First Nations Research (Indigenous Canadians)

How to Research First Nations / Indigenous Canadians

[see also our Mi'kmaq research guide for local research needs and our TRC guide for Truth and Reconciliation related materials]

The top three resources are OneSearch, CBCA Complete, and the Canadian government documents search engine


OneSearch is not a single database, but a collection of separately produced databases. So the official "subject" term for Native Canadians may vary considerably. While some of these terms are now considered not the appropriate term to use, they linger in the subject indexes and thus still need to be included even for finding recent articles and books. Once you're in OneSearch, use the other search boxes to add keywords specific to your own topic (e.g. education, residential schools, etc.)

Click on this link to begin a OneSearch search, and then add your specific topical words in the search boxes available below these terms:

SU canad* AND (SU "first nations" OR SU "native peoples" OR SU aboriginal* OR SU indigenous OR SU "indians of north america" OR SU metis OR SU inuit OR SU eskimos)


CBCA Complete

A mostly-full-text article database about all things Canadian, including both scholarly journals and non-scholarly serials (magazines, newspapers).

Start with this link and then use the "Modify search" link to add your topical search terms:

SU (canad*) AND SU ("first nations" OR "native peoples" OR aboriginal* OR indigenous OR "indians of north america" OR metis OR inuit OR eskimos)

Canadian government documents

Find official documents on Canadian government web sites - federal, provincial, and municipal

  • This link is to a Google "custom search engine" so add your own keywords in front of 'first nations" in the search box
  • Also specifically check out the Government of Canada's website, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.  
    Tip: use Google to search this site by adding this keyword to your search:

Other Resources

NFB Campus Documentaries - 40+ streaming films produced by the National Film Board of Canada (appropriate for academic papers) on various subjects relating to "aboriginal peoples in Canada" - there's probably at least one on your topic!

Aboriginal Heritage - Libraries and Archives Canada's site containing thousands of digitized documents and images. Almost all of the content is full text/image/video, but ask library staff if you find a reference to something that is not available on the site.  Includes the full text database, Indian Affairs Annual Reports, 1864-1990.

iPortal - University of Saskatchewan's free indigenous studies research tool. Not all free full text - you'll need to use Robertson Library resources to get the full text in many cases, but the indexing may be helpful. [Note:this link is proxied to provide UPEI users with direct links to Library full text and interlibrary loan.]

First Nations Periodical Index - a free index (no full text) of articles of 20 periodicals with mostly Native Canadian content. Warning: indexing stopped in 2004, so use other resources listed here to find more recent materials.

Theses Canada - Libraries and Archives Canada's index to theses and dissertations done at Canadian universities. Most recent ones are full text online. There are many about Native Canadians, and the bibliographies on theses tend to be very detailed. The search engine is not very good, so keep searches very simple, or ask a librarian for help. "Indians of north america" is a good subject keyword to use.
You may find searching the Global Electronic Theses and Dissertations easier although it includes far more than Canadian material, but it does link back to the Canadian theses.

National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health has many free publications, usually in PDF format, about Canadian indigenous health issues