The Santé Mawiómi, or Grand Council, was the traditional senior level of government for the Mi'kmaq people until Canada passed the Indian Act (1876) to require First Nations to establish representative elected governments. After implementation of the Indian Act, the Grand Council took on a more spiritual function. The Grand Council was made up of chiefs of the seven district councils of Mi'kma'ki.
On September 26, 2011 the Government of Canada announced the recognition of Canada's newest Mi'kmaq First Nations Band, the Qalipu First Nations in Newfoundland and Labrador. The new band, which is landless, had accepted 25,000 applications to become part of the band by October 2012 , The number of applications received by the application deadline on November 30, 2012 exceeded 100,000; as of January 2013, the majority of those had not been processed. The band extended the deadline to January 31, 2014, and then to February 10, 2014. Its members are recognized as Status Indians, joining other organized and recognized Mi'kmaq bands in southeast Canada.
The ethnonym has traditionally been spelled Micmac in English. The people themselves have used different spellings: Mi’kmaq (singular Mi’kmaw) in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland; Miigmaq (Miigmao) in New Brunswick; Mi’gmaq by the Listuguj Council in Quebec; and Mìgmaq (Mìgmaw) in some native literature.
Until the 1980s, "Micmac" remained the most common spelling in English. Although still used, for example in Ethnologue, this spelling has fallen out of favour in recent years. Most scholarly publications now use the spelling Mi'kmaq, as preferred by the people. The media has adopted this spelling practice, acknowledging that the Mi'kmaq consider the spelling Micmac as "colonially tainted". The Mi'kmaq prefer to use one of the three current Mi'kmaq orthographies when writing the language.
Lnu (the adjectival and singular noun, previously spelled "L'nu"; the plural is Lnúk, Lnu’k, Lnu’g, or Lnùg) is the term the Mi'kmaq use for themselves, their autonym, meaning "human being" or "the people".
Various explanations exist for the origin of the term Mi'kmaq. The Mi'kmaw Resource Guide says that "Mi'kmaq" means "the family":
The definite article "the" suggests that "Mi'kmaq" is the undeclined form indicated by the initial letter "m". When declined in the singular it reduces to the following forms: nikmaq - my family; kikmaq - your family; wikma - his/her family. The variant form Mi'kmaw plays two grammatical roles: 1) It is the singular of Mi'kmaq and 2) it is an adjective in circumstances where it precedes a noun (e.g., mi'kmaw people, mi'kmaw treaties, mi'kmaw person, etc.)