Get to know the Indigenous Peoples of Manitoba

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Winnipeg has the biggest Indigenous population in Canada

  1. Manitoba is located in the traditional territories of:
    • Cree
    • Dakota
    • Dene
    • Ojibway
    • Oji-Cree First Nations
    • Metis nation
  2. Winnipeg is located in Treaty 1 territory.
  3. Winnipeg has the biggest Indigenous population of any city in Canada.
  4. There are 63 First Nations in Manitoba. This includes six of the 20 largest bands in Canada (Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada).
  5. There are five First Nations linguistic groups:
    • Cree
    • Ojibway
    • Dakota
    • Ojibway-Cree
    • Dene

First Nations, Indigenous, or Aboriginal?

  1. The Indigenous Peoples is made up of more than one group.
  2. There are three major groups of Indigenous peoples in Canada:
    • First Nations
    • Inuit
    • Metis
    • Each group has its own language (or languages), culture and beliefs.
  3. We call them Indigenous Peoples collectively.
  4. Aboriginal Peoples was the collective noun used in the Constitution Act of 1982. It may be acceptable to some groups.
  5. Never use the terms Aboriginal or Aboriginals.
  6. Many prefer to use Indigenous Peoples rather than Aboriginal Peoples.

First Nations

  1. Indigenous peoples who are neither Metis nor Inuit belong to First Nations.
  2. First Nations people can be status and non-status.
  3. A single First Nation band is called “First Nation community”.
  4. The First Nations communities in Manitoba:
    • Cree

      – four groups of Cree:

      • Plains Cree (Central Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta)
      • Woods Cree (Northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan)
      • Swampy Cree (Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec)
      • Rocky Cree (Manitoba)
    • Cree communities were based on the principles of cooperation and respect for the land.
    • Cree believe that everything (living and non-living) is dependent on each other. Everything must be respected.
    • The Cree language is the most widely spoken Indigenous language in Canada.
    • The name Winnipeg came from the Cree word for muddy water.
    • There are 23 Cree communities across Northern Manitoba today.
    • Denesuline (Dene)

      – They are one of the groups that make up the Dene Nation.

    • The Dene people are one the largest First Nations groups living in the subarctic region.
    • Their territory spans the western part of the Northwest Territories and the Northern part of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
    • Dene people have great respect for nature.
    • They believe that the land is alive. Everything is sacred.
    • Playing Drum Songs is their sacred tradition. The songs are used for praying, healing and seeing into the future.
    • Ojibway –

      The Ojibway have communities in the southern part of Manitoba.

      • There are two main groups:
        • Plains Ojibway. They traditionally depend on bison hunting.
        • Woodland Ojibway. They survive by hunting, fishing and gathering.
      • Ojibway have a sacred connection to their land. They see it as a gift from the Great Spirit. It belongs to everyone in their tribe.
      • The Ojibway live by the Seven Sacred Teachings: love, respect, courage, honesty, wisdom, humility, and truth.
      • They have traditional rites:
        • Sweat lodge ceremony. It is done to purify, heal and pray.
        • Pow-wow celebrations. Many people gather to sing, drum, dance, eat and celebrate.
        • They used to live in traditional homes called wigwams. Wigwams are dome-shaped houses. It is made of wooden poles, rush mats and birch barks.
    • Oji-Cree

      – This group is a mix of Ojibway and Cree culture, language and tradition.

      • Four Oji-Cree communities live in the Island Lake region in the Northeast part of Manitoba.
      • Each community has a different blend of Ojibway and Cree culture.
      • They call their language the Island Lakes Dialect.
    • Dakota

      – There are five Dakota communities living in Southern Manitoba.

    • The Dakota lived by hunting. They started gardening and raising animals when they reached Manitoba.
    • Their spiritual beliefs centered on the “wakan”. It is a spiritual force, power and sacredness.
    • They have a great bond with nature. They regard it with utmost respect.
    • The Dakota people have traditional ceremonies. They hold sweat lodges, vision quests, and the sun dances.
    • They used to live in teepees. These are large tents made out of buffalo skin.


  1. There is a growing Inuit population in Winnipeg.
  2. The Inuit lived in the Arctic for thousands of years.
  3. Many Inuits live in Nunavut, followed by Northern Quebec, the Northwest Territories and Yukon.
  4. They were called Eskimos in the past. It is no longer respectful to call them by this name.
  5. The Inuits (an Inuit person is known as an Inuk) believe that all things have a spirit that must be respected.
  6. The Inuit also have a strong connection with nature. They have celebrations that revolve around nature and the seasons.
  7. They are known for their art forms such as drumming, throat singing and carving.
  8. Many Inuits practice Christianity today.


  1. The word Métis comes from a French term meaning “mixed”.
  2. Métis people have European and Indigenous parentage.
  3. The most well-known Métis population live in Winnipeg (the Red River region).
  4. The founder of Manitoba, Louis Riel, was a Métis.
  5. Their language called is Michif. It is a mix of French and Indigenous languages.
  6. Their distinct culture combines Indigenous and European qualities.
  7. They are known for fine beadwork, fiddling and jigging (a dance).
  8. Some Métis practice Indigenous spiritual beliefs. Others practice Christian religions (Catholic, Anglican, Methodist and Protestant). Many settlements had churches.

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