Can you use first nations and indigenous interchangeably?

Since the term “First Nations” excludes Inuit and mixed-race peoples, it is not interchangeable with “indigenous” or “aboriginal”. If used interchangeably with First Nations, keep in mind that some First Nations prefer not to be called Aboriginal Peoples. 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). If used interchangeably with Aboriginal peoples such as some of the First Nations, people don't like the term Aboriginal peoples.

Mestizos are a specific indigenous (and aboriginal) group in Canada with a very specific social history. 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. For informal documents, use “First Nation” or, collectively, when referring to reservation-based communities, “First Nations”, but in specific references, it is more preferred to use the name that the community (or First Nation) uses publicly. Many Aboriginal people in Canada do not have this formal connection, and mixed-race or Inuit people should never be called “First Nations”.

Indigenous people from Northern Canada, who live mainly in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, Northern Quebec and Labrador. If used interchangeably with First Nations, since some may have more preference for indigenous peoples, for example, First Nations communities in Ontario have publicly and politically expressed that they prefer indigenous peoples. The collective name used in the Constitutional Act of 1982 includes the peoples of India (or of the First Nations), the Inuit and the mixed race, so legally it will always have a place in the terminological table. The term “Indian” should be used only when referring to a First Nations person with status under the Indian Act, and only within its legal context.

It is broad, on the one hand, because it includes all Canadian groups, but specific, on the other, since it is not widely used in international contexts. Around a thousand people, mostly from First Nations, arrived in the capital of Canada to make their cause known to all Canadians and parliamentarians. The term “Aboriginal” refers to the first inhabitants of Canada and includes First Nations, Inuit and mixed race peoples. First Nation is a term used to identify indigenous peoples in Canada who are not mixed-race or Inuit.

Indigenous peoples have been on these lands since time immemorial, thousands of years before Canada became a nation.

Dominic Bélanger
Dominic Bélanger

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