Selected Groups of the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada
Assiniboine (Stoney or Nakoda)
Beginning in Minnesota in the 1700s,
the Assiniboine broke from the Yankton Sioux and moved west in
association with the Cree. They combined a hunter-gatherer lifestyle
with some horticulture.
The Beaver Nation was related to the Dene Tha, Dene, and Tsuu
T’ina. They shared Athapaskan based languages. The Cree arrival pushed
them out from their northern Alberta and Saskatchewan territory into the
area west and north of the Peace River. They were victims of disease and
changing food supplies. Their population was reduced to a fraction of
the original numbers. They were the last First Nation to sign the Treaty
8 in May 1900.
(Blackfoot) Siksika Confederacy
The Confederacy consisted
of Siksika, Kainai (Bloods), and Pikanii (Peigan) who share a common
language, historical and cultural background but have their own
The Algonkian speaking Cree were often described by where their
groups lived. Plains Cree, Woodland Cree, Swampy Cree, and Moose Cree
lived in western Canada. The original Cree territory was in the
woodlands of central Canada. The Cree moved along with the fur trade as
middlemen and workers for the fur companies.
The term "Cree" most likely originated from a French name of unknown
origin, Kristineaux. The Cree people refer to themselves as Nehiyawak
meaning exact people.
Dene (Chipewyan) Nation
From the Churchill River
north to the tundra and from Hudson Bay in the east to Great Slave Lake
and part of Alberta in the west was traditional Dene territory. This
nomadic people did not organize themselves into a large connected
system. Their language defined them as a community and their leadership
was rarely defined and quite flexible. “Chipewyan” comes from a Cree
term meaning "pointed skins.” That may come from the way they made and
wore their shirts or it may be how they prepared their furs for trade.
Dene considered both the Cree and the Inuit to be enemies. Over 90
percent of Dene died from smallpox. They signed Treaty 8 in 1898 with
the Cree and Beaver Nations. Because the Dene did not have settled
communities in a known space, they were allowed land for individual
Dene Tha (Slavey)
The Dene Tha inhabited Alberta’s far north, their
hunting territory encompassing part of the Northwest Territories. They
were known as Acha’otinne, or "woodland people." They lived in family
groupings with no large community group or group leadership except
during war. They were respectful of each other as well as of outsiders.
They were forest-dwellers who ate fish, moose and caribou. The
southernmost Dene Tha signed Treaty 8 in 1900. Those to the north signed
Treaty 11 in 1921.
The earlier name “Eskimo” came from the Abnaki term meaning either
“eaters of raw flesh” or “snowshoe maker.” In contemporary times these
people prefer to be known as the Inuit. They live in the very northern
regions of Canada.
Kainai (Blood) Nation
The Kainai knew themselves as Kai-nau or "Many
Chiefs.” They spoke an Algonquian language like the rest of the Siksika
Confederacy members. This nomadic First Nation followed the buffalo,
hunting them by foot and, after 1700, on horseback.
completely changed after they received horses. The Kainai may have
become more aggressive because they had the horse.
Between 1850 and
1870, they suffered the influence of whisky traders and disease. The
groups forming the Nation lost unity and representatives of some of the
remaining groups signed Treaty 7 in 1877 at Blackfoot Crossing on the
Ktunaxa (Kootenay) Nation
The upper and lower
branches of the Ktunaxa (Kootenay) are divided more or less equally
between Canada and the United States. The Upper Ktunaxa are properly a
British Columbia People, but throughout the first half of the 18th
century at least on band of Ktunaxa occupied southwestern Alberta,
hunting buffalo. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Ktunaxa have
been in southwest Alberta as long as 2000 years.
Métis and the Métis Nation
The Métis nation is those of mixed First Nation and European
ancestry who identify themselves as Métis people. They are distinct from
First Nations, Inuit, and non-aboriginal peoples. The Métis nation is
unique to the cultural map of Canada in that they emerged only after the
arrival of Europeans in the area, which became Canada.
The Métis history and culture was established with the diverse ancestral origins such as
Scottish, Irish, French, Ojibway, and Cree.
Piikani (Peigan) Nation
The Piikani were the southernmost members of the Blackfoot Confederacy. For
some time the English version “Peigan” was used. Piikani belong to the
Algonquian language family.
Siksika (Blackfoot) Nation
One of the best known of the northern
tribes, the Siksika was the first nation to meet the fur traders. This
nation has lived on the Plains for generations.
Tsuu T’ina (Sarcee) Nation
The Tsuu t’ina
reserve on the southwest of Calgary is where First Nation once called
Sarcee now live. Tsuu t’ina came to settle there after resuming their
nomadic life instead of taking a reserve following the signing of Treaty
7. They had historically lived along the eastern slopes and parkland of
central to northern Alberta. One theory says they were part of the
Beaver group, which was split by the advancing Cree. The Tsuu t’ina
speak Athapaskan, but celebrate Siksika (Blackfoot) spiritual and