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Selected Groups of the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada

Numbered Treaties

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 leadership.

Cree Nation
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 families.

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.

Hunting was 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 Bow River.

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 cultural rites.

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