Aboriginal Peoples

Our Aboriginal Peoples series is an introduction to the original inhabitants of what is now Canada. Ten Canada Aboriginal nations and one Inuit nation who are now re-establishing their presence, their culture and their rights. 

275x137A white pine that stands for the original native presence in Montréal.

In 2017, the Canadian Government dissolved the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and replaced it with two new ministries, the Indigenous Services and the Crown Indigenous Relation and Northern Affairs.

In our series of Aboriginal Peoples and, according to our Canadian Encyclopedia "Our federal government Indian Act is essentially an outdated statute that, despite a great deal of opposition, continues to resist change.

Instead, a number of agreements, such as the First Nations Land Management Act of 1999, have allowed First Nations governments to move toward some level of self-government without abolishing the Indian Act."

The Abenaki Peoples of the Rising Sun

Although many traditional practices and ceremonies were suppressed by restrictive federal policies and legislation, the Abenakis of the Algonquian family still defend and still persist with their traditions, their culture and their values.

Their ways of life are forever rich with their long-term traditional stories, dances, baskets, sun masks, totems... French is the language spoken by most Abenakis followed by English. The Abenakis are, in Abenaki, the people of the east.

The Abenakis preserved their dances and their significations, They view stories with a life of their own. For them, storytelling is a way of teaching  proper behavior to their children. Instead of punishing their youngs, they tell them a story. 

The Abenakis kept most of their ways of life, including their government constitution, their chief, their council of elders and their tribal citizenship. Their two communities, Odanak and Wôlinak, are located on the south shore of the St-Lawrence River.

The Anishinaabe Peoples of the Land

Anishinaabe singular, Anishinaabeg plural is what the Algonquian call themselves. Anishinaabe which, in their Anishinaabemowin language, means the true people, proudly preserved their traditions, remained close to their ancestral ways of life and carry on with their traditional lifestyle. 

English is the language spoken in six of their communities, French is spoken in the other three and Algonquian is spoken by many. Nine Anishinaabe communities called Wolf Lake, Eagle Village-Kipawa, Kitcisakik, Kitigan Zibi, Lac-Rapide, Lac-Simon, Pikogan, Timiskaming and Winneway.

The economic activities of the Algonquians are closely related to tourism, handicrafts and to the government services they administer themselves.

Band councils, nine of them, are elected by Algonquians. Councils and councillors who manage their respective communities. Other organizations such as the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council and the Algonquin Nation Secretariat both defend their interests.

550x744Jardin des Premières Nations - Photo RLB

The Atikamekw Peoples of the Bark

The Atikamekw, also of the Algonquian family managed to keep their traditional lands, their language and their culture. Today, the Atikamekw concentrate their efforts on their economic development and on respecting and maintaining their traditions and their environment. Atikamekw means whitefish in Atikamek.

The Atikamekw created various organizations such as the Services forestiers Atikamekw Aski Inc. categorized under logging camps and contractors. They also created Mamo Ateskewin, an association that brings together the hunters, fishermen, trappers and gatherers of their communities. 

The Atikamekw created the Atikamekw Sipi also called the Conseil de la nation Atikamekw where services such as education, social and technical services, language, culture, economic development and document management are provided in their Manawan, Obedjwan and Wemotaci communities.

The mission of the Atikamekw Sipi is to represent the Atikamekw and to promote their rights and their interests. Atikamekw peoples who are also famous for their birch bark expertise and for the canoes and the household objects they create.

The Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee

The Cree call themselves Eeyou and their land is called Eeyou Istchee. An Aboriginal Peoples and shared by eleven Cree communities and hundreds of "traplines" formally called traditional family hunting and trapping grounds. A long-established territory mostly located in the northern part of Quebec. 


The Eeyou are united through their common interests, their traditional values, their culture and their Cree language.

Each First Nation is administered independently by its local government, while each elected Chief sits on the Board of Directors of the Grand Council of Eeyou Istchee and on the Council of the Cree Nation Goverment to address common Cree nation and Cree peoples issues.

Nine of the eleven Cree communities are part of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. The tenth, Washaw Sibi is in the process of establishing its community and will soon join the Treaty while the eleventh, the MoCreebec maintains a unique affiliation with the other Eeyou Aboriginal Peoples.

The Abenakis, the Anishinaabeg, the Atikamekw and the Cree, four out of ten Indigenous or Aboriginal Peoples, plus the Inuit who live in Inuit Nunangat, the Arctic regions  of Greenland, Canada and Alaska.

Montreal TOURIST Kit
Aboriginal Peoples by Rachel Louise Barry