Where are the first nations reserves located?

The 138 First Nations reserves and the 8 mixed-race settlements located in Alberta are important to the economic and cultural fabric of the province. First Nations reservations are found in 3 treaty areas or regions in Alberta. Metis settlements are found primarily in the northwest and center-east of Alberta. A reserve is land set aside by the Canadian government for use by First Nations.

Reservations are managed under the Indian Act. Reserve lands represent a small fraction of the traditional territories that First Nations held before European colonization. While reserves are places where members of a First Nation live, some reserves are used for hunting and other activities. Many First Nations own more than one parcel of reserve land, and some reservations are shared by more than one First Nation.

There are reservations in every province of Canada, but few have been established in the territories. Most of the reservations are rural, although some First Nations have created urban reserves, which are reserves in or near a city. In most cases, our federal government located First Nations reserves in remote locations. More than 80% of Canada's reserves are considered remote due to extreme distances from service centers where basic products can be obtained.

Some are underwater, others are vertical, and many are simply swamps or covered by sand dunes. Two of the largest reserves of band members in Canada are the Six Nations of the Grand River, near Brantford, Ontario, and the Akwesasne Mohawks, who live near Cornwall, Ontario, in territory that extends on both sides of the borders of Ontario, Quebec and New York. Many First Nations peoples choose not to live on reservations because of the typical remoteness of the reserves and the related challenges in accessing various public services and obtaining employment. The colonial practice of reserving land for indigenous peoples while retaining legal title serves as the basis for the reservation system in Canada.

Under the Yukon First Nations Land Claims Resolution Act, First Nations lands are defined as settlement land and are not reserves in the context of the Indian Act. For example, in Ontario, the reservation lands occupied by the Mohawks of Quinte Bay (Mohawk territory of Tyendinaga) and the Six Nations of the Rio Grande originated as special grants from loyalists after the American Revolution. Canada is then required to administer the ceded lands for the benefit of the First Nation that handed them over. Statistics Canada only counts reserves that are populated (or potentially populated) as subdivisions for the purposes of the national census.

While conditions are improving, the First Nations on the reserve are still living below the level of the Canadian population. Indian reserves play a very important role in consultations with public policy stakeholders, particularly when the reserves are located in areas that have valuable natural resources with potential for economic development. Some First Nations, such as the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation in Newfoundland and Labrador, do not own reserve land. The First Nations of Treaty 1 include the Ojibway Nation of Brokenhead, Fort Alexander (First Nation of Sagkeeng), the First Nation of Long Plain, the First Peguis Nation, the First Anishinabe Nation of the Roseau River, the First Nation of Sandy Bay and the First Nation of Swan Lake.

This urban reserve is located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, on land that was formerly occupied by the city's railroads. As early as 1637, Catholic missionaries from New France reserved land within their lordships for the use and benefit of local First Nations. Using these provisions of the Indian Act, the Canadian government obtained the handing over of reserve land to First Nations across the country. .

Dominic Bélanger
Dominic Bélanger

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