Social Justice Stories

building compassion, tolerance, and responsible citizenship through social justice narratives


A glossary of social justice terms, specifically as they pertain to the First Nations people.

Aboriginal: A term outlined by the Constitution Act of 1982 to refer to all indigenous peoples of Canada, including First Nation, Métis, and Inuit. It is important to remember that as Fife (2008: 55) states, "These separate groups have unique heritages, languages, cultural practices, and spiritual beliefs. Their common link is their indigenous ancestry.

Anishnaabe: Another word for the Ojibwa people, this means "Original People".

Assimilate: The complete absorption of one culture into another.

Autonomous: Self-governing or self-determined person or group.

Cultural Appropriation: Using certain aspects of Aboriginal culture out of their proper context, resulting in the misrepresentation of the particular group from which it was taken.

Ethnocentrism: One group's belief in their cultural and social superiority.

Indian: A term which refers to Aboriginal peoples. However, many find it offensive and, as such, the term "First Nation" is used instead.

Indigenous: Naturally occurring in an area or region.

Inuit: Aboriginal people who live in the Artic, northern Quebec, and Labrador. The term literally means "the People". This group is not included under the Indian Act, although they do have special rights and agreements with the government.

Métis: Beaver, et al (2001:6) defines this group as:...people of mixed biological and cultural heritage (First Nations and European during the fur trade period 17th C). The Métis are a distinct cultural group with a unique blend of European and Aboriginal customs, cultures, and languages. The Métis do not have the rights of Status Indians at this time, although they are recognized as a separate Aboriginal people in the Canadian Constitution.

Native: Another term used to refer to Aboriginal people but most prefer to be addressed by their particular cultural name (i.e. Anishnaabe, Mohawk, etc.)

Oral Tradition: A means of passing down culture, history, and information related to language to the younger generation by means of spoken word.

Pre-Contact/Contact: Refers to two time periods - before Europeans came to the Americas and after.

Repatriation: The return of a group's cultural artifacts.

Residential Schools: Starting in 1920, as part of its goal and policy of assimilation, the government forced Aboriginal peoples to attend special schools where First Nations children were not only stripped of their language and culture but were routinely horribly abused and mistreated. The last residential school in Canada closed in 1996.

Treaty Rights: Rights afforded First Nations peoples as a result of a treaty.