Why are first nations not indigenous?

Secondly, the etymological meaning of this term is internally coherent. Indigenous comes from the Latin word indigena, which means “sprung from the earth; native. Therefore, using “indigenous” instead of “aboriginal” reinforces land claims and encourages the recognition of territories, a practice that links indigenous peoples to their lands and respects their claims to them. The use of the word “Indian” is considered offensive by many First Nations.

The word “Aboriginal” replaced “Indian” and “native”. If used interchangeably with First Nations, keep in mind that some First Nations prefer not to be called Aboriginal Peoples. As an expert on indigenous issues, I am often asked what is the appropriate or “politically correct” term to describe indigenous peoples, First Nations and Aboriginal people. While the terminology used by the Government can be a good guide to understanding the differences between mixed-race, Inuit and First Nations (all of them included in the terms “aboriginal” or “indigenous”), the best guideline comes directly from indigenous peoples.

But at the same time, using “indigenous” does not recognize all nations in a respectful way. 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. 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. 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 collective name used in the Constitutional Act of 1982 includes the Indian (or First Nations), Inuit and Mestizo peoples, so legally it will always have a place in the terminological table. Because there are more than 50 different indigenous nations in Canada, living in more than 600 communities, it can be difficult to find a single word that covers everything. 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. First Nation is a term used to identify indigenous peoples in Canada who are not mixed-race or 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). There are more than 630 First Nations communities in Canada, representing more than 50 nations and 50 indigenous languages. Learn how federal employees in the National Capital Region can learn directly from indigenous elders through teaching, guidance and advice. The terms Aboriginal, Indigenous and Indigenous Peoples are generally accepted terms in Canada and include First Nations, Mestizos, and Inuit.

If used interchangeably with Aboriginal peoples such as some of the First Nations, people don't like the term Aboriginal peoples.

Dominic Bélanger
Dominic Bélanger

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