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Indigenous Engagement

We need meaningful, authentic engagement with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities to ensure:

  • Access to culturally safe services and programs delivered by the Region
  • Consultation on land use planning and capital works projects
  • Promotion and celebration of Indigenous cultural identities and heritage
  • Support for economic growth of Indigenous-owned businesses and Nations

In 2021, Wendy Sturgeon and local Indigenous organizations wrote Mno Bmaadziwin: Living the Good and Healthy Life. This report informs Niagara's Community Safety and Well-Being Plan. This plan identifies priorities and opportunities to improve safety and well-being in Niagara.

In 2019, Kelly Fran Davis wrote the report Creating Our Way Forward: Recommendations for Improving Niagara Region Public Health and Emergency Services' Indigenous Engagement with input from local Indigenous organizations. This report outlines:

  • The gaps in current Public Health services
  • How to improve collaboration between Indigenous and health care organizations
  • How to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action

Indigenous history in Niagara

Recognizing Treaties

Niagara has been a key meeting place for many Nations over thousands of years. Ongoing land disputes and historical discrepancies have created challenges in recognizing the current treaty rights of First Nations. Although First Nations and the Crown signed treaties, there are still treaty claims before the courts.

Niagara Region acknowledges the significance of Indigenous Treaty Rights as protected under the Canadian Constitution.

Recognizing Peoples

Scholars are still conducting research into the First Nations that lived in Niagara but don't have a presence here today. One of these Nations is the Hatiwendaronk, known previously as the Neutral Nation, Attawandaron or Chonnonton. Scholars are continuing to understand the accurate name of this Nation.

The Nations that share territory lands in present-day Niagara include:

  • Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation
  • Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation
  • Haudenosaunee Confederacy

These Nations include Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples. There are also many First Nations, Métis and Inuit people from across Turtle Island who live and work in Niagara today.

Two Row Wampum

In 1613, the Dutch and the Haudenosaunee created an agreement known as the Two Row Wampum. This Wampum is the oldest recorded agreement between Indigenous people and new settlers from Europe. It covers the land we recognize as Niagara today.

Wampums are visual memory keepers that help record history and communicate ideas. Beaded patterns represent a person, nation, event, invitation, shared values and understandings/agreements between two or more parties. The Haudenosaunee used traditional Wampum belts as covenants and petitions for understanding. They used the words spoken during an agreement to make the Wampum. The Wampum was used for ceremony, teaching, and reminders of law and values, according to the Museum of Ontario Archaeology.

The Two Row Wampum has two purple rows surrounded by three white rows. One purple row represents the ship of the Dutch. The other purple row is the Haudenosaunee canoe. Each row is travelling down the river of life side by side. Neither is trying to steer the other's boat. The three white rows represent the three principles of the treaty: peace, respect, and friendship between the two people in an agreement that will last forever.

Local Indigenous organizations

Urban Indigenous community organizations are mandated to serve the needs of urban Indigenous people by providing culturally appropriate services. Today, people living in urban settings make up 85 per cent of the Indigenous population, according to the National Association of Friendship Centres: Urbanization and Indigenous Peoples in Canada.

Learn about the different Indigenous organizations in Niagara and the programs and services they offer. You can also sign up for their newsletters and attend local events.

Indigenous Perspectives Docuseries

The Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre produced a docuseries highlighting Indigenous history in Niagara. Together, the videos are less than an hour long.

  • Part 1 focuses on how life was before contact with settlers and the Indigenous contributions to the War of 1812
  • Part 2 looks at the tragedies of the residential school system, the 60's Scoop, and the Millennial Scoop, and their impacts on Indigenous peoples and communities in the present
  • Part 3 discusses racism in Canada today and how the community is healing from all the trauma they have experienced

In 2021, Niagara Region created a mandatory course for all staff which includes the viewing of this locally-developed docuseries.


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