A new and interesting indigenous world. New because some of us, although interested, are not familiar with the meaning of words such as Eskimo, Indian, Native, Aboriginal, Indigenous, First Nations, Inuit, Metis, Inuk, Innu...
Which ones are proper, which ones are respectful, which ones are not. Many of us do need to better understand the meaning of many if not all the words related to the Canadian Indigenous peoples.
Let's start with listing, describing and explaining the terms people use when referring to the "indigenous peoples who occupied North America for thousands of years before the European explorers first arrived in the 11th century".
Let's find out about a specific vocabulary and let's discover a very interesting and very indigenous world. A Quebec world with ten First Nations, with Métis and with Inuit. In Inuktitut, Inuk is singular and Inuit is a plural noun and an adjective.
The French word "Autochtone" is not the equivalent of the English words "Indian" or "native", especially since those two words are considered improper and impolite.
Eskimo is an offensive word that identifies a group of people who lives in the northern parts of Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Siberia. The proper terms are Inuk (singular) and Inuit (plural) and their homeland is called Inuit Nunangat.
As for the Innu, they are members of an indigenous group whose homeland is located in the northeastern part of the province of Quebec and in the eastern part of Labrador. The word Innu in Algonkian means human being.
Peuples Autochtones is the French equivalent of Indigenous Peoples. They both refer to North American Indian Bands and they both include the Première Nations in French, the First Nations in English, the Inuit and the Métis.
Members of the First Nations have two family languages, the Algonquian and the Iroquoian. The Abenaki, Anishinaabeg, Atikamekw, Cree, Malecite, Mi'kmaq, Innu and Naskapi speak Algonquian and the Wendats and the Mohawks speak Iroquoian.
In Canada, the word "Indian" is considered outdated and the use of the word is decreasing rapidly due to its incorrect origin and to its connections to colonization.
Still, the term "Indian" used historically has a legal significance since it refers to the "Indian status" set out in the federal Indian Act enacted in 1876.
Many Indigenous peoples have an ambivalent relationship with the Indian Act. For some, the word "Indian" confirms their ancestry, for others the definitions used in the Indian Act do not reflect their identity.
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