Language Guide

band membership

“Before 1985, those with Indian status were automatically entitled to band membership. The 1985 amendments recognized the rights of bands to determine their own membership or citizenship codes according to procedures set out in the Indian Act. As a result, people may possess Indian status, but not be members of a band.”

NIMMIWG Lexicon of Terminology [PDF]


“The subjugation in part or wholly of a people or country by a dominant group or imperial power. In the modern era, European powers attempted to subjugate the world to their control”. 

the Creator

Related terms: God, Great Spirit

“This term has become widely accepted by Indigenous Peoples to describe the supreme being who made the world and all life, placed peoples on specific territories, and gave them laws to live by. It is also the divine figure that is worshipped in various religions and ceremonies. The term has become the most widely accepted English term by Indigenous Peoples and is generally preferred over, and should replace, other terms such as God and the Great Spirit”. (Younging 2018, 62)

cultural competence

“The ability of individuals to establish effective interpersonal and working relationships that supersede cultural differences by recognizing the importance of social and cultural influences on patients, considering how these factors interact, and devising interventions that take these issues into account” (Curtis, Jones, et al. 2019, 7).

cultural humility

“Cultural humility is a process of self-reflection to understand personal and systemic biases and to develop and maintain respectful processes and relationships based on mutual trust. Cultural humility involves humbly acknowledging oneself as a learner when it comes to understanding another’s experience.” (First Nations Health Authority)

cultural safety

“Cultural safety is an outcome based on respectful engagement that recognizes and strives to address power imbalances inherent in the health care system. It results in an environment free of racism and discrimination, where people feel safe when receiving health care.” (First Nations Health Authority)


Related term: resurgence

Additional Notes

“The process of dismantling the institutions and culture of colonialism that continue to exist and that underpin systematic racism” (

First Nations

Related terms: First Nation, First Nation community

“First Nations refers to a segment of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. To use it in a context that describes all Indigenous Peoples in Canada, you need to say ‘First Nations, Inuit, and the Métis’. This term was originally coined by Indigenous Peoples in late 1970s, partly as an alternative to inappropriate terms such as Native and Indian, which were in common usage at the time. It was adopted by the national political organization, the Assembly of First Nations (previously the National Indian Brotherhood), in the early 1980s. In the 1990s, the term gradually became adopted by the general Canadian population.

It is also worth noting that First Nations is not used in reference to Indigenous Peoples in the United States – in fact, it is sometimes used to distinguish between Indigenous Peoples on either side of the border. For example, a welcome at a powwow in the United States might go ‘Welcome to all the First Nations people here,’ which would mean ‘Welcome to all the Indigenous people from Canada here.’”(Younging 2018, 63-64).

fly-in, ice road, island, coastal and/or rural community

These communities may be interdependent, close to each other, and/or consider the rest of the world to be “remote”. Use the descriptor that the community prefers.

foundation of land and culture

Land has always been fundamental for the health and cultural identity of First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples. A commonly held belief is the interconnectedness of all life, which includes humans and all of creation (animals, plants, rocks, visible and unseen forces of nature, the universe) that coexist in balance, harmony, respect and caring relationships.


Related terms: atrocities, assimilation, cultural genocide, colonization

“The Canadian state was founded on colonial genocidal policies that are inextricably linked to Canada’s contemporary relationship with Indigenous peoples… Modern Canadian policies perpetuate these colonial legacies, and have resulted in clear patterns of violence and marginalization of Indigenous peoples, particularlywomen, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA” (Canada aimed to ‘destroy Indigenous people’: The MMIWG inquiry’s case for genocide).

impacts of the residential school system

Related terms: concentric trauma, intergenerational trauma, PTSD, cycle of violence, multigenerational trauma

Historic and contemporary trauma on the community, both as individuals and collectives.

Indian day school

Related terms: day schools, day school system

“In addition to residential schools, the Canadian government and Christian churches also ran Indian day schools… where First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were sent during the day, but lived with their parents and remained in their communities” (Indian Day Schools).

Indian residential school system

Related terms: residential school system, residential schools, IRS, mission schools, northern hostels, boarding schools, industrial schools

“An extensive school system set up by the Canadian government and administered by churches that had the nominal objective of educating Aboriginal children but also the more damaging and equally explicit objectives of indoctrinating them into Euro-Canadian and Christian ways of living and assimilating them into mainstream Canadian society” (The Residential School System).

Indian status

“refers to a specific legal identity of an Aboriginal person in Canada. With the creation of the in 1876, the Canadian government developed criteria for who would be legally considered an Indian. This criteria continues to be outlined in Section 6 of the Indian Act, thus defining who qualifies for Indian status.”

Indigenous community

An open definition of a temporary or permanent gathering of Indigenous people who share a common cause, purpose, history, politics, culture, language, etc. May include a reserve, an urban setting, a virtual collective, etc. There is no singular “Indigenous community”.

Indigenous Peoples

Related terms: First Nations, Inuit, Métis, First Peoples, Original Peoples, Aboriginal (no longer used, this term now only refers to people that are Indigenous to what is now Australia, but still exists in some legislation)

“Indigenous Peoples are the distinct societies of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples in Canada. This term recognizes the cultural integrity and diversity of Indigenous Peoples. An Indigenous People is a single one of the distinct societies of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples in Canada. Inuit, for example, are an Indigenous People. So are the Nisga’a, the Siksika, and the Haudenosaunee.” (Younging 2018, 65).


Related terms: Inuk (singular/1 person), Inuuk (plural/2 or more people)

“The Indigenous people of the north who live in Nunavut, Nunavik (northern Quebec), Nunatsiavut (Newfoundland and Labrador), and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (western Arctic). Inuit means “people” in the Inuktitut language. The term “Inuk” denotes a one Inuit person” ( ).

Inuit, translated from Inuktituk, means “the people”; it is used when referring to more than 2 people or a community.


Related terms: Métis people, Métis Nation, Metis

“means a person who self-identifies as Métis, is distinct from other [Indigenous] peoples, is of historic Métis Nation Ancestry and who is accepted by the Métis Nation” (MNC General Assembly 2002).


“For Indigenous peoples, reconciliation is often associated with a form of healing—healing ourselves from the violence of settler colonialism. We often think about it as a nation-to-nation reconciliation, so reconciling our hostile and violent relationship. But the settler state and its courts understand the term as reconciling the existence of Indigenous peoples’ title, jurisdictions, nationhood and laws with the sovereignty of the crown” (From Recognition to Decolonization).

“… establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in this country. In order for that to happen, there has to be awareness of the past, an acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes and action to change behaviour” (TRC, Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future, 2015 [PDF]).


Related term: band

“An Indian Reserve is a tract of land set aside under the Indian Act and treaty agreements for the exclusive use of an Indian band. Band members possess the right to live on reserve lands, and band administrative and political structures are frequently located there. Reserve lands are not strictly “owned” by bands but are held in trust for bands by the Crown. The Indian Act grants the Minister of Indian Affairs authority over much of the activity on reserves” (Reserves).

resurgence and regeneration

Related terms: decolonization, restitution

A balance of resisting colonization while embracing Indigenous law, culture, tradition, language, community and connection to land. It’s about recentering Indigeneity as something that exists in the present, respects the past and builds for future generations – the faces yet to come.

settler colonialism


“A respectful alternate is also to avoid a label altogether, and simply refer to “people who have experienced violence” or “those who have experienced violence.” NIMMIWG Lexicon of Terminology [PDF] Capitalized out of respect.

The Carrying Place

The Toronto Carrying-Place Trail, also known as the Humber Portage and the Toronto Passage, was a major portage route in Ontario, Canada that linked Lake Ontario with Lake Simcoe and the northern Great Lakes. The name comes from the Mohawk term toron-ten, meaning “the place where the trees grow over the water”, an important landmark on Lake Simcoe through which the trail passed. Much of the original art by Chief Lady Bird found throughout this explorative site was created to visualize this history, adapted by Sara Roque and Selena Mills in a written, oral and multi-media piece about Land Acknowledgements in Toronto. This relationship with place in Toronto is another foundational one for the Centre. It is a reminder of the collective wisdom, ways of knowing and ways of being of our ancestors and sacred ones.


“Recognizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery. It recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system and it responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures and practices. The goal of a trauma-informed approach is to not re-traumatize people, but to support healing in a manner that is welcoming and appropriate to the needs of those affected by trauma.” NIMMIWG Lexicon of Terminology [PDF]

“Incorporating knowledge of trauma into all policies, procedures, and practices of solutions and services is crucial to the implementation of the Calls for Justice. It is fundamental to recognizing the impacts of trauma and to responding appropriately to signs of trauma. Interpretation and implementation of the Calls for Justice must include funding to ensure all necessary steps to create a trauma-informed approach and to deliver trauma-informed services are viable” (MMIWG CFJ [DOCX]).


Related terms: testimonial, experience, community story

“Understanding truth means understanding and honouring lived experiences; it means looking at all objectivity, but understanding that it sometimes means either weaving together multiple perspectives, or holding differing (7 Grandfather Teachings).

Turtle Island

Derived from many Indigenous creation stories, such as that of the Haudenonsaunee and the Anishinabek people, refers to what some Indigenous individuals call North America.