As of March 2012, there were 140,975 registered First Nation members in Manitoba. A total of 84,874 members (60.2 per cent) lived on reserves. Manitoba is second only to Ontario in terms of total on-reserve population and in total First Nation population.
According to the 2012 Registered Indian Population by Sex and Residence report, 84,303 (59.8 per cent) of First Nation members in Manitoba are under the age of 30.
Manitoba has 63 First Nations, including six of the 20 largest bands in Canada. Twenty-three First Nations are not accessible by an all-weather road. This accounts for more than half of all Manitoba First Nations people who live on reserve.
There are five First Nations linguistic groups in Manitoba: Cree, Ojibway, Dakota, Ojibway-Cree and Dene.
There are seven treaties with First Nations in the province, though five Manitoba First Nations are not signatory to any treaty with Canada (Birdtail Sioux, Sioux Valley, Canupawakpa, Dakota Tipi and Dakota Plains).
First Nations in Manitoba are represented by three active provincial political organizations divided on a north-south basis.
The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) is the main political organization representing 59 chiefs from across Manitoba. It provides information on the latest issues in First Nation politics, history and events. The AMC is involved in policy areas such as Child and Family Services, education, environment, health and many others.
The Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) is a non-profit, political advocacy organization that provides a collective voice on issues of inherent, treaty, Aboriginal and human rights for the citizens of the province’s 27 northern First Nations. MKO explores ways to strengthen and promote the interests of its members by achieving autonomy and self-sufficiency in all areas that affect the lives of northern First Nations’ citizens. It is affiliated with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
The Southern Chiefs Organization (SCO) works with 33 southern First Nations in Manitoba, and is also affiliated with the Assembly of First Nations and Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. Its mission statement is to establish an independent political forum to protect, preserve, promote, and enhance First Nations peoples’ inherent rights, languages, customs, and traditions through the application and implementation of the spirit and intent of the treaty-making process.
Manitoba's seven tribal councils include Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council, Interlake Reserves Tribal Council, Island Lake Tribal Council, Keewatin Tribal Council, Southeast Resource Development Council, Swampy Cree Tribal Council and the West Region Tribal Council. Thirteen Manitoba First Nations are not represented by tribal councils.
The Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba was established in June 2005 to function as an independent and neutral office. The Commission's mandate includes engaging in public education activities to improve understanding of the treaty relationship and treaty-related issues, providing facilitation for discussing treaty issues, and conducting independent research.
Geographic isolation has segregated Manitoba First Nation communities socially and economically from mainstream Manitoba. This has created unique challenges in the region regarding economic development and delivery of services, as First Nation economies historically have been dependent on federal transfers.