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Indigenous Studies

Terminology

Before you start your search, keep in mind that over the years various names have been used to refer to Indigenous Peoples in Canada and other Indigenous groups around the world.

As a result, any of the following terms could be used  in your search:

  • Indians of North America - the standard Library of Congress subject heading still used by libraries. In Canada, many library groups are working on creating new subject headings that are more culturally sensitive.
  • Native peoples, Native Canadians
  • First peoples
  • Aboriginal Peoples - frequently used in Australia, and is falling out of use in Canada. The distinction of 'Peoples' makes this term inclusive to First Nations, Metis, and Inuit, the three distinct Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
  • Indigenous Peoples - popularized by international organizations, and can be used in an international context. It is also used in a Canadian context to replace the term 'Aboriginal Peoples.'
  • First Nations / Inuit / Metis - legal designations for separate, distinct Indigenous Peoples within Canada.

In addition to these terms, Indigenous Peoples are often identified by colonially-imposed names for specific nations (i.e. Iroquois, Huron), linguistic or cultural groups (i.e. Athapascan "Indians", Plains "Indians"), or by their traditional names (i.e. Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee). For tips on how to combine different search terms, look at the Indigenous Language Revitalization: Finding Indigenous Language Materials guide.

Tips

Scholars writing on Indigenous issues will often choose the terminology they use thoughtfully, and may explain their choices in a footnote.

For more detail as to best practices, the following links contain useful explanations: