Native Language Families from the 16th to 18th CenturiesTo Home Page


Over 50 aboriginal languages falling within 11 distinct families are still spoken in Canada. Many more than this were spoken at the time of contact. The map shows the general location of the 11 families during the first two centuries of white contact.

The boundaries between families can only be approximated for any period. They are intended to show gross distributions of speakers rather than precise borderlines between language areas. Owing to the movement of bands over time, the language of a particular group may now occur outside the area indicated on this map; a comparison with the main map shows such movements. Languages classified together in the same family have a proven relationship. They can be shown to have descended from an earlier ancestral "proto" language, or a set of closely related dialects.

Some families such as Iroquoian and Siouan, and - more speculatively - Athapaskan, Tlingit and Haidan, show possible distant affinities to one another. However, such families as Algonquian, Iroquoian, Athapaskan and Eskimo-Aleut have no known ancestral connection.

Texts prepared by Dr. M.K. Foster, Canadian Ethnology Service, National Museum of Man.

Adapted from Fifth Edition of the National Atlas of Canada (Natural Resources Canada, 1982)

Native Culture Areas of Canada (42K)

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