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First nations

The meaning of «first nations»

The First Nations (French: Premières Nations [pʁəmjɛʁ nasjɔ̃]) are groups of Canadian indigenous peoples, who are classified as distinct from the Inuit and Métis.[2] Traditionally, the First Nations were peoples who lived south of the tree line, and mainly south of the Arctic Circle. There are 634[3] recognized First Nations governments or bands across Canada. Roughly half are located in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia.[4]

Under Charter jurisprudence, First Nations are a "designated group," along with women, visible minorities, and people with physical or mental disabilities.[5] First Nations are not defined as a visible minority by the criteria of Statistics Canada.[6]

North American indigenous peoples have cultures spanning thousands of years. Some of their oral traditions accurately describe historical events, such as the Cascadia earthquake of 1700 and the 18th-century Tseax Cone eruption. Written records began with the arrival of European explorers and colonists during the Age of Discovery in the late 15th century.[7][8] European accounts by trappers, traders, explorers, and missionaries give important evidence of early contact culture.[9] In addition, archeological and anthropological research, as well as linguistics, have helped scholars piece together an understanding of ancient cultures and historic peoples.

Although not without conflict, early colonists' interactions with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit populations were less combative than the often violent battles between colonists and native peoples in the United States, and far less than those of other British colonies in modern-day Australia and South Africa.[10]

Collectively, First Nations,[4] Inuit,[11] and Métis[12] (FNIM) peoples constitute Indigenous peoples in Canada, Indigenous peoples of the Americas, or "first peoples".[13] "First Nation" as a term became officially used by the government beginning in 1980s to replace the term "Indian band" in referring to groups of Indians with common government and language.[14][15] The First Nations people had begun to identify by this term during 1970s activism, in order to avoid using the word "Indian", which some considered offensive.[16][17][18] No legal definition of the term exists.[16]

Some indigenous peoples in Canada have also adopted the term First Nation to replace the word "band" in the formal name of their community.[19] A band is a "body of Indians (a) for whose use and benefit in common lands ... have been set apart, (b) ... moneys are held ... or (c) declared ... to be a band for the purposes of", according to the Indian Act by the Canadian Crown.[20]

The term 'Indian' is a misnomer, given to indigenous peoples of North America by European explorers who erroneously thought they had landed in the East Indies. The use of the term Native Americans, which the government and others have adopted in the United States, is not common in Canada. It refers more specifically to the Indigenous peoples residing within the boundaries of the US.[21] The parallel term "Native Canadian" is not commonly used, but "Native" (in English) and "Autochtone" (in Canadian French; from the Greek auto, own, and chthon, land) are. Under the Royal Proclamation of 1763,[22] also known as the "Indian Magna Carta,"[23] the Crown referred to indigenous peoples in British territory as tribes or nations. The term First Nations is capitalized. Bands and nations may have slightly different meanings.

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