The glossary provides further explanation of related terms that are mentioned both in the exhibition and in the videos.Language is always in motion. A lot of research is being done into Canada’s colonial past, how that past affects the present, and how we as a society can best deal with it. These concepts and their meaning are therefore not cast in concrete.


Here, the term Indigenous refers to the first inhabitants of the territories now known as Canada. Indigenous groups include First Nations, Inuit and Métis.

First Nations, Inuit en Métis

These are umbrella terms for groups of Indigenous people. First Nations refers to the ethnicity of First Nations peoples in the territories now known as Canada. First Nations people started using this term in the 1970s to avoid the colonial term ‘Indians’. The singular ‘First Nation’ refers to a specific band, reservationbased community, or larger group of people living on a reserve. For example, Anishinaabe is the name of a First Nation, and this Nation is in turn divided into different peoples, each with its own name. Inuit refers to groups of Indigenous people that are native to Greenland, Alaska, and northern Canada. Inuk is the singular of Inuit and refers to a single person. The Inuit are also subdivided into different peoples with their own names. In the territories now known as Canada, Métis refers to a collective of cultures and ethnic identities resulting from ties between Indigenous peoples and Europeans. The term is generally used in regions formerly colonised by France, and can also be defined more broadly as ‘mixed-race’. The term has general and specific uses, and the differences between them are often controversial.

Indian Act

Introduced in 1876, the Indian Act includes colonial laws aimed at eradicating First Nations culture in favour of Euro-Canadian society. The law has since been amended several times. It is a paradoxical document that is, nowadays, being adjusted at the request of both First Nations and the Canadian government. Today, the document is used by the Canadian government to manage First Nations governments and reserve land. The government’s duties to the First Nations are also set out in the document. Although the Indian Act historically only concerned (a part of) the First Nations, today the law also applies to Inuit and Métis in specific cases.

Residential Schools

A school system developed under the Indian Act. For attending the Residential Schools, Indigenous children were taken from their families. Their aim was to destroy their culture, and to subject them to the dominant Euro-Canadian culture. Over the course of the system’s more than 100 years of existence, approximately 150,000 children were placed in these schools. Many children did not survive the Residential School system. The discovery of anonymous mass graves at Residential Schools has been widely reported in the international media over the past months. Although they are referred to as recent discoveries, both Indigenous communities and the Canadian government have known about the graves’ existence for decades. The exact number of deaths remains unclear due to false records. The last Residential School closed in 1996.


In this context, to whitewash is to alter in a way that favours, features, or caters to white people.


The potlatch is a ceremony practiced by several First Nation peoples. It primarily serves to redistribute wealth, to grant status and rank to individuals and related groups, and to claim rights to hunting and fishing grounds. While the practice and formality of the ceremony differs among First Nation peoples, it is often held on the occasion of important social events, such as weddings, births, and funerals. A large potlatch can last for several days and involves partying, dancing, singing and theatre. The federal Canadian government banned the potlatch between 1884 and 1951 under the Indian Act. When the ban was lifted, many traditional identities were damaged and social relationships disrupted. Today, however, there are still several First Nation peoples who proudly continue to practice the potlatch.


Regalia are traditional and often sacred garments and accessories that are worn and used during various ceremonies, such as the potlatch.

See also