The largest of the First Nations groups is the Cree, which includes about 120,000 people. In Canada, the word Indian has a legal definition contained in the Indian Act of 1876.People legally defined as Indians are known as status Indians. When talking about groups of people from different backgrounds, it is appropriate to use First Nations as the general name of the group (e.g., among the nations in the mountainous interior are the Kootenay, as well as several Salish and Atapascan speakers from the interior, who lived a varied life of hunting and gathering). First Nations did not oppose this process and, in many cases, pressured Canada to sign treaties in areas where it was not prepared to do so.
The British allied themselves with the Iroquois Confederacy (now known as Haudenosaunee or Longhouse House Village, this group consisted of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca First Nations) and the First Nations of the Allegheny mountain range. As Johnson made clear in a letter to the British government, the powerful position of the First Nations meant that British commercial interests could only thrive in the Interior if the Crown took definitive steps to protect those interests. The outbreak of the United States War of Independence and the subsequent recognition of the United States of America by Great Britain in 1783 had a dramatic impact on the relationship between the British Crown and its First Nations allies. For decades, many First Nations members, especially women, criticized this section of the Indian Act as blatant discrimination.
The ocean's vast food resources, salmon, shellfish, octopus, herring, crabs, whales, and seaweed allowed the First Nations of the Pacific Coast to settle in permanent places. First Nations leaders from across the country united in new associations and organizations determined to protect and promote the rights and interests of their peoples. As early as the year 1000, for example, Huron, Neutral, Petune and Iroquois villages were increasingly fortified with a wooden stockade that could reach almost 10 meters in height; sometimes, villages would build a second or even a third ring to protect them from attacks by enemy nations. The need to address long-standing First Nations complaints became more urgent after the events in Oka, Quebec, in the summer of 1990.
In addition, in 1869, Canada extended its influence over the First Nations by purchasing Rupert's Land (the lands of the Hudson's Bay Company). In the early 1970s, three historic court decisions brought about a major change in the recognition of First Nations rights in Canada. The remote and isolated trading posts became meeting places for many groups, not only to trade with the HBC, but also for merchants and the First Nations themselves. Large confederations, such as the Iroquois Five Nations Confederation and the Huron Confederacy, probably created in the late 16th century, grew out of the desire of their members to stop the fratricidal wars that had ravaged their societies for hundreds of years.