Frequently Asked Questions

Q.1 What does « Aboriginal » mean?

A.1. The word "Aboriginal" refers to the peoples who first lived in an area before European explorers first arrived at that place. In what we now call Canada, there are three different Aboriginal groups who lived here long before this country was formed: Inuit, First Nations and Métis.

Q.2 What is the difference between First Nations, Inuit and Métis in Canada?

A.2. While there are many differences between First Nations, Métis and Inuit, these names refer to the three main groups of peoples who are the traditional inhabitants of this land.

First Nations are those peoples who historically lived in North America, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, below the Arctic. Inuit historically lived along the coastal edge and on the islands of Canada’s far north. The Métis descend from the historical joining of First Nations members and Europeans.

It is important to remember that First Nations, Inuit and Métis each have their own culture, based largely on the environment they traditionally inhabited.

Q.3 What does « culture » mean?

A.3. The word "culture" means a way of life or way of living. Culture includes the food a group of people eats, the language they speak and their beliefs about the world around them. Canada has been home to many rich and beautiful cultures for thousands of years.

Q.4 Do all Aboriginal groups in Canada speak the same language?

A.4. No. There are more than 50 Aboriginal languages that have been spoken in Canada for centuries! Some of these languages have common roots, so they can be understood by several different Aboriginal groups. For example, Michif, the language spoken by many Métis, is mostly a mixture of French and Cree (as well as English, Ojibwe and Assiniboine) that dates back to the late 1700s.

Q.5 Where do these Aboriginal groups live now?

A.5. When Canada was first being formed the British government signed treaties with many First Nations to settle the land. These treaties set aside areas of land, called reserves, for First Nations. Many First Nations members, as well as Métis, still live on reserves today, but every year more and more individuals move off these reserves to live in cities and towns across Canada.

Most Inuit in Canada live in the country’s youngest territory, Nunavut, but many individuals have also moved south to cities and towns in other provinces. Did you know that Nunavut means "our land" in Inuktitut, the language spoken by Inuit?

Q.6 What does the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development do?

A.6. Our Department, which is more commonly known as Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC), is one of many departments within the federal government that are responsible for maintaining Canada’s special relationship with Aboriginal peoples in this country, as well as Canadians who live in the North. We work with our many different partners in communities across Canada to build a future in which First Nations, Inuit, Métis and northern communities are healthy, safe, self-sufficient and prosperous places in which to live.