Aboriginal, Native, or Indigenous?

The words Aboriginal, Native and Indigenous refer to the same group of people. This is in the same context as Caucasian or White.

The three groups of Indigenous people in Canada according to the Canadian Constitution Act 1982 are Indians, Métis and Inuit.

The use of the word “Indian” is considered offensive by many First Nations. The word “Aboriginal” was a replacement for “Indian” and “Native”. “Indigenous” is becoming the most accepted word.

The word “Indian” will remain ingrained in Canadian Law and History. Status Indigenous peoples are referred to in the Indian Act 1876 as Indians. The word “Indian” continued to be used in the Constitution Act 1982 and is used in many federal statutes to this day.

The term Indigenous was chosen by Indigenous leaders in the 1970s to identify and unite diverse communities and represent them in global political arenas. The term Indigenous is a relational word that highlights a peoples’ connection to traditional territories, as well as their experiences of colonization.

The term Aboriginal was introduced in the 1982 Canadian Constitution by your federal government as an ‘umbrella’ term to include First Nations, Inuit and Métis. Some people dislike the word Aboriginal for this reason and because the prefix “ab” is Latin for “away from” or “not”. Ironically, Aboriginal can be interpreted to mean “not original”.

The terms Aboriginal, Indigenous and First Peoples are generally accepted terms in Canada and are inclusive of First Nations, Métis and Inuit.

In 2016 the Congress of Aboriginal People changed their name to the Indigenous Peoples’ Assembly of Canada in part because the term is “more inclusive since it identifies peoples in similar circumstances in all countries with a colonial history.”