A new study from Statistics Canada says one in five aboriginal people have suicidal thoughts at some point in their lives — but one observer says that number is likely higher.

Statistics Canada analyzed data collected in 2012 from First Nations people living off reserve, Inuit and Metis, aged 26 to 59.

Brock Pitawanakwat, who is with the University of Sudbury's Department of Indigenous Studies, said  the rates in the report should actually be higher because the sample doesn't include youth, the elderly and First Nations living on reserves.

"You're automatically excluding a huge number," he told CBC News.

"It's been shown that the incidents of suicide tends to be much higher, especially in remote northern communities."

Nevertheless, studies like these are still important to have, said Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee.

"The whole colonial impact that's changed our way of life has had impacts on our people," he said.

"So we're trying to find our way back in terms of our cultural identity and our cultural traditions that will ground us in who we are."

The study noted that residential school was a factor many of the respondents reporting suicidal thoughts had in common.

Pitawanakwat said he hopes the new report will help with the creation of wellness programs for youth.

"Ideally, we'd be able to get to sort of the core issues in terms of making sure that indigenous youth don't become involved in drug use and carry a strong sense of self worth," he said.