Distinct and Diversified Communities

In North America, an estimated 5,000,000 Aboriginals (also called Aboriginal peoples or Natives) make up populations whose ancestors were among the first human inhabitants on the continent.

There are 610 Amerindian bands that make up 52 nations or cultural groups speaking 52 separate languages. In 1996 an estimated 610,000 Indians were registered in 623 bands. The majority of bands in Canada have less than 1000 members.

Nationwide, 4.4% of all Canadians have aboriginal ancestors. Approximately 10% of Aboriginals live in Quebec, making it the province with the smallest aboriginal population.

First Nations, Aboriginal or Indian?

The term “First Nations” was first used during the 1970s to replace the word “Indian”, which many considered offensive and essentially inaccurate.

The word “Aboriginal” is a general term used by North-Americans to classify the various indigenous nations that are differentiated by their history, language, lifestyle, customs and traditional political structures.

In Canada, the term “Aboriginal” is applied to three distinct groups:

  • Inuits, a word meaning “human beings”, are the inhabitants of the North American arctic region, part of it located north of Russia and Greenland (45,075 people).

    The Inuits, who have a distinctively different culture from the Amerindians farther south, also have their own language: Inuktitut, part of the Eskimo-Aleut linguistic family. More than 10,000 Inuits live in Quebec within 13 northern collectives.

  • The First Nations are made up of 52 Amerindian nations (608,850 members). There are 10 Amerindian nations in Quebec, with 69,576 registered individuals (according to the Indian Act) divided into 41 communities throughout the province.

    Canada’s First Nations live in six main cultural regions. From east to west we find the Woodlands First Nations, the south-western Ontario First Nations Iroquois, the Plains and Plateau First Nations and those on the Pacific Coast and within the Mackenzie River and Yukon River basins.

  • The Métis, who were recognized as Aboriginals in 1982, are found in large numbers in the Canadian and American West. The Métis were the result of the interaction between French Canadian, English and Scottish fur traders and the women of the Cree, Ojibwa, Salteaux et Assiniboine Nations (292,305 individuals).

These nations are divided into two linguistic groups:

The Iroquoian family: Huron-Wendats, Mohawks

The Algonquian family: Abenakis, Algonquins, Attikameks, Crees, Malecites, Micmacs, Innus (Montagnais) and Naskapis.