Heritage and Traditions

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The Three Nations

"Aboriginal Peoples" is a collective name for the original peoples of North America and their descendants.  Aboriginal Peoples in Canada consist of three Aboriginal groups:

First Nations

First Nations are the 'original peoples' of North America.

First Nations people identify themselves by the tribe they belong to. The Mowhawk, Cree, Huron, Ojibwa and Iroquois are some of the more commonly-known First Nations tribes in Ontario.

Most First Nations live in First Nations communities also known as 'reserves.' There are 614 First Nations communities in Canada including 134 in Ontario.


The word Inuit comes from Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit peoples. For many centuries, the Inuit were called Eskimos. (The term Eskimo is not an Inuit word and is no longer acceptable when referring to Inuit peoples.)

The Inuit have used their knowledge and skills to live in and survive harsh weather and environmental conditions that are common in Northern Canada. They have lived across Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, Labrador and Northern Quebec for more than 4,000 years.

Some Inuit celebrate the coming of spring with an annual Spring Festival called Hamlet Days.  During Hamlet Days Inuit children take a break from school to celebrate the arrival of sunshine and warm weather.


The Métis are descendants of European fur traders and settlers who married First Nations peoples. Fiercely independent, the Métis were instrumental in the development of Western Canada.

The Métis have their own unique culture, traditions and way of life. Some Métis speak Michif, a blend of French and other Aboriginal languages.

Métis living in Ontario celebrate Louis Riel Day each year on November 16. Louis Riel Day not only commemorates the life of Louis Riel - the leader of the Métis and the founder of the province of Manitoba - but also celebrates the Métis culture, language, heritage and ancestral homeland.

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