Indigenous peoples: Terminology and Key Concepts

Please refer to the Indigenous Terminology Guide (PDF) for terminology and background information. Key elements to note:

  • Always capitalize Indigenous (when referring to Indigenous Peoples in Canada), Aboriginal, First Nation, Inuit and Métis as a sign of respect.
  • Aboriginal and Native are outdated collective terms referring to First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. However, the term Aboriginal is still used due to its legal use in the Canadian Constitution. Aboriginal and Native have largely been replaced by Indigenous, representing First Nations, Inuit and Métis.
  • While the term Indigenous has become more commonly used around the world, it is contested by some because it does not acknowledge the unique identities or distinct rights of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. It is preferable to refer to the specific group (First Nations, Inuit or Métis) rather than generalizing with a collective term like Indigenous.

  • While some Indigenous People may refer to themselves as Aboriginal or Native, that doesn't give non-Indigenous People license to do so.
  • Avoid referring to First Nations people as a homogeneous group. Include an individual’s specific nation, community or band (using the band’s preferred spelling).

  • CP Style Guide suggests that a writer be specific and ask subjects how they prefer to be identified. The more detail, the better. For example, use the specific name of the individual’s community or Nation (e.g., First Nation of the Cree, Mohawk, Blackfoot).

  • Avoid using possessive phrases such as “Canada's Indigenous Peoples” or “our Indigenous Peoples” as that has connotations of ownership. An alternative could be “Indigenous Peoples of Canada”.
  • Capitalize the word Peoples if it comes after the terms Indigenous or Aboriginal (e.g., Indigenous Peoples). Including the word Peoples recognizes that there is more than just one group of Indigenous individuals.