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Indigenous Peoples of Canada and Québec

Mohawk women perform traditional songs.
Photo: Space for Life (Michel Tremblay)
Mohawk women perform traditional songs.
  • Mohawk women perform traditional songs.
  • A traditional drum during the Solstice of Nations, National Indigenous Peoples Day.
  • Ancestral ceremony during the Sagabone, a celebration of spring.

According to the 2016 census, Canada has more than 1,673,785 people who identify themselves as an Aboriginal person. Therefore, they represent 4.9% of the Canadian population. This segment of the population is the youngest, with 44% of Aboriginal peoples under 25, and growing rapidly. This demographic and social overview will help you to better put into context the Aboriginal realities discussed in our Garden.

The Canadian Constitution recognizes three groups of Aboriginal peoples: First Nations, Inuit and Métis. First Nations are the largest group in number, followed by Métis and Inuit. Almost a quarter of the country's Aboriginal population is in Ontario. Indigenous peoples inhabit each of the Canadian provinces and territories.

The Indigenous Nations of Québec

First Nations and Inuit represent 2.3% of the Québec population. Spread across eleven Indigenous nations, they live in 55 communities and municipalities across the province. You can learn a little more about the traditions of these nations by exploring the Indigenous Knowledge and know-how page of the First Nations Garden.

In the 2016 Canadian census, over 55% of First Nations peoples reported living in urban areas. There are different reasons why these Indigenous individuals and families live in cities. Access to housing, studies, jobs or various services often motivates their choice.

In urban areas, Native Friendship Centres play a central role in welcoming and counseling Indigenous peoples. They offer services such as support in finding housing or employment, children's services and culturally appropriate psycho-social support. In addition, these centers offer cultural activities such as craft workshops, traditional cooking or language training, as well as family activities.

Linguistic groups and Indigenous languages

Indigenous peoples of Québec are grouped into three major linguistic families: the Algonquian, Iroquoian and Eskimo-Aleut families.

Algonquian-speaking nations

  • James Bay's Crees;
  • Haute-Mauricie's Atikamekws;
  • Lac-St-Jean and Côte-Nord's Innu;
  • Naskapis of Kawawachikamach (Schefferville);
  • Anishinabeg of Abitibi-Témiscamingue and Outaouais;
  • Abenakis of Centre-du-Québec;
  • Mi'gmaq of Gaspésie;
  • Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet of Viger) of Bas Saint-Laurent, near Rivière-du-Loup.

Iroquoian-speaking nations

  • The Mohawks, near the metropolitan area of Montréal;
  • Huron-Wendats, in Québec.

People of the Eskimo-Aleut linguistic family who are speaking Inuktitut.

  • Inuit of Nunavik in northern Québec.

Some Indigenous languages are still widely spoken, including Innu, Naskapi, Inuktitut, Cree language of Eeyou, Mohawk, Atikamekw. And for several years, other nations have been working to revitalize their traditional language: Abenaki, Huron-Wendat, Wolastoqey (Malecite) and Mi'gmaq.

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