Indigenous People of Manitoba, Canada

In Manitoba, indigenous people account for 15 percent of the population or over 175,000 people as of 2006.


Indigenous people inhabited the territory of Manitoba since after the last glacial period. Archeological findings testify to this, including animal and fish bones, pictographs, arrow heads, and pottery. Aboriginal people planted seed crops and engaged in subsistence hunting.

The French arrived in Manitoba in the early 17th century and started trading with different Metis communities. Great Britain won the Seven Year’s War against France in 1763, and the first Anglo settlements were founded in 1812. The Province of Manitoba was officially created in 1870 under the Manitoba Act. The monarch of Canada concluded the Post-Confederation or Numbered Treaties with the First Nations people in the late 19th and early 20th century. However, indigenous communities were not allocated the amount of land they agreed on and were left with no means to make a living.

Indigenous Communities in Manitoba

Metis and Inuit people live in Manitoba as well as five First Nations communities, including Dakota, Oji-Cree, Ojibway, Denesuline, and Cree. Dakota traditionally lived in teepees or cone-shaped tents and subsisted on hunting and harvesting. Today, they engage in some traditional occupations such as resource exploiting, cattle ranching, woodworking, and commercial farming. Oji-Cree communities inhabit the Island Lake area, and their culture and belief system combines elements of the Cree and Ojibway traditions and culture. Today, Oji-Cree face problems such as lack of access to education and adequate housing. Ojibway communities live in southern Manitoba and are known for Maple syrup, copper trading, birch bark scrolls, and birch bark canoes. Denesuline communities live in Manitoba, Alberta, the Northwest Territories, and Saskatchewan. Traditionally Dene depended on subsistence hunting and trapping, and today many seek to revive traditional subsistence practices. The Cree live in Northern Manitoba and traditionally depended on hunting and trapping for subsistence. Today, many engage in trapping and hunting of animals such as rabbit, caribou, and mouse. There are also Inuit communities in Manitoba that traditionally depended on fishing, subsistence hunting, and gathering of berries and nuts. Forceful relocations occurred in the 1940s and today, many Inuit face problems such as lack of access to quality health services, inadequate living conditions, and high cost of living. Metis communities also live in Manitoba and mainly in Winnipeg. The Metis traditionally subsisted on farming, bison hunting, fur trading, and goods transportation. Today, many communities face problems such as inadequate housing, lower educational status, and a higher unemployment rate compared to non-Aboriginal Canadians.

Prospects for Indigenous People

First Nations, Metis, and Inuit communities face many problems such as poverty, marginalization, and lack of access to essential services and health facilities. They also face problems such as pollution and contamination with mercury, arsenic, and other hazardous substances. Mental illness, substance abuse, violence, and self-harm are also more common than in the non-aboriginal cohort. This makes aboriginal people disadvantaged to the rest of Canada. Different strategies have been used to improve the socio-economic status of indigenous people, including top-down funding. Truly, aboriginal people have made considerable gains over the last decades but there is still a long way to go toward equality and social inclusion. Policymakers should direct their efforts toward quality education, training, healthcare, and infrastructure.

Indigenous communities will benefit from funding toward an improved access to healthcare facilities, better infrastructure, adequate housing, and school enrolment and professional training. The preservation of cultural heritage and traditions is also essential as many indigenous people face identity crisis and lose confidence and self-esteem. And while government funding can play an important part to this end, self-governments should have a proactive role in building institutions and local economies. It is also important that self-governments participate in decision making at the provincial, territorial, and federal levels, especially in indigenous matters. Settlement of land claims is also the key to empowering aboriginal communities.

Indigenous Population of Canada

Aboriginal people include Inuit, Metis, and First Nations populations that live across Canada. The 2016 Census of Population shows that 1,673,785 people identify as indigenous, of whom 65,025 as Inuit, 977,230 as First Nations, and 587,545 as Metis.


The Inuit live in Quebec, Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Traditionally women took care of the home and looked after children while men were fishermen and hunters. They fished for whitefish and char and hunted for seal, muskox, and caribou. Today, Inuit participate in the labor force as they need money to buy ATVs, boats, and cars, buy groceries, etc. Some 58.8 percent of all Inuit are employed, and 77.6 percent of persons with a degree or high school diploma are in the workforce. Lack of formal education and experience are the main reasons for the high level of unemployment, together with shortage of work. Most work positions are part-time or temporary. Many Inuit are unwilling to move to the North which offers better employment opportunities. Financial problems (see here), credit problems (see here) and economic insecurity (see here) contribute to juvenile delinquency and drug and alcohol abuse among youth. Few young men engage in hunting and trapping, and many young Inuit are looking for better paid positions in fields such as nursing, teaching, welding, equipment operation, and carpentry.

First Nations

First Nations people are scattered across Canada, in provinces such as Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Alberta. There are hundreds of ethnic groups such as Tuscarora, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Mohawk in Ontario, Nisga'a, Tsimshian, and Gitxsan in British Columbia. Local economies were traditionally based on harvesting, trading, and hunting. Today, many communities face economic insecurity due to the depletion of natural resources, contamination, and shortage of work. A little over 57 percent of First Nations people participate in the labor force, and over 73 percent of people with a degree or high school diploma are employed. Many communities face socio-economic problems such as economic marginalization, poverty, lack of access to resources, and isolation. First Nations people also lack access to quality health care and are at a higher risk of developing serious conditions such as diabetes 2 and tuberculosis. Suicide rates are also higher than for non-First Nations people, and living conditions are often inadequate.


Metis people represent 1.7 percent of Canada's population and mainly live in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. The Metis National Council consists of five organizations, among which the Métis Nation of Ontario, Manitoba Métis Federation. These organizations work to represent local communities and to lobby the government. But while indigenous communities have provincial organizations, they still face economic insecurity and social problems. Some 71.2 percent of Metis participate in the labor force. Employment opportunities are mainly available in energy projects, logging, and commercial fishing. Metis also have a lower-socio economic status compared to non-indigenous Canadians and face problems such as poor health, lower educational attainment and income, and poor housing conditions. Wage and salary earnings are lower compared to non-Aboriginal people. In fact, close to 31 percent of aboriginal people fall below the poverty line while a little over 16 percent of non-indigenous Canadians are below the low income cut-off.

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