Are first nations and indigenous the same?

Indigenous is a general term for First Nations (with status and without status), mixed-race and Inuit. Indigenous refers to all of these groups, either collectively or separately, and is the term used in international contexts, for example, many First Nations consider the use of the word “Indian” offensive. The word “Aboriginal” replaced “Indian” and “native”. The Potlatch is the cultural, political, economic and educational heart of the First Nations along the Northwest Coast.

The term Indian should be used only when referring to a First Nations person with status under Indian Law, and only within a legal context. Some First Nations people in Canada also refer to themselves as “Indians”, and federal legislation is still called the Indian Act. The term Aboriginal was introduced into the Canadian Constitution of 1982 by its federal government as a “general” term to include First Nations, Inuit and mixed race people. The three groups of indigenous peoples in Canada under the Canadian Constitutional Act of 1982 are the Indians, the Mestizos and the Inuit.

This term began to be widely used during the 1970s, when Aboriginal groups organized transnationally and pressed for a greater presence at the United Nations (UN). The term indigenous was chosen by indigenous leaders in the 1970s to identify and unite diverse communities and represent them in global political scenarios. Today, there are about 630 different First Nations communities in Canada, approximately half of which are in British Columbia and Ontario. It's a common misconception that people from Canada's First Nations don't pay federal or provincial taxes.

It depends on which First Nation the student belongs to and whether the First Nation has funding for the student. As mentioned above, we use the term “indigenous peoples” to indicate the uniqueness and diversity of the diverse First Nations, Inuit and mixed race peoples living in Canada, with their different histories, traditions, values, worldviews, beliefs and aspirations. In Canada, the accepted term for people who are indigenous and who do not identify themselves as Inuit or mixed race is First Nations. The numbers vary widely by province, and Quebec has the highest proportion of First Nations people living on reservations, with nearly three-quarters of them.

While “First Nations” refers to the ethnicity of First Nations peoples, the singular “First Nation” can refer to a band, a community based on a reservation, or a larger tribal group and the status of the Indians who live there. A common misconception is that indigenous peoples are all the same in Canada, but there is a clear diversity among indigenous peoples.

Dominic Bélanger
Dominic Bélanger

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