Indigenous Peoples

Date adopted: 
May 21, 2021
Last update: 
November 23, 2023

Terminology matters. In Canada’s history, terminology has been used in hurtful and derogatory ways that have caused harm to Indigenous individuals and communities. The Yukon government strives to be respectful and accurate in our language. Using appropriate terminology conveys recognition of these harms and respect and is an important aspect of reconciliation.

The basics

Use the terminology that’s preferred by the Indigenous government or group.  If you aren’t sure about their preferences, ask them.

  • Avoid possessive language that implies ownership. For example, “Yukon’s First Nations”.
  • Pay attention to capitalization. Many terms are proper nouns or legal terms. Capitalization also indicates respect.
  • Be specific. Use the most specific term, rather than a generic term, whenever you can.
  • Acknowledge diversity. Use plurals to indicate you are aware of diversity. For example, peoples, nations, cultures, histories, perspectives.
  • Use present tense. Indigenous Peoples exist right now. Only use past tense for things that are historical.
  • Emphasize strength. Use language that resonates with strength and empowerment, rather than need and deficiency.
  • Avoid stereotypes and outdated language.

Indigenous or Aboriginal            

The terms “Indigenous” and “Aboriginal” both refer collectively to the three groups (First Nations, Inuit and Métis) recognized in the Constitution of Canada. “Indigenous” is emerging as a preferred term, but you may use “Aboriginal” if:

  • it’s the preference of a group;
  • you’re quoting a document that uses the term;
  • there’s a legal reason to use the term; or
  • it’s part of a proper name.

Use the term “Indigenous” or “Aboriginal” only when you’re referring to groups that could include a mixture of First Nations, Inuit and Métis governments or Citizens. Otherwise use the more specific term. For example, First Nations, Yukon First Nations, Southern Tutchone, Inuvialuit, Selkirk First Nation.

First Nations

First Nations collectively make up the largest category of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. First Nation and First Nations are terms that came into common use in the 1970s to replace the word “Indian” which many people find offensive. The people covered by this term include “Status” and “non-Status” individuals which refer to whether the person is entitled to register under the federal Indian Act. There are 14 Yukon First Nations and several transboundary First Nations who have traditional territory in the Yukon. 

Not: Indian, Native 

But: First Nations

The term First Nations can refer to governments, groups or individuals. Make sure it’s clear which meaning you intend when you use the term.

Pluralization

The term First Nations is plural when we use it as an adjective and singular or plural when we use it as a noun. Use the plural form to indicate that there are many separate nations in the Yukon and across Canada. Some First Nations use pluralization in their names to indicate more than one nation within their government.

Not: First Nation governments, First Nation languages, Indigenous government, Champagne and Aishihik First Nation

But: First Nations governments, First Nations languages, Indigenous governments, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations

Inuit

Inuit are the Indigenous Peoples of the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (the Northwest Territories, Yukon), Nunavut, Nunavik (Northern Quebec) and Nunatsiavut (Northern Labrador). The Inuvialuit are an Inuit group with treaty rights in northern Yukon.

Use “Inuit” (plural) or “Inuk” (singular). Use “Inuvialuit” (plural) or “Inuvialuk” (singular).

The translation of “Inuit” is “the people.” Therefore, it’s redundant to add “people” after “Inuit.”

Métis

The Métis emerged as a distinct Indigenous group in the late 18th century, in fur-trade linked communities in Manitoba, Saskatchewan Alberta and parts of Ontario, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories. First Nations women and European fur traders had children together and then that population of mixed ancestry individuals intermarried and formed culturally unique communities, resulting in a new and distinct Indigenous group. There are people of Métis heritage living in the Yukon, but there is no record of historical Métis communities here except the Dene Métis people of the Acho Dene Koe First Nation who assert traditional territory in Southern Yukon.

Use “Métis” to refer to people who identify as Métis, are of historical Métis Nation ancestry and who are accepted by the Métis Nation. Do not use the term Métis as a generic term for individuals of mixed Indigenous and non-Indigenous descent.

Governance

Indigenous people are rights-holders with constitutionally protected Indigenous rights. Most often they’re represented by an elected government (for example, the Vuntut Gwichin Government), but in some cases, they choose to be represented by a not-for-profit corporation (for example, Gwich’in Tribal Council, Tetlit Gwich’in Council and Inuvialuit Regional Corporation). This is why we sometimes use the inclusive term “Indigenous governments and groups”. We refer to all Indigenous governments as “governments” whether they have a treaty or not.

Some Indigenous organizations we work with are advocacy organizations rather than governments or rights-holder representative groups. Some examples include the Council of Yukon First Nations and the Kaska Dena Council. Engaging with these organizations does not replace direct government-to-government consultation unless the Indigenous governments formally agree to be represented by the organization for the purpose of consultation.

Modern treaties and comprehensive land claim agreements

Comprehensive land claim agreements and modern treaties are different phrases that mean the same thing.

  • 11 of 14 Yukon First Nations have signed Final Agreements and Self-Government Agreements.
  • Yukon First Nations’ Final Agreements are constitutionally protected modern treaties, or comprehensive land claim agreements, that are based on the Umbrella Final Agreement. The Self-Government Agreements are additional agreements that define Yukon First Nations’ self-government powers including law-making, taxation and programs and services.
  • The Inuvialuit and the Tetlit Gwich’in, who are based in the Northwest Territories, also have modern treaties that provide for rights (and for the Tetlit Gwich’in, land) in the Yukon.

Not: non-self-governing First Nations, unsettled First Nations, non-settled First Nations, settled First Nations

But: First Nations with or without treaties, First Nations with or without Final Agreements, treaty First Nations, non-treaty First Nations

Spelling and pronunciation

If a First Nation requests a different spelling, follow their wishes. Use the full name or write “the First Nation” once you’ve established which First Nation you’re referring to.

Use “the” when you’re writing the name of a First Nations government in a sentence, the same as you would with any other government. 

Some First Nations:

  • use a plural for “Nations” in their name and others do not;
  • do not use “First Nation” in their name because their name can be translated as “the people” or “the nation”, which makes adding “First Nation” or “people” redundant; or
  • use a different name when referring to their government rather than their people.

The abbreviations are included for reference, but do not use them in public communications materials.

We have also included the pronunciation for each Yukon First Nation and transboundary group.

Yukon First Nations governments

Carcross/Tagish First Nation (C/TFN)

CAR-cross TAG-ish

Community: Carcross

Champagne and Aishihik First Nations (CAFN)

SHAM-pain and EH-she-ack

Community: Haines Junction

Kluane First Nation (KFN)

clue-AH-knee

Community: Burwash Landing

Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN)

QUAN-lin done

Community: Whitehorse

Liard First Nation (LFN)

lee-ARD

Communities: Watson Lake, Lower Post (BC)

Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation (LS/CFN)

little salmon CAR-max

Community: Carmacks

First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun (FNNND)

NA-cho nye-ack DONE

Community: Mayo

First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun refers to the government; Na-Cho Nyäk Dun or Nacho Nyak Dun refers to the nation of people.

Ross River Dena Council (RRDC)

ross River DEN-a

Community: Ross River

Selkirk First Nation (SFN)

SELL-kirk

Community: Pelly Crossing

Ta’an Kwäch’än Council (TKC)

ta-on QUAA-chaan

Community: Whitehorse

Teslin Tlingit Council (TTC)

tes-lin KLING-kit

Community: Teslin

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in (TH)

tron-DEK WITCH-in

Community: Dawson

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Government refers to the government; Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in refers to the people.

Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation (VGFN)

vun-TUT GWITCH-in

Community: Old Crow

Vuntut Gwitchin Government refers to the government; Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation refers to the people.

Gwitchin (when writing about people from Old Crow, Yukon)

Gwich’in language

Gwich’in, Gwich’in Peoples (when writing about the whole nation or Gwich’in Peoples)

White River First Nation (WRFN)

White river

Community: Beaver Creek

Transboundary Indigenous groups

Acho Dene Koe First Nation

Aa-CHO DEN-eh Co

Community: Fort Liard, NT

Gwich’in of the Northwest Territories

Gwich’in Tribal Council (GTC)

Community: Inuvik, NT

Tetlit Gwich’in Council (TGC)

TET-lit GWITCH-in

Community: Fort McPherson, NT

Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC)

In-OO-via-LOO-it

Community: Inuvik, NT

Kaska of British Columbia

Daylu Dena Council (DDC)

DDC is part of the Liard First Nation

DAY-loo DEN-a

Community: Lower Post, BC

Dease River First Nation (DRFN)

Dease River

Community: Good Hope Lake, BC

Kwadacha Nation (KN)

kwa-da-chuh

Community: Fort Ware, BC

Kaska Dena Council (KDC)

kas-KA DEN-a

Tahltan Central Government (TCG)

TALL-Tan

Communities: Dease Lake, Telegraph Creek and Iskut, BC

Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN)

Ta-KU River KLING-kit

Community: Atlin, BC

Capitalization

Capitalize names of governments, groups and languages:

  • Indigenous, Aboriginal
  • Indigenous Peoples
  • First Nations, Métis, Inuit
  • Northern Tutchone, Athabaskan

Capitalize legally defined terms:

  • Final Agreement
  • Self-Government Agreement
  • Traditional Territory (when you’re referring to specific, legally defined territories)
  • Settlement Land
  • Citizen (of a First Nation)
  • Inuvialuit Settlement Region
  • Umbrella Final Agreement
  • Formal titles such as Chief, Elder, Grand Chief

Do not capitalize general terms:

  • self-government
  • Aboriginal rights
  • treaty rights
  • transboundary First Nation
  • traditional territory (when you’re using it generally and not referring to a specific, legally defined territory)

Capitalize:

  • Survivor (when you're referring to someone impacted by the residential school system in Canada, whether directly or through intergenerational trauma)
  • Traditional Knowledge
  • “Peoples” but not “people” (“Peoples” indicates multiple distinct communities or nations, whereas “people” indicates a group of individuals – for example, “Indigenous Peoples have constitutionally protected rights in Canada” and “there were a number of Indigenous people at the meeting”)

Terms to avoid

Consider the historical connotations of the words you use and the way that language can empower or disempower the communities they refer to.

  • “Stakeholder” is a common term for those who could be impacted by a project. This term can offend Indigenous governments as they are more than “stakeholders”. They are “rights holders” whose rights are protected in the Canadian Constitution. It’s more appropriate to:
    • refer to Indigenous governments as partners or rights holders; or
    • name them specifically when they’re a group that will be engaged or consulted.  
  • “Yukon’s First Nations”, “our First Nations” and “our First Nations partners” are commonly used, but this is possessive language that indicates ownership. Instead write “Yukon First Nations”, “First Nations partners” or “in partnership with First Nations governments”.

Acknowledgments

Events and speaking notes

Include a traditional territory acknowledgment if you’re hosting an event or writing speaking notes. Acknowledge the First Nation whose home community you’re in. Remember that Whitehorse is the home community of both Kwanlin Dün First Nation and the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council.

Examples of common acknowledgments

  • I gratefully acknowledge that we are on the Traditional Territory of [First Nation].
  • I thank [First Nation] for welcoming us to their community.
  • I thank the community of [First Nation] for hosting us on their Traditional Territory.

Email signatures

Government of Yukon employees may want to acknowledge the traditional territory where they work in email signatures. If you choose to do this, some wording options include:

  • I respectfully acknowledge that I work within the Traditional Territory of [First Nation].
  • I respectfully acknowledge that I work within the traditional territories of Indigenous Peoples. (if you work throughout the territory)

Words with symbols

Some First Nations’ names contain umlauts. To access these symbols go to “insert” then “symbol” in Word.