‘Aboriginal’ or ‘Indigenous’?
Over time the terminology to refer to the Indigenous Peoples in Canada has evolved. Since the 1980’s, the term ‘Aboriginal’ was the most accepted term, however many leaders and Elders of Indigenous communities felt that the term failed to fully recognize the diversity of Indigenous communities (Indigenous Innovations, 2017). Further to this, the ‘ab’ in Aboriginal translates to ‘away from’ or ‘not’ so this term fails to acknowledge the presence of Indigenous Peoples on the land prior to European settlers. In contrast, the term ‘Indigenous’ originates from the Latin word indigena, which translates to ‘sprung from the land’ (Bob, 2016) which emphasizes the legality of Indigenous Peoples’ land claims, autonomy, rights and treatment.
While Indigenous is the most culturally appropriate blanket term currently, Indigenous groups, like the Mi’kmaq (L’nu’k) or Wolastoqivik prefer to be called by their specific Nation’s name, which helps highlight the many unique languages and cultural practices associated with each individual Nation. As we become more aware of a specific Nation’s language and protocol, it is most respectful to follow their lead in how they would prefer to be called. If one does not know, it is highly encouraged to ask members of the Nation (personal communication, John R Sylliboy, April 7, 2021). For a more detailed explanation of the use of the terms click here.