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Decolonization and Allyship: Terminologies

International and National Terminologies

Indigenous: This term is used internationally and can refer to Indigenous groups/individuals, from Māori in New Zealand to Inuit in Canada. Its modern roots come from International Indigenous movements and, over time, governments have begun to use this term.

Aboriginal: This is an umbrella term for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit and is often used in legal circles and topics like “Aboriginal rights”. But this term is not used often internationally, for example, in the United States its not widely used or understood.

First Nations: Many reserve-based communities will refer to themselves as “First Nations/First Nation”. Its used mainly for people who have status under Canadian law. You would not use this term if you were referring to Métis or Inuit.

Métis: Is a distinct Indigenous group in Canada and they have their own history. This term can be used to refer to a group or an individual, plural and singular.

Inuit: Is another distinct Indigenous group in Canada, mainly in the Arctic, and are legally and culturally distinct from First Nations and Métis. The word refers to “the people” in Inuktitut so you do not need to add people to the end of Inuit and when referring to an individual, the singular term is “Inuk”.

Native: This is used very infrequently today. Only use this term if referring to something specific like an organization that was established earlier and still uses the term like “Native Women's Association of Canada”.

Indian: This is still used today in government and legal policies/classifications (e.g. Indian Act, “status Indian”, etc.). You can also find this word in historical documents from earlier periods at the archives. However, this word is outdated and has negative connotations to many Indigenous Peoples.

Mi'kma'ki Terminologies

Mi’kmaq: This term refers to the Algonquian Indigenous nation that occupies the territory of Mi’kma’ki (Atlantic Canada and the Gaspé peninsula). This spelling indicates a reference to the collective or the plural form. It roughly translates to “family” or “relations.”

Mi’kmaw: This is the singular form of Mi’kmaq. This spelling can also be used as an adjective where it precedes a noun (Mi’kmaw people, Mi’kmaw rights).

L’nu: Is the term the Mi’kmaq use to describe themselves. It means “the people” and also can mean “speak the same tongue”. The plural version is L’nuk.

Micmac: This is an outdated term to Mi’kmaq or L’nuk and is not used in Mi’kma’ki. It’s often found in historical documents and old publications held in archives and libraries. However, this term is used in the United States in areas like Maine (e.g. Aroostook Band of Micmacs).