Aboriginal and Treaty rights.

Come into force

This term – usually referring to laws, regulations, policies, contracts, or agreements – describes how and when a legal document becomes effective.

The Crown 

The Queen is the formal head of the government in Canada. For this reason, the government is often called “the Crown”. For the same reason, agreements with the government are called agreements with “Her Majesty”.


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.

Double-Mother Clause

An Indian born of a marriage entered into on or after September 4, 1951, lost entitlement to registration at the age of 21 years if his/her mother and paternal grandmother were not recognized as Indians before their marriages. This clause first appeared in 1951 legislation and was eliminated in the 1985 amendments to the Indian Act.


Aboriginal persons who are respected and consulted due to their experience, wisdom, knowledge, background and insight. Elder does not necessarily equate with age.


A process by which an Indian gave up Indian status and band membership. Enfranchisement was abolished in the 1985 amendments to the Indian Act.


The legal right to benefits, income and property that may not be reduced without due process under the law.

First Nation

A term that came into common usage in the 1970s to replace the word “Indian,” which some people found offensive. Although the term First Nation is widely used, no legal definition of it exists. Among its uses, the term “First Nations peoples” refers to the Indian peoples in Canada, both Status and non-Status. Some Indian peoples have also adopted the term “First Nation” to replace the word “band” in the name of their community.

Framework Agreement

The first stage of negotiation, the groups involved agree on issues to be discussed, how they will be discussed, and on deadlines for reaching an Agreement-in-Principle.

General List

A list of all persons, registered as Indians in the Indian Register, who are not members of a band.

Implementation Plan

An implementation plan is a document that is negotiated and re-negotiated by the parties to a land claims and/or self-government agreement during the negotiations of a final agreement. It is an integral appendix to a final agreement because it identifies what must be done to put the agreement into effect, who will be responsible for which implementation activity, as well as when and how these activities will be undertaken.


Indian people are one of three cultural groups, along with Inuit and Métis, recognized as Aboriginal people under section 35 of the Constitution Act. There are legal reasons for the continued use of the term “Indian.” Such terminology is recognized in the Indian Act and is used by the Government of Canada when making reference to this particular group of Aboriginal people.

Status Indian – Indian people are one of three cultural groups, along with Inuit and Métis, recognized as Aboriginal people under section 35 of the Constitution Act. There are legal reasons for the continued use of the term “Indian.” Such terminology is recognized in the Indian Act and is used by the Government of Canada when making reference to this particular group of Aboriginal people.

Non-Status Indian – An Indian person who is not registered as an Indian under the Indian Act.

Treaty Indian – A Status Indian who belongs to a First Nation that signed a treaty with the Crown.

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC)

See Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

Indian Act

Canadian federal legislation, first passed in 1876, and amended several times since. It sets out certain federal government obligations and regulates the management of Indian reserve lands, Indian moneys and other resources. Among its many provisions, the Indian Act currently requires the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to manage certain moneys belonging to First Nations and Indian lands and to approve or disallow First Nations by-laws. In 2001, the national initiative Communities First: First Nations Governance was launched, to consult with First Nations peoples and leadership on the issues of governance under the Indian Act. The process will likely take two to three years before any new law is put in place.

Indian Register

A centralized record of all persons registered as Indians in Canada.

Indian Status

An individual’s legal status as an Indian, as defined by the Indian Act.


Generally used in the international context, “indigenous” refers to people who are original to a particular territory. This term is very similar to Aboriginal and has a positive connotation.


Naskapi and Montagnais First Nations (Indian) peoples who live in Northern Quebec and Labrador.


Inuit who live in the Western Arctic.


An Aboriginal people in Northern Canada, who live in Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Northern Quebec and Northern Labrador. The word means “people” in the Inuit language — Inuktitut. The singular of Inuit is Inuk.

Land Claims

In 1973, the federal government recognized two broad classes of claims — comprehensive and specific. Comprehensive claims are based on the assessment that there may be continuing Aboriginal rights to lands and natural resources. These kinds of claims come up in those parts of Canada where Aboriginal title has not previously been dealt with by treaty and other legal means. The claims are called “comprehensive” because of their wide scope. They include such things as land title, fishing and trapping rights and financial compensation. Specific claims deal with specific grievances that First Nations may have regarding the fulfilment of treaties. Specific claims also cover grievances relating to the administration of First Nations lands and assets under the Indian Act.

Land Tenure Instruments

Land tenure instruments are binding legal agreements such as leases, permits and licences that spell out how the project lands will be used and by whom.


People of mixed First Nation and European ancestry who identify themselves as Métis, as distinct from First Nations people, Inuit or non-Aboriginal people. The Métis have a unique culture that draws on their diverse ancestral origins, such as Scottish, French, Ojibway and Cree.

The North

Land in Canada located north of the 60th parallel. AANDC’s responsibilities for land and resources in the Canadian North relate only to Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon.


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 percent of the population of Nunavut. The territory has its own public government.


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

Oral History

Evidence taken from the spoken words of people who have knowledge of past events and traditions. This oral history is often recorded on tape and then put in writing. It is used in history books and to document claims.

Regulatory Gap

A “regulatory gap” is the absence of adequate laws (including regulations and monitoring and enforcement systems) to govern an activity. Regulatory gaps occur on reserve lands where there is an absence of appropriate laws, applicable on reserve, to govern complex commercial or industrial activities.

A regulatory gap creates uncertainty respecting process, time and costs associated with a project, and can divert potential investors from First Nation reserve lands to off-reserve jurisdictions where an established and familiar regulatory framework exists.


A tract of land, the legal title to which is held by the Crown, set apart for the use and benefit of an Indian band. Some bands have more than one reserve.


Rural areas include all territory lying outside urban areas. Taken together, urban and rural areas cover all of Canada. Rural population includes all population living in the rural fringes of census metropolitan areas (CMAs) and census agglomerations (CAs) , as well as population living in rural areas outside CMAs and CAs.


A certificate, offered to persons of Indian ancestry, primarily in the Northwest Territories and Prairie provinces, as a one-time payment in money or land in exchange for their Aboriginal rights in and to the land. It is sometimes referred to in legislation as “half-breed lands and money scrip”. Persons who took scrip were not entitled to treaty rights.


A group or set of individuals that has an interest in an issue, decision or outcome. For example, a private sector business looking to create a commercial interest on a First Nation reserve is a stakeholder in advancing that project. The neighbouring municipality that would have to deal with the increased traffic to the reserve as a result of that project would also be a stakeholder. Stakeholders do not necessarily have a legal claim or basis to support their interest but may have moral influence over others, for example because of their experience, knowledge or relations.


A formal agreement by which a band consents to give up part or all of its rights and interests in a reserve. Reserve lands can be surrendered for sale or for lease, on certain conditions.


A formal, ratified agreement or compact.

Treaty Beneficiary

An Aboriginal person who, through descent from persons who participated in a designated treaty with the Crown, is entitled to the benefits that flow from the provisions of that treaty. It is generally, but not always, included in the genealogical lists maintained by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

Treaty Indian

A status Indian who belongs to a First Nation that signed a treaty with the Crown. A treaty Indian can also be a person of Aboriginal ancestry who holds treaty status under the Indian Act, as identified through the municipality codes indicating the registered reserve.

Treaty Rights

Although no two treaties are identical, they usually provide for certain rights including annuities, hunting, reserve lands and other benefits. The rights of treaty Indians depend on the precise conditions of their particular band’s treaty.

Tribal Council

A regional group of First Nations members that delivers common services to a group of First Nations.


An urban area has a minimum population concentration of 1,000 persons and a population density of at least 400 persons per square kilometre, based on the current census population count. All territory outside urban areas is classified as rural. Taken together, urban and rural areas cover all of Canada. Urban population includes all population living in the urban cores, secondary urban cores and urban fringes of census metropolitan areas (CMAs) and census agglomerations (CAs), as well as the population living in urban areas outside CMAs and CAs.