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A selection of key terms used in INHERITANCE

Indigenous - ethnic groups who are the original or earliest known inhabitants of an area, in contrast to groups that have settled, occupied or colonized the area more recently.

First Nations - is a term used to describe Indigenous peoples in Canada who are not Métis or Inuit. First Nations people are original inhabitants of the land that is now Canada. “First Nations” should be used exclusively as a general term, as community members are more likely to define themselves as members of specific nations, or communities within those nations.

Indian - Indian is a term that is now considered outdated and offensive to some, but has been used historically to identify Indigenous peoples in South, Central and North America. In Canada, “Indian” also has legal significance. It is used to refer to legally defined identities set out in the Indian Act, such as Indian Status. 

The Indian Act - The Indian Act is the principal statute through which the federal government administers Indian status, local First Nations governments and the management of reserve land and communal monies. It was first introduced in 1876 as a consolidation of previous colonial ordinances that aimed to eradicate First Nations culture in favour of assimilation into Euro-Canadian society.

Band - Many First Nation communities are still governed by the Indian Act and are referred to as Bands. This means that their reserve lands, monies, other resources and governance structure are managed by the provisions in the Indian Act.

Aboriginal Title: Aboriginal title is an inherent right, recognized in common law, that originates in Indigenous peoples’ occupation, use and control of ancestral lands prior to colonization. Aboriginal title is not a right granted by the government; rather, it is a property right that the Crown first recognized in the Royal Proclamation of 1763. It has been subsequently recognized and defined by several Supreme Court of Canada decisions. Furthermore, subsection 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982 recognizes and affirms “existing Aboriginal and treaty rights.”

Unceded - land to which Aboriginal Title has neither been surrendered nor acquired by the Crown through treaty, war or otherwise. 

Treaty - Treaties are negotiated agreements that define the rights, responsibilities and relationships between Aboriginal groups and federal and provincial governments.

Land Title - In British Columbia, colonial legal ownership of land is referred to as title to land (land title).

Land Deed - A property deed is a written and signed legal instrument that is used to transfer colonial legal ownership of real property from the old owner to the new owner.

Reserve - A tract of land, the [colonial] legal title to which is vested in [Canada], that has been set apart by Canada for the use and benefit of a[n] [Indian] band.

Crown Land - Crown land is a territorial area to which the federal or provincial governments assert ownership.

Reconciliation - Reconciliation is about establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country. In order for that to happen, there has to be awareness of the past, an acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour. (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada)

Decolonization - Decolonization is the process of deconstructing colonial ideologies of the superiority and privilege of Western thought and approaches.

Inheritance - Inheritance is the practice of passing on property, titles, debts, rights, and obligations upon the death of an individual.

Squatter - one that settles on property without right or title or payment of rent; one that settles on public land under government regulation with the purpose of acquiring title

HBC Blanket - The Hudson’s Bay Point Blanket is a wool blanket with a series of stripes and points (markers on cloth) first made for the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) in 1779. There is a history of Europeans intentionally giving blankets contaminated with smallpox and other infectious diseases to Indigenous peoples.

Smallpox - Smallpox is a highly contagious disease caused by the smallpox virus. It is spread by droplets from the nose and throat or by dried viral particles on blankets and clothing and causes death in up to 30%.

Residential Schools - The term residential schools refers to an extensive school system set up by the Canadian government and administered by churches that had the nominal objective of educating Aboriginal children but also the more damaging and equally explicit objectives of indoctrinating them into Euro-Canadian and Christian ways of living and assimilating them into mainstream Canadian society. The residential school system operated from the 1880s into the closing decades of the 20th century.

Oka Crisis - The Oka Crisis, also known as the Mohawk Resistance, was a 78-day standoff (11 July–26 September 1990) between Mohawk protesters, police, and army. At the heart of the crisis was the proposed expansion of a golf course and development of condominiums on disputed land that included a Mohawk burial ground. Eventually, the army was called in and the protest ended. The golf course expansion was cancelled, and the land purchased by the federal government; however, it has not yet been transferred to the Kanesatake community.

Gustafsen Lake Standoff - The Gustafsen Lake Standoff was a month-long conflict (18 August–17 September 1995) between a small group of First Nations Sun Dancers and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The standoff took place in central British Columbia, in Secwepemc (Shuswap) territory near 100 Mile House. Sparked by a dispute between a local rancher and a camp of Sun Dancers over access to private land for ceremonial purposes, the armed confrontation raised larger questions of Indigenous land rights in British Columbia. On 11 September 1995, in what was later called the largest paramilitary operation in the history of the province, RCMP surrounded the remote camp and a firefight erupted.

The Neskonlith Douglas Reserve - The Neskonlith Indian Band is part of the Secwepemc (Shuswap Nation) and caretakers of the Lakes area of Secwepemculecw (Secwepemc territory). In the 19th century, upon the request of First Nations, the Crown set aside lands and resources for the use and benefit of certain First nations and their citizens and, in some cases, reserves were established, including the Douglas Reserve. Subsequently, Crown officials took deliberate steps to implement a policy to unlawfully reduce and alienate lands which were reserved for the use and benefit of the First nations, including portions of the Douglas reserves. The Neskonlith Douglas Reserve was arbitrarily reduced by 2/3rds in 1864 in spite of protests made by the Band.

The Royal Proclamation of 1763 - was issued by King George III on 7 October 1763. It established the basis for governing the North American territories surrendered by France to Britain in the Treaty of Paris, 1763, following the Seven Years’ War. With regards to Aboriginal rights, the proclamation states explicitly that Indigenous people reserved all lands not ceded by or purchased from them.

References: Wikipedia, The Canadian Encyclopedia, Indigenous Corporate Training Inc., Investopedia, Land Title and Survey Authority, The Indian Act, Truth & Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Open Text BC, Indigenous Services Canada & Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Merck Manuals, Indigenous Foundations (UBC), Assembly of First Nations



  • “Peace Pipe Dreams, the Truth About Lies About Indians” by Darrell Dennis
  • “Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-up Call” by Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson (foreward by Naomi Klein)
  • “The Reconciliation Manifesto: Recovering the Land, Rebuilding the Economy” by Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson (foreward by Naomi Klein)
  • “Unsettling the Settler Within” by Paulette Regan
  • “What Does it Mean to be White? Developing White Racial Literacy” by Robin DiAngleo
  • “White Fagility: Why is it so Hard for White People to Talk about Racism?” by Robin DiAngelo
  • “The Equity Myth: Racialization and Indigeneity at Canadian Universities” by Frances Henry, Enakshi Dua, Carl E. James, Audrey Kobayashi, Peter Li, Howard Ramos, Malinda S. Smith
  • “The True Story of Canada’s War of Extermination on the Pacific” by Tom Swanky