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Indigenous Awareness (Part 2): What You Need To Know!

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

If your business or organization is thinking about engaging with Indigenous Communities, there are a few things you MUST be aware of before your begin. The following information will help you understand what you need to know before you begin your engagement activities.

The following overview is a continuation of your Indigenous Awareness Training (See Indigenous Awareness Training part 1 here and Indigenous Awareness Training part 3 here). The following is part 2 and it is important that you understand what First Nations are and how each community works at the organization level.

For those of you who are about to work with Indigenous Communities or are interested in working with Indigenous Communities, the following information is something that you will need to know and understand before you start your engagement activities.

If you have any questions or need someone to talk with regarding your Indigenous engagement and awareness activities, please give us a call at (705) 657-1126 or by email:

Chi Miigwetch!

Indigenous Canadian


• No generally accepted definition of Indigenous Peoples in a global context.

• Some countries refer to Indigenous Peoples as:

• the people who were there first at contact or

• the nomadic peoples within their borders.

• There is no constitutional terminology for Indigenous people in Canada

• In Canada, the constitutional terminology of Aboriginal Peoples as stated in Section 35 includes: The Indian, Inuit and Métis

Indigenous Canada • 1,400,685 people had an Aboriginal identity in 2011

• Representing 4.3% of the total Canadian population.

• The Aboriginal population increased by 232,385 people, or 20.1% between 2006 and 2011

• Compared with 5.2% for the non Aboriginal population.

• The largest numbers of Aboriginal people lived in Ontario and the western provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia).


• 65025 people (2016) identified as Inuit.

• Outside Inuit Nunangat, there were 17,695 Inuit, making up 27.2% of the Inuit population. 3,860 Inuit People are reported to be in Ontario.


• 451,795 people (2011) identify as Métis.

• Represented 32.3% of the total Aboriginal population and 1.4% of the total Canadian population.

• "Métis" means a person who self identifies as Métis, is distinct from other Aboriginal peoples, is of Historic Métis Nation ancestry, and is accepted by the Métis Nation.

Métis National Council (November 2002)

• Descendants of Native American women and European men

• Mixed ancestry

Chartered Community Councils (Metis)

• There are currently 29 Chartered Métis Community Councils in Ontario which are almost entirely volunteer operated.

• The Metis Nation of Ontario's (MNO’s) Community Charter Agreements continue to be the cornerstone for a strong foundation for the MNO to implement its inherent right to

self government.

• Community Councils are the catalyst in maintaining communication linkages around community development efforts as well as playing an important role in

fostering community empowerment and development for the Métis Nation of Ontario.

The Metis Nation of Ontario Registry

• The MNO Registry is the only recognized Registry in the province

• Extensive application process verifying ancestry

• Approximately 18,000 individuals are registered MNO citizens

• If all children were registered the MNO estimates that it would have approximately 46,000 citizens

First Nations People

• 851,560 people (2011) identified as a First Nations person

• Representing 60.8% of the total Aboriginal population and 2.6% of the total Canadian population.

• 637,660 First Nations people reported being Registered Indians

• Representing 74.9% of all First Nations people,

• 45.5% of the total Aboriginal population and

• 1.9% of the total Canadian population. Related: Debunking Myths About Indigenous Peoples in Canada

A Growing Population

• The Aboriginal population increased by 232,385 people,

or 20.1% between 2006 and

• In Ontario, 37.0% of First Nations people with registered Indian status lived on a reserve, the second lowest proportion among the provinces

How do First Nations work? The Basics of Community

The Indian Act

• The Indian Act is a Canadian federal law that governs in matters pertaining to Indian status, bands, and Indian reserves.

• This Act does not delegate to provincial jurisdictions

• The Indian Act is highly invasive and paternalistic:

• Authorizes the Canadian federal government to regulate and administer in the affairs and day to day lives of registered Indians and reserve communities.

• Overarching political control, such as imposing governing structures on Aboriginal communities in the form of band councils

• Control over the rights of Indians to practice their culture and traditions.

• Enabled the government to determine the land base of these groups in the form of reserves, and even to define who qualifies as Indian in the form of Indian status

• Undergone numerous amendments since 1876, but today it largely retains its original form.


• A Status Indian is defined by the Indian Act

• Status can be held only by those native peoples who fit the definition laid out in the Indian Act

• First Nation communities maintain their Band List / Registry

• Those status Indians that are registered on the Band list are considered ‘Members of a First Nation’

• If you have citizens, we have Members.

• Some communities may have their own membership Code

Registered Vs.Non Registered Indians

• Stats Canada = Registered Vs. Non Registered Indians

• CIRNA (INAC) = Status Vs. Non Status Indians

• 2011 Bill C 3 ( McIvor V. Canada ) Brought women who lost status because of ‘ double mother rule ’ (House)

• 2017 Bill S 3 (Descheneux) provisions related to siblings, cousins, omitted minors or removed minors and unknown/unstated parentage.

• Two generations of ‘out marriage’. That is all it takes to completely lose Status.

• It does not matter if you raise your grandchildren in your native culture.

• It does not matter if they speak your language and know your customs.

• If you married someone without Status, and your grandchildren have a non Status parent, your grandchildren are not considered Indian any longer (according to the Indian Act).

• Until 1985 , women with Indian status who married someone without status lost their status rights. Men, on the other hand, did not lose Indian status in the same way. Even after

Bill C 31 reinstated the status rights of many women in 1985, the Act still discriminated against women by privileging male lines of descent.

Governance Structure

Chief and Council (Governing Body)

• Elected one of three ways by the Membership:

• Indian Act Election (two year term)

• First Nation Election Act (four year term)

• Custom Election Code (based on traditional custom) Leadership

• Generally, One Elected Chief --(Akwesasne has district Chiefs)

• One Councillor for every 100 members of the First Nation (min 2 max 12)

• A Chief is not a mayor

• Chief is a term of respect on a First Nation and demands respect.

Operational Structure

Political body example:

Senior manager: Director of operations

- Executive assistant

Senior management team: Department managers

- Health and wellness

- Health clinic

- Mental health

- Community awareness

- Long term care

- Community development

- Day care

- Education

- Employment and training

- Comptroller

- Finance

- Administration

- Lands, resources, infrastructure

- Housing

- Infrastructure

- Lands and resources

- Economic development

- Business enterprises

- Board of directors

- Economic development

Operational Structure

• Job titles vary greatly from First Nation to First Nation

• Department delineations do remain fairly consistent generally influenced by funding streams from Indian Act Structure

• Administration, Economic Development, Public Works, Health, Housing, Consultation, Social, Education are all common.

• Specific skills and job positions may or may not be present (IT person, GIS specialist, etc.) depending on individual community’s need.

• There is no planning department in most FN’s.

• The role of the Consultation Team at a FN Related: 5 Principles for Effective Indigenous Engagement


Reserve Land - As identified in the Indian Act,

• reserve land is "a tract of land, the legal title to which is vested in Her Majesty, which has been set apart by Her Majesty for the use and benefit of a band" band".

Reserve lands are different from other land in that:

• Legal title to reserve lands is held by the Crown rather than by individuals or organizations;

• First Nations have a recognized interest in reserve land that includes the right to exclusive use and occupation, inalienability and the communal nature of the


• The land cannot be seized by legal process or be mortgaged or pledged to non members of a First Nation; and

• The Minister must approve or grant most land transactions under the Indian Act.

Traditional Territories:

• the geographic areas identified by a First Nation to be the area of land which they and/or their ancestors traditionally occupied or used.

Additions to Reserve (ATR)

• Reserve creation is the process of setting apart land for the use and benefit of First Nations.

• There are two types of reserve creations:

• New Reserve the granting of reserve status to land which is not within the area of an existing reserve community.

• Additions to Reserve (ATR) the granting of reserve status to a parcel of land that is added to an existing reserve of a First Nation. Related: A Unique Look at Indigenous Land Use Planning - Land Relationship Visioning

FNLMA or Not?

First Nation Land Management Act:

• The First Nations Land Management Act is a federal law enacted in 1999.

• It provides signatory First Nations the authority to make laws in relation to reserve lands, resources and the environment.

• A First Nation signatory to the Framework Agreement exercises its land management option by:

• creating its own Land Code,

• drafting a community ratification process

• Land Code does not have to be approved by the Minister.

First Nations revenues

Sample municipal source of revenues:

Net municipal taxation

User charges

Transfer payments

- Provincial

- Federal

- Other municipalities

Investment income

Penalties and interest

Development charges earned

Developer contributions of tangible capital assets


Equity in earning of government business enterprises and partnerships

Sample First Nation sources of revenues:

Government transfers

Ontario lottery and gaming corporation

Administration fees and user charges

Land leases


Other income


• The biggest revenue source is transfers from the federal government

• First Nations are increasingly generating what is called "own source revenue.“

• Investment Interest

• Economic Development

• Taxation rarely called this (user Fees)

• The communities also get revenue from:

• land claim settlements

• successful lawsuits

• selling treaty land a relatively small amount from other levels of government

• OFNLP Gaming Revenues Related: Doing Business With First Nations: A Beginners Guide

Tribal Councils

• Tribal Councils are not defined under the Indian Act. Tribal Councils are mainly political organizations but some also administer community programs and services.

• Some First Nations choose to affiliate with Tribal Councils while others do not. Each Tribal Council decides its own political priorities and these priorities vary from area to

area and from time to time.

• You may or may not deal with a Tribal Council unless directed to do so

About the Basics…

• These are the basics…

• You are expected to have at least a basic awareness of First Nations if you expect to build a long term relationship

• The basics are easily learned by visiting a First Nation and asking for a tour of a community with your counterpart.

• First Nation people have a bond with their community that you won’t often get in a municipal context.

• If your role requires interaction with First Nations, take some time to learn more.

To find out how we can help you with your Indigenous Awareness and Engagement activities, please see our web page Indigenous Engagement Training or contact us at: (705) 657-1126

To set up a short 15 minute consultation with our CEO, Mike Jacobs, please see this page here.

Chi Miigwetch (thank you) and good luck! Related Articles: How To Work With Indigenous Peoples

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