Indigenous Peoples Editorial Resource

August 2023

Language plays an important role in shaping perceptions and decolonizing our thinking.

The University of Alberta has committed to honouring the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 Calls to Action in thoughtful, meaningful and sustainable ways. As U of A communicators and employees, we have a specific role to play, starting with actively educating ourselves about Indigenous cultures, histories, terms and other topics.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission explicitly named universities for their power to correct the historical record, eliminate educational and employment gaps, celebrate the contributions of Indigenous Peoples, support Indigenous languages and tackle systemic racism (TRC Final Report, page 278). The work we do as communicators to share key institutional initiatives in Indigenous programming, student success, community engagement and broader initiatives is critical to this work.

To that end, this portion of the U of A Editorial Style Guide contains additional guidelines, background and resources to further our knowledge. The goal of this guide is to strive for respectful, accurate and consistent language whenever possible while also respecting local and individual preferences and the diversity of Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous individuals.

This guide draws on the expertise of U of A experts, The Canadian Press “Indigenous Peoples” and Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples, among other sources. For information on other topics of equity, diversity and inclusion, consult the U of A Equity, Diversity and InclusionI Editorial Resource.

Note that there is room for flexibility in the use of U of A editorial guidelines. The goal is to strive for respectful, accurate and consistent language whenever possible while also respecting local and individual preferences. While this is an editorial resource intended mainly for communicators, it is open to all employees as a learning resource and a spark for discussion.

This is a living document and will continue to evolve to ensure our practices are current, respectful and inclusive. We welcome your suggestions and questions.

Quick tip: To search for a word or phrase in this document, press Ctrl + F (on a PC) or Command + F (on a Mac) to open a search box in the top right corner of your screen.

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At a Glance

  • There is room for flexibility in the use of U of A editorial style. The goal is to be consistent within a publication and/or unit based on the audience(s) and goals of the publication and, overall, to be respectful to the people we interview and work with. 
  • In what is now Canada, Indigenous Peoples refers to First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples. 
  • Given the diversity of Indigenous Peoples around the world, the United Nations has not adopted an official definition, but it describes Indigenous Peoples as “those who inhabited a country or geographical region at the time when people of different cultures or ethnic origins arrived. The new arrivals later became dominant through conquest, occupation, settlement or other means.” (UN fact sheet)
  • Avoid using “Indigenous” in a generic way. Indigenous Peoples encompass a broad diversity of histories, cultures, language groups and identities as well as diverse interests and grievances. The erasure of these differences and rich diversity — often substituted with vague or imagined narratives — remains a challenge.
  • Be specific about a person’s Indigenous community, nation, territory and/or family connections if it’s how they want to be identified, rather than using a general descriptor. This is important to many, particularly in light of the historic erasure of Indigenous identities. It also works to reassert the sovereignty of the nations in question, which have existed long before European contact. 
  • Use the style, spelling and capitalization for the names of communities as preferred by the First Nation, band, Inuit Peoples, Metis settlement or the Métis Nation. (Note the different spelling of Métis/Metis, for example.) Fact check on the community’s official website or consult this federal government website, which uses the communities’ preferred spelling. 
  • Do not use possessive constructions. e.g., “our Indigenous Peoples.” Indigenous Peoples do not belong to Canada and some do not consider themselves Canadian. This usage furthers the paternalism embedded in Canadian society: the state long regarded Indigenous Peoples as “wards” or too primitive to have national or individual agency.
  • Remember that Indigenous nations existed before national, provincial and other colonial boundaries were imposed. When writing about Indigenous topics, lands or Peoples, consider using “in what is now Canada/Alberta/Edmonton,” etc.
  • Avoid wording that suggests Indigenous Peoples or societies live only in the past, for example, by using past tense. Indigenous Peoples, cultures, nations and communities continue to exist and practise their cultural traditions. “Indigenous Peoples have not been assimilated into mainstream Canadian society, despite over a century of legislation and official policy to force assimilation.” (Indigenous Elements of Style, page 97)
  • In content dealing with Indigenous topics, consider consulting an editor, the U of A style team or the Office of the Vice-Provost of Indigenous Programming and Research for a “sensitivity check” to avoid unintentional errors of unconscious bias, presumption and stereotypes. 
  • If an interview subject prefers a term that differs from the U of A style guide, attribute it and explain to readers that it’s their preference. 
  • If you run into usage that contradicts or isn’t contained in this guide, contact the U of A style team

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Additional U Of A Editorial Guides

In addition to the information listed on this page, consult the two resources below for further guidance.

Editorial Style Guide

General guidelines on University of Alberta style for spelling, grammar, capitalization, punctuation and correct usage.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Editorial Resource

Further your knowledge about topics of equity, diversity and inclusion in an editorial context.

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Learn more: U of A and other resources

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Indigenous – the preferred umbrella term for First Nations, Métis and Inuit

Related terms (use with care):

  • Aboriginal – remains in use, particularly in the names of organizations, but avoid unless the person or community prefers it
  • Indian – unacceptable except in historical references, official names or terms (e.g., the Indian Act, status Indian) or if a person prefers it.
  • Native – avoid unless it’s part of an official or historical name or an individual prefers it. (Note: Native American is used in the United States.)
  • FNMI – acronym for First Nations, Métis and Inuit; it’s less common but some prefer it. Use an individual’s preference and spell out.
Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous People, Indigenous people
  • Indigenous Peoples – the United Nations describes Indigenous Peoples as those who inhabited a country or geographical region at the time when people of different cultures or ethnic origins arrived.
  • an Indigenous People – a specific group of Indigenous Peoples. Example: The Métis are an Indigenous People. 
  • Indigenous people – individuals of Indigenous descent; synonymous with “persons”
Canada’s constitution recognizes three distinct groups of Indigenous Peoples:

First Nations – the term used by most reserve-based Indigenous communities in Canada

  • The term does not include Métis or Inuit. 
  • There are two main subgroups, but it’s rarely pertinent to mention them unless it’s the topic of the story. 
    • Status members (Status Indians) are categorized by the Canadian federal government under the Indian Act, which affirms access to certain rights.
    • Non-status members are those who have never registered, are not eligible to register under the terms of the Indian Act or who lost or surrendered their status.
Inuit – Indigenous Peoples whose traditional land base is in the Arctic regions of what is now called Canada, Greenland and Siberia
  • Inuk – refers to an individual Example: That Inuk is a celebrated musician.
  • Inuit – used as an adjective or a collective noun 
    • As a collective noun, Inuit means “the people” so do not say “Inuit people” or “the Inuit people.” Example: Inuit are traditional whale hunters. 
    • As an adjective: “an Inuit agreement” or “Inuit throat singers” 
Métis/Metis – one of the three Indigenous Peoples with their own customs, culture and shared past.

The term has multiple contexts in Canada, and people self-identify as Métis for different reasons. The definitions have been a topic of controversy. Note: Métis, with an accent, is the preferred U of A style but not all organizations use the accent in their proper names; check the organization’s website or with the source. (Sources: Métis Nation of Alberta, Elements of Indigenous Style)

  • Métis can refer to the Indigenous People who emerged during the fur trade through the intermarriage of people of European and Indigenous descent. By the mid-19th century they were a major economic and cultural force on the northern Plains of what is now Canada and the northern United States, where they shared territory with their Indigenous relatives. They led two resistances against the Canadian state in 1869-70 and 1885. The term “the Métis” can be taken to refer to this group. 
  • In 1982, Métis were expressly included as one of the “Aboriginal peoples of Canada” in Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • In June 2023, the Government of Canada introduced legislation to formally recognize the right to self-governance of the Métis Nation of Alberta, the Métis Nation–Saskatchewan and the Métis Nation of Ontario. The agreements commit Canada to negotiate a self-government treaty with each Métis government.

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Bias and Stereotypes

In Elements of Indigenous Style, Gregory Younging writes about the need for “an alert ear for how the attitudes of colonialism are embedded in word choices (pages 75-78).” He identifies three main tendencies and cautions writers and editors to use particular care. 

  • Indigenous agency – “Colonial language communicates paternalism — the idea that Indigenous People are not capable of thinking and acting for themselves (page 76).” Beware of using words that suggest Indigenous Peoples are/were acted on or are passive recipients rather than active participants. Biased example: “The Numbered Treaties provided First Nations with reserves, education, and health care.” Unbiased example: “First Nations negotiated the Numbered Treaties with Canada’s government to secure reserves, education, and health care for their people and future generations.”
  • Indigenous goals – Word choices to describe the political goals of Indigenous Peoples are also prone to bias, Younging says. “Consider the difference between demanding something and asserting something. You might use demand to describe a complaint or a whine: a child, for example, might demand dessert. You would use assert to describe a justified action: you assert authority, you assert rights (page 76).”
  • Indigenous resiliency – Beware wording that suggests Indigenous individuals and communities are victims or that casts doubt on their power to overcome trauma (page 77). Choose wording that “recognizes their resilience, agency and future.” For example, “Indigenous Peoples struggle with the legacy of the residential school system” versus “Indigenous Peoples acknowledge the legacy of the residential school system and the importance of appropriate compensation and apology from Canada’s government in moving forward.”

Younging also warns writers to guard against stereotypes and assumptions, noting “specificity is your friend” in helping avoid such errors (page 94).

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  • Capitalize Indigenous, First Nations, Native, Inuit, Métis 
  • Capitalize traditional Indigenous titles when preceding a name – Elder Francis Whiskeyjack. Lower-case when standing alone. Exception: Documents for Indigenous communities or related to Braiding Past, Present and Future capitalize these titles in all references, much like CP style capitalizes “the Pope.” Example: We thank the Elders and Knowledge Keepers/Holders. 
  • Capitalize important concepts of traditional knowledge (see Common Words A-Z for guidance).
  • Note that some Indigenous nations and organizations do not capitalize their names. Example: shíshálh Nation, amiskwaciy Academy
  • There is room for flexibility in U of A style depending on the audience and the goals of the publication. As suggested by Gregory Younging in Elements of Indigenous Style: “Consider whether the term relates to Indigenous identity, institutions or rights — in which case, capitalization is probably in order (page 77).” Consult with the source or an editor and be consistent in applying that editorial decision.

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  • The “Doctrine of Discovery” emanates from a series of papal bulls (formal statements from the Pope) and extensions, originating in the 1400s. It was used as legal and moral justification for colonial powers to claim and exploit the land, regardless of the original inhabitants. “This was invalidly based on the presumed racial superiority of European Christian peoples and was used to dehumanize, exploit and subjugate Indigenous Peoples and dispossess us of our most basic rights.” (Assembly of First Nations, “Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery,” January 2018)
  • The Doctrine of Occupation relies on terra nullius, which means roughly “land that belongs to no one” in Latin. The concept of terra nullius has been used — and continues to be used — in legal disputes in various colonized countries to argue in favour of settlers’ right to the land. 
  • Various court rulings in Canada, including by the Supreme Court of Canada, have recently disputed the Doctrine of Discovery, Doctrine of Occupation and terra nullius and recognized Indigenous title. (“Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery”) 
  • In March 2023, the Vatican repudiated the papal bulls: “In no uncertain terms, the Church’s magisterium upholds the respect due to every human being. The Catholic Church therefore repudiates those concepts that fail to recognize the inherent human rights of Indigenous peoples, including what has become known as the legal and political ‘Doctrine of Discovery.’ ” 

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Land and Treaties

There are many types of agreements — and disagreements — involving the traditional lands of Indigenous Peoples in what is now called Canada. The recognition of Indigenous rights related to these lands continues to be a source of grievance, resulting in ongoing land claims negotiations and legal challenges. The following list gives a quick overview but is not comprehensive. (This federal government web page provides an overview but note that it does not necessarily reflect Indigenous ways of thinking.)  

  • There are 11 numbered treaties in what is now Canada, negotiated and signed between 1871-1921. They cover areas from Ontario to Alberta as well as parts of British Columbia and the Northwest Territories. (
  • Treaties 6, 7 and 8 cover most of the territory that is now called Alberta. Treaties 4 and 10 also cover portions of the province. Note that the university also has research stations in other treaty areas. Capitalize “Treaty” when referring to specific treaties; lowercase in general.
  • Aside from the numbered treaties, there are other kinds of treaties, land agreements and unceded (never surrendered) territories involving Indigenous Peoples. Examples include:
    • The Peace and Friendship Treaties in the Maritimes ended hostilities between the British and First Nations to create alliances against the French. 
    • Unceded territories – Lands claimed by Indigenous groups as traditional territory that have never been formally negotiated between First Nations and the Government of Canada. 
    • Urban treaties – newer negotiations for areas that didn’t have long-standing treaty agreements in place.
  • Metis Settlements – The Alberta-Metis Settlements Accord (1989) established the first Metis self-government in Canada. It encompasses eight communities in what is now called Alberta (see Métis above).
  • Map of First Nations and Metis Settlements (Government of Alberta)

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Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

In 2016, the federal government of Canada established a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The inquiry held 15 community hearings across the country and heard from 2,386 survivors, family members, knowledge keepers and other experts. The final report, with 231 calls for justice, was delivered and the inquiry closed in 2019. (Note that the inquiry encompasses the 2SLGBTQ+ community.)

  • Final report: Reclaiming Power and Place, executive summary – The final report points to “persistent and deliberate human and Indigenous rights violations and abuses [as] the root cause behind Canada’s staggering rates of violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people.” It notes related factors included multigenerational and intergenerational trauma and marginalization in the form of poverty, insecure housing or homelessness and barriers to education, employment, health care and cultural support.
  • “Colonization has jeopardized Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA people’s rights to culture, health, security, and justice in distinct, though related ways, when compared to the experiences of Indigenous men and boys.” (Reclaiming Power and Place, executive summary, page 17)
  • Only two of the inquiry’s 231 calls to justice were fully implemented by June 2023, according to the CBC’s “Mother. Sister. Daughter” project.
  • MMIWG – the acronym is commonly used but spell out on first reference:
    • capitalize and spell out when referring to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
    • spell out in lowercase as a generic term: missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
    • MMIWG is acceptable in headlines (The Canadian Press).
    • Note that the national inquiry has expanded to include the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

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Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was established as part of a legal settlement, the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, with the mandate to inform all Canadians about the history and continued impact of residential schools. (National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation)

  • Indian Residential School System – Over more than 150 years, 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation children were taken from their families and communities to attend church- and government-run residential schools and day schools. 
  • TRC reports and findings – At public hearings across the country, the TRC commissioners (including Cree chief and U of A grad Willie Littlechild) heard from survivors, their families, members of their communities, former staff of residential schools and others. The final reports were completed in 2015. The commission concluded that the schools were “a systematic, government-sponsored attempt to destroy Aboriginal cultures and languages” and characterized this intent as “cultural genocide.” (National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation)
    • What We Have Learned – summary of the history and legacy of Indian Residential School System
    • The Survivors Speak – excerpts from survivors’ statements
    • Calls to Action – 94 Calls to Action related to all sectors of Canadian society, including post-secondary institutions and media
  • National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation – the centre maintains the stories, research and materials collected by the TRC and continues the work that was started.
  • Unmarked graves and burial sites – an estimated 3,000 to 6,000 children are estimated to have died at residential schools, many of them buried in unmarked graves. As of September 2023, the national centre had registered more than 4,000 confirmed names of children who died. “The question of what happened to their loved ones and where they were laid to rest has haunted families and communities,” the TRC final report notes. 
    • Do not use “discovered” when referring to unmarked graves on former residential school sites. Use “confirmed” or a similar word given that Indigenous communities have known of the graves’ existence for a long time. Note: they are not mass graves, as is sometimes erroneously reported.

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United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

  • Adopted by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2006, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) emphasizes the rights of Indigenous Peoples worldwide to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations. 
  • The Government of Canada committed to the declaration’s principles in June 2022, setting out Canada’s obligation to uphold the human rights, including treaty and inherent rights, of Indigenous Peoples. These include the right of self-determination and the right to have treaties respected and enforced. (Assembly of First Nations)

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Common Words A-Z

Note: For additional information on terminology and terms to avoid, see Chapter 6: Terminology in Elements of Indigenous Style, available through U of A Libraries with a CCID.

Aboriginal – avoid unless the individual or group prefers it or it’s in a proper name or quote. 

artifact – avoid. Use “cultural materials.” Artifact implies the object exists in the past and negates its current meaning in living cultures. (Elements of Indigenous Style)

band council – used only to describe First Nations leadership that operates under the Indian Act. Some nations have self-government agreements. Check the correct terminology. (Elements of Indigenous Style)

Braiding Past, Present and Future: University of Alberta Indigenous Strategic Plan an Indigenous-led, five-year plan published in 2022 that articulates goals, strategies and timelines to move the university toward reconciliation in post-secondary education and research. 

Calls to Action – capitalize in order to distinguish from the generic term; the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released 94 Calls to Action in its 2015 report on the Indian Residential School System.

Canadian Indigenous Languages and Literacy Development Institute (CILLDI) – a U of A institute; in general references, lowercase “Indigenous language revitalization.” (Also see Supporting Indigenous Language Revitalization)

colonialism/colonization – the domination of one country or people by another through violence to gain political control, occupy the land with settlers and exploit it economically. The impact of colonization on cultures, languages, religions and economies continues today. (Oxfam Inclusive Language Guide) Also see Colonization above.

cultural appropriation – when members of a majority group adopt cultural elements of a minority group in an exploitative, disrespectful or stereotypical way ( In Indigenous cultures, certain items such as an eagle feather or a headdress are sacred or must be earned or passed on. If you are not sure whether it’s appropriate to use or wear an item or take part in a ceremony, ask someone from that culture. (Indigenous Writes by Chelsea Vowel) 

Creation/the Creator – capitalize

decolonization (in relation to Indigenous Peoples) – repudiating the racist justifications and dismantling the colonial structures aimed at disenfranchising Indigenous Peoples of their legal, social, cultural, religious and ethnic rights; reclaiming Indigenous identify, language culture and worldviews. (Braiding Past, Present and Future)

discover/discovery – do not use to describe the arrival of Europeans or in reference to gravesites at residential schools. (See unmarked graves below) Indigenous Peoples were not discovered and Indigenous communities have long known about the unmarked graves at Indian Residential Schools.

Doctrine of Discovery – see “Colonization” above

elder/Elder – capitalize when used as an honorific directly preceding a name, i.e., Elder Tom Smith. Lowercase as a descriptor, similar to professor, dean, prime minister or reverend. Exception: capitalize Elder as a standalone word in documents for Indigenous communities, similar to The Canadian Press editorial style for the Pope. An elder/Elder is “a man or woman whose wisdom about spirituality, culture and/or life is recognized by the community. Elders can be any age although they generally have many years of experience.” (Assembly of First Nations) 

FNMI – spell out First Nations, Métis and Inuit. Some groups and individuals prefer this term rather than “Indigenous” – use their preference.

IBPOC – U of A style rather than BIPOC to note the precedence of Indigenous Peoples but avoid using either acronym. If an acronym is used in a quote or headline, explain it in the lead or as close to the reference as possible.

II+EDI – an acronym for internal U of A use only. It stands for Indigenous Initiatives and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

Indian – use only if it’s preferred by an individual or community or it’s part of a proper noun (e.g., the Indian Act). It’s sometimes used by older Indigenous folks who grew up with the term.

Indian Act – the principal law through which the federal government, since 1876, administers Indian status, local First Nations governments and the management of reserve land and communal monies. The act does not include Métis or Inuit peoples. The legislation has a long and troubled history and is controversial among Indigenous Peoples. (page 69, Elements of Indigenous Style, Canadian Encyclopedia, Assembly of First Nations)

Indian Residential School System – use full name in first reference. (See more under Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, above)

indigenization – lowercase; to incorporate Indigenous worldviews, knowledge and perspectives into non-Indigenous educational, political and social structures

Indigenous language revitalization – lowercase in general references. Note: Supporting Indigenous Language Revitalization is a U of A initiative that supports a number of language revitalization programs through the Canadian Indigenous Languages and Literacy Development Institute.

Indigenous Ways of Knowing, Being and Doing – Indigenous understandings, practices and modes of learning from the people, animals and plant nations and the holistic viewpoints that take into account the whole person (mind, body, spirit) and the connection to people, lands and living things. (Source: Braiding Past, Present and Future: University of Alberta Indigenous Strategic Plan)

in-power, in-powering – this term was chosen deliberately in Braiding Past, Present and Future: University of Alberta Indigenous Strategic Plan as opposed to “empower,” which implies another entity gives power. In-power is intended to indicate that the skills and strengths needed for individual and collective success already reside in Indigenous Peoples and communities. 

intergenerational trauma – the trauma experienced and inherited through generations. Research has found that trauma can be passed down genetically through changes in DNA expression, socially through traumatic events affecting social interactions, or structurally through the continued marginalization of the traumatized groups. Intergenerational trauma has been found to affect the families of holocaust survivors, residential school survivors, refugees and other groups who experienced traumatic events. (Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion)

Inuk, Inuit – Inuk refers to one person (noun or adjective); Inuit is plural (noun or adjective).

Inuit – Inuit means “people,” so it’s redundant to say Inuit people. Ideally, identify the place or community.

knowledge keeper/Knowledge Keeper/Knowledge Holder – capitalize when preceding a name; lower-case when standing alone. Exception: capitalize in documents for Indigenous communities or related to Braiding Past, Present and Future.

land title versus land claim – use “land title” instead of “land claim,” which implies that Indigenous Peoples have to apply for ownership rather than having inherent ownership. (Elements of Indigenous Style, page 57)

legends, mythology, myths, ritual, tales – avoid. They imply Indigenous history and practices are not as legitimate as Western practices. Correct: “oral traditions” or “traditional stories.” (See oral traditions below)

Métis – the accent is the preferred U of A style, but not all organizations use it in their proper names; check the website or with the source.

MMIWG – capitalize and spell out when referring to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (see more detail above). MMIWG is acceptable in headlines (The Canadian Press). Note that the inquiry has expanded its work to include the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

Native – use only in proper names or if it’s the preference of an Indigenous person or community

on-reserve, off-reserve – don’t use these terms unless they’re the preference of the individual

oral traditions – the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 1997 that oral traditions are on equal footing with other types of historical evidence.

powwow (noun and verb) – dancing is a form of prayer and respect for the Creator. The many styles of dancing, regalia and adornments represent historical and cultural events and teachings. (Assembly of First Nations glossary)

reconciliation – the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) defines reconciliation as an ongoing process of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships between Indigenous Peoples, the state and non-Indigenous peoples. (Braiding Past, Present and Future, page 14)

Red River Resistance of 1869-70; Riel Resistance of 1885 – the word “resistance” is preferred over “rebellion,” which is an inaccurate term for these events. As Gregory Younging explains, “the word resistance as opposed to rebellion … allows for the idea of opposition to an invading force, which captures the situation of the Métis and Cree at Red River and at Batoche more accurately.” (Indigenous Elements of Style, page 89)

regalia – traditional Indigenous dress; don’t use costume or outfit

reserve – avoid; use First Nation, community or the term used by the source. Don’t use reservation, which is an American term.

residential schools – use Indian Residential School System in first reference (see Truth and Reconciliation Commission above).

settler colonialism – a network of laws, policies, structures and practices that perpetuates the erasure and elimination of Indigenous Peoples as a precondition for the expropriation of land and the permanent occupation of European settlers. (U of A Foundations of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion)

stakeholders – avoid. This word has negative, colonial connotations to many Indigenous Peoples, related to the allotment of land to settlers. Seek alternative wording that is specific to the situation. Examples: interested groups, advisers, collaborators, consultants, co-owners, contributors, community members, coalition members, advocacy groups, working partners, clients or funders (Centers for Disease Control)

Status Indian – people who have certain rights under the federal Indian Act (see Indian Act above). Rarely necessary to use it but if you do, clarify that it means “Status Indian under the Indian Act.” 

Sun Dance – capitalize 

terra nullius – See Colonization above

treaty/Treaty – capitalize “Treaty” when referring to specific treaties, e.g., Treaty 6. Lowercase in general usage. (See Land and Treaties above)

tribe, tribal – use caution. Still used in some cases (e.g., Blood Tribe, tribal police and in the United States) but in general not appropriate. (Indigenous Elements of Style)

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada – TRC is acceptable in second reference and headlines Note: The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation ( continues to carry out reconciliation work and provide resources.

two spirit – a term specific to Indigenous gender and sexually diverse individuals. Common abbreviation is 2S. Some individuals prefer two spirited. Note: Not all identify as two spirit; always ask a person’s preference.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) – spell out in first reference (see more above).

unmarked graves – use “confirmed” rather than terms such as “discovered” in reference to residential schools in Canada; Indigenous communities have known of the graves’ existence for a long time. Note: they are not mass graves, as is sometimes erroneously reported. (See Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada above)

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