FNMI: What’s That?
This resource was developed by Caleb Wesley in partnership with
LGBT YouthLine. LGBT YouthLine provides peer support and youth
leadership opportunities to 2SLGBTQ+ youth across Ontario.
(wâciye - wah-chay)! Hello!
Hi there! I first want to start this document by telling you
a bit about myself, the main author for this document. My
name is Caleb Wesley and I am a queer, two-spirit, cisgender
male and a member of the Moose Cree First Nation. I’m an
educator, a biologist, and someone who believes in making
change in the world around us. I want you to know that I’m
writing this from a good place and I hope this document can
help you create change in your world and also support in the
creation of safe and positive spaces across Ontario. I also
wrote the resource 2SLBGTQ+ Organizing in Schools.
The purpose of this document is to be a starting point along the journey in
learning about Indigneous folks. This document is not meant for settlers or
Indigenous folks specifically; it is a general document that anyone can use. If
you want to learn more about Indigenous folks and don’t know where to start,
hopefully this will be your guide!
Let’s first begin by thinking about what we know and what we want to know.
Fill out the space below, answering “what do I know about Indigenous folks”.
What do I know?
Many in Canada today are willing to learn about Indigenous people, but one of
the common threads I’ve noticed is that many either don’t know where to begin or
they are scared to begin because of fear. They may be fearful of the information
they will find, and/or fearful of making mistakes and offending others.. We are
going to have to be honest with ourselves and acknowledge what we do and
don’t know (You hopefully just did!). You should also know that along this journey
you will make mistakes or feel uncomfortable, which is just a sign that you are
doing actual learning and may be on the right track.
Let’s begin by creating a baseline understanding of who we’re talking about:
Indigenous and settler folks. Below is a section defining Indigenous, First Nations,
Inuit, Métis, Mixed, and Settler people groups.
Indigenous First Nations
Refers to anyone who traditionally Someone who is a member of a
occupied a territory that is threatened particular Nation or community within a
by colonization. It may be considered Nation. Some Indigenous people have
more inclusive than terms like used it to replace the word ‘band.’ The
‘Aboriginal’ because it looks at term specifically excludes Métis and
common experiences rather than legal Inuit peoples. In some cases, it can
status or designation. In a Canadian be used to imply legal designation of
context, Indigenous refers to people Indian, but the term ‘First Nations’ has
who are First Nations, Inuit, Métis, and no legal definition.
mixed Indigenous background.
Indigenous people in northern Canada,
Métis Peoples are people of mixed living mainly in Nunavut, Northwest
Indigenous and European ancestry. Territories, northern Quebec and
The Métis National Council adopted Labrador. Ontario has a small Inuit
the following definition of “Métis” in population. They have their own
2002: “Métis” means a person who distinct language and culture from First
self-identifies as Métis, is distinct from Nations and Métis people.
other Indigenous peoples, is of historic
Métis Nation Ancestry and who is
accepted by the Métis Nation.”
Mixed peoples are people of mixed Settler is a term that is used to refer
Indigenous and any ancestry, not to people who are non-Indigenous
necessarily European. Mixed people and living on Indigenous land, which
are not necessarily considered Métis is all of Canada. Many settlers are
because they may not have ties to the descendants of colonizers. Settler is
Métis Nation. It is possible for someone a complicated word, because not all
to be mixed between Métis and non-Indigenous people living in North
another ancestry; these people can America consented to settling here -
claim both Métis and mixed identities. some are descendants of enslaved
people, some are refugees and others
Two-Spirit Identities are immigrants who had little choice
about where to go. If you are a non-
Indigenous person, it is important to
reflect on how you and your ancestors
came to this land and what it means
to your relationship with Indigenous
Sexuality, Gender, and Present-Day Colonialism and
Indigeneity Two Spirit People
Sexuality and gender in a Western, Today, Indigenous people are still
Canadian context is different from policed by the colonial state of Canada
gender and sexuality in Indigenous and the broader Canadian ideas of
contexts in Canada. Indigenous gender and sexuality. Their traditional
peoples in Canada are unique and ideas of sexuality and gender may
diverse, and so are our ideas of gender have been lost through destruction of
and sexuality. Some Indigenous language, loss of oral traditions, and/or
nations have three, four, five, or loss of written records. Contemporary
more gender identities, while other Indigenous people have been forced
Indigenous nations may not have a to adopt Western ideas of gender and
word for gender. Indigenous ideas sexuality.
of gender and sexuality have been
targeted explicitly through colonialism
as a way to assimilate Indigenous
peoples into Eurocentric society in
How did the term “Two-Spirit” come about?
The creation of the term “Two-Spirit” is attributed to Albert McLeod, who proposed
its use during the Third Annual Inter-Tribal Native American, First Nations, Gay and
Lesbian American Conference, held in Winnipeg in 1990. The term is a translation of
the Anishinaabemowin term niizh manidoowag, two spirits.
Two-Spirit is an umbrella term used by Indigenous folks to describe sexual,
gender and/or spiritual identity. As an umbrella term, it may encompass same-
sex attraction and.or a wide variety of gender variance. Two-Spirit may also be a
reference to an Indigenous person having both a masculine and a feminine spirit.
• Two-Spirit may not be a term that all Indigenous people agree with or accept.
People who are Indigenous and LGBTQ+ may not consider themselves Two-
Spirit. Some Indigenous people may use language to describe their gender and
sexuality that is specific to their communities. Some may identify as Two-Spirit
and not part of the LGBTQ+ community
• The term Two-Spirit can only be used by Indigenous people. Period!
Now that we’re up to speed with who we’re talking about, let’s begin to talk about
the purpose of this document. All the subsequent sections will go through various
Indigenous issues, both historical and contemporary. The goal is for you, the reader,
to become more aware of Indigenous issues and for this resource to be a stepping
stone for further personal reflection, research, and action.
(âštam: Ash-stum)! I now call on you in my traditional language to come
along this journey.
In Ontario there are over 220,000 people who
self-identify as Ontario First Nations. There are
133 First Nation communities across Ontario,
and each nation is unique in their beliefs,
language(s) and histories. Almost 65% of First
Nations peoples live in large urban regions;
that’s nearly 150,000 people. The Métis Nation
is comprised of descendants of people born
of relations between First Nations people and
European settlers. Distinct Métis settlements
emerged as a result of the fur trade around
the waterways of Ontario, surrounding
the Great Lakes. There are 120,585 people
who self-identify as Métis in Ontario. Today over 50,000 Inuit people continue
to maintain their unique culture within their distinct homeland of the arctic and
sub-arctic regions of North America. However, some Inuit move to southern parts
of Canada for education and employment . Over 3,000 Inuit live in major urban
regions of Ontario and contribute to the urban landscape of arts and culture.
Collectively, there are 375,000 Indigenous people in Ontario alone! The Indigenous
population in Ontario is on par with Ontario’s 5th largest City, London (380, 000).
Ask yourself this question:
What is my purpose for reading this document? What is my
intention? What do I want to learn and what is my goal?
For the past few years there has been plenty of talk about reconciliation between
Indigenous and settler people, and many of you may have been inspired or
brought here because of reconciliation. Maybe you’re here because you simply
want to learn more. Whatever your intention, if they are coming from a good place
of humility and respect, welcome.
Sense of Place
The relationship between Indigenous people and
settlers is extremely complex. One of the things
to understand is that Indigenous nations are not
monolithic; there are hundreds of Indigenous
cultures and languages in Canada. The traditions,
histories, and experiences of Indigenous people are
To help you from being overwhelmed by all the
information that is out there, try to ground yourself
in your own geographic region. Think about what
Indigenous people and nations are around you? Are
you on Anishinaabe territory? Haudenosaunee? Cree? Métis?
A website called native-land.ca is an interactive geographic tool that has
Indigenous nations from across North and South America, the Caribbean, and
Oceania. This site is not perfect, and they acknowledge it in their disclaimer “this
map does not represent or intend to represent official or legal boundaries of any
Indigenous nations. To learn about definitive boundaries, contact the nations in
question.” Even though the map on native-land.ca is not perfect, it is one of the
most accessible and thorough maps of Indigenous nations out there. This website
also has a section that talks about land acknowledgements.
You may be aware of Indigenous communities where you live, but you may be
unaware of the specific treaties in the area. Hopefully the attached map will help you
understand where you live more deeply.
One of the shortcomings of the First Nations and Treaties map is it doesn’t include
the Inuit or Métis. The Métis Nation of Ontario has been working over the past 30
years in Ontario to research the historical ties of Métis people in Ontario. The Métis
Nation of Ontario now has over 30 Community Councils in towns and cities across
Ontario, many of which you are probably aware of or live in. Many towns and cities
across Ontario actually have Métis roots, notably Sault Ste. Marie. Below is a link
with the community councils mapped across Ontario.
Sense of Time
Now that we’ve talked a bit about our
relationship to place, let’s talk about our
relationship to the past. Many of you probably
talked or are talking about Indigenous people
in school. Most teachers talk about Indigenous
people before the arrival of Europeans as living
in tipis and hunting deer. Teachers might discuss
first contact and eventually the fur trade
from 1500-1800. Most teachers don’t discuss
Indigenous people after the fur trade because
this means that they must acknowledge the
effects of colonialism. Many teachers don’t
teach about residential schools, the pass system, the Indian Act, Louis Riel, or the
forced relocations, among other topics related to colonialism.
Ask yourself the following questions:
What have I learned in school about Indigenous people? Did I learn about them
living in teepees, longhouses, and wigwams? Did I learn about them trading fur
with Europeans to make hats? Have I learned about the experiences of Indigenous
students in Residential schools? Did I learn about contemporary Indigenous
In the space below, reflect on your education and
answer some of the previous prompting questions
Hopefully, critically reflecting on what you have learned or are learning about
Indigenous people will help you identify where you have personal areas of growth
and areas you can expand your knowledge of Indigenous peoples and our shared
Dr. Susan Dion (Lenape educator) has a lecture available online about the histories
of Indigenous people. This timeline has been adapted from Dr. Dions lecture and
the following resource http://fnn.criaw- icref.ca/images/userfiles/files/LWM3_
ColonialismImpacts.pdf. Note that this is not an exhaustive list.
Section One Separate Worlds (up to 1500 AD)
Section Three Indigenous and non-Indigenous societies developed
on their own lands far from each other, with different
cultures and forms of social organization. This changed
when Europeans arrived and began to settle in North
Traditional Practices and Stories
Spiritualities and Worldviews
Contact and Cooperation (1500 to 1870)
A growing non-Indigenous population sought ways to
foster co-existence, mostly in the form of trading and
military alliances. Despite a steep decline in Indigenous
populations due to diseases carried by settlers, this
time was marked by mutual tolerance and respect,
with each society left to govern its own internal affairs.
Weapons and Disease
Displacement and Assimilation (1871 to 1969)
In this period, most of non-Indigenous society—now
larger and more dominant—stopped respecting their
Indigenous neighbors. Interventions in the lives and
lands of Indigenous peoples grew as the dominant
culture set up policies that forcefully absorbed
Indigenous land and people into the Canadian
Forced Relocation and Reserves
Section Four Negotiation and Renewal (1970 to present)
Dr. Susan Dion – Supreme Court victories for Indigenous peoples,
along with the recognition that assimilation was a
Historical Timeline failure compelled non-Indigenous society to begin
seeking change to the relationship through dialogue,
https://thelearningexchange. consultation and negotiation. Meanwhile, Indigenous
ca/projects/dr-susan-dion- leaders regained greater control over their own affairs
historical-timeline-listening- and re-established their own societies by healing the
wounds caused by decades of domination.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), Standing Rock
Idle No More
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls,
Thinking about Indigenous-settler relations and history can be pretty overwhelming.
Hopefully, focusing on specific moments can help you begin to understand things
Sense of Truth
Let’s specifically define colonialism and settler-
colonialism. Colonialism is defined as a policy
or set of policies and practices where a political
power from one territory exerts control in a
different territory. It involves unequal power
relations. Settler colonialism is a distinct
type of colonialism that functions through the
replacement of Indigenous populations with an
invasive settler society that, over time, develops
a distinctive identity and sovereignty. Settler
colonial states include Canada, the United
States, Australia, and South Africa.
We just talked a lot about Indigenous-
settler history, but we haven’t yet
talked about the driving factor behind
European expansionism in North
America. Let’s first begin by talking
about colonialism. Canada as a
county was established in 1867, with
various European colonies before
Canadian Confederation on July 1st.
Indigenous nations have been on this
land since time immemorial (beyond
memory, basically forever). Canada is a settler-colonial state, with a history of
violence in its foundations, period. This is often a hard truth for many Canadians
who have an image of Canada being moral and just. The fact is Canada is not that,
and it would actually be immoral and unjust to continue to believe so.
Today, Indigenous people across Turtle Island (North America) are in a very
important time. Everyday there are more Indigenous people in politics, the
arts, academia, and all sectors of life. However, there are still many challenges
still facing Indigenous people. We are in a period of great mobilization. Many
Indigenous nations are looking towards both the past and toward the future, to
ensure languages and cultures survive for the next generations. Today, many of us
are fighting for our future generations, re-emerging and resurging. The next section
will be talking about some Indigenous activism today.
How are you feeling after reading through this document?
What are some things you are interested in learning more about?
I hope you found this journey we’ve been on helpful and interesting. I want to send
you off with some other places to continue your journey of self-education. Below
are some books written by Indigenous authors that I think all people should read,
hopefully you’ll find them helpful.
500 Years of Indigenous Resistance Dancing on our Turtles Back: Stories of
Gord Hill Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence
Indigenous Relations: Insights, Tips & and a New Emergence
Suggestions To Make Reconciliation Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
A Reality Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death,
Bob Joseph and Hard Truths In A Northern City
The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious
Account Of Native People In North Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First
Nations, Métis, and Inuit issues in
Thomas King Canada
The Winter We Danced: Voices from the
Past the Future, and the Idle No More Indigenous movements
Movement to follow:
Edited by the Kino-nda-niimi MMIWG2S
Idle No More
Unsettling Canada Water is Life
Arthur Manuel and Grand Chief DAPL/Standing Rock
TransMountain Access Pipeline
Ron Derrickson We’suwet’en Land Defenders
Free Grassy Narrows
The YouthOrganize Resource Series was created in 2020 to support 2SLGBTQ+
youth organizing in their communities. The series includes the following
• Organizing 101: A Step by Step Tool
• Organizing 201: Going Deeper
• Accessibility and Organizing
• Active Listening for Organizers
• FNMI: What’s That?
• 2SLGBTQ+ Organizing in Ontario Schools
LGBT YouthLine is a Queer, Trans, Two-Spirit* youth-led organization that
affirms and supports the experiences of youth (29 and under) across Ontario.
We do this by:
• Providing anonymous peer support and referrals;
• Training youth to provide support to other youth; and
• Providing resources so youth can make informed decisions.
For more information about LGBT YouthLine, our programs, and to access
these resources, visit https://www.youthline.ca/
*Language: 2SLGBTQ/Queer, Trans, Two-Spirit
We use 2SLGBTQ+ (Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, Queer) and
Queer, Trans, Two-Spirit interchangeably as umbrella terms to
identify the youth that we serve. We acknowledge that these
terms cannot/do not encompass the rich diversity of identities
that may fall under these umbrellas, including two-spirit, lesbian
gay, bisexual trans, genderqueer, intersex, queer, questioning,
asexual, aromantic, non-binary or any other non-normative
identities related to sexuality and gender.
13 / Graphic design by Laura Hui