Indian reserve

In Canada, an Indian reserve (French: réserve indienne) is specified by the Indian Act as a "tract of land, the legal title to which is vested in Her Majesty, that has been set apart by Her Majesty for the use and benefit of a band."[1]

First Nations reserves are the areas set aside for First Nations people after a contract with the Canadian state ("the Crown"), and are not to be confused with land claims areas, which involve all of that First Nations' traditional lands: a much larger territory than any other reserve.


A single "band" (First Nations government) may control one reserve or several, in addition some reserves are shared between multiple bands. In 2003, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs stated there were 2,300 reserves in Canada, comprising 28,000 square kilometres (11,000 sq mi).[2] According to Statistics Canada in 2011, there are more than 600 First Nations/Indian bands in Canada and 3,100 Indian reserves across Canada.[3] Examples include the Sturgeon Lake First Nation, which like many bands, has only one reserve, Sturgeon Lake Indian Reserve No. 101. Musqueam No. 2 and No. 4, and Sea Island Indian Reserve No. 3 are governed by the Musqueam Indian Band, one of many examples where a single government is responsible for more than one reserve.[4] In 2003, 60 percent of status Indians lived on reserves.[2]

Of the 637,660 First Nations people who reported being Registered Indians, nearly one-half (49.3%) lived on an Indian reserve. This proportion varies across the country.[5]

Many reserves have no resident population; typically they are small, remote, non-contiguous pieces of land, a fact which has led many to be abandoned, or used only seasonally (as a trapping territory, for example). Statistics Canada counts only those reserves which are populated (or potentially populated) as "subdivisions" for the purpose of the national census. For the 2011 census, of the more than 3,100 Indian reserves across Canada, there were only 961 Indian reserves classified as census subdivisions (including the 6 reserves added for 2011).[6] Some reserves that were originally rural were gradually surrounded by urban development. Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary are examples of cities with urban reserves.