First Nations

First Nations is the name used by Canada's Aboriginal or indigenous peoples, which refers to INDIAN peoples and may sometimes include the MÉTIS and INUIT. Terminology referring to Aboriginal or NATIVE PEOPLE is complex and is not always what Aboriginal persons would call themselves. The term "Indian" is defined as either a member of any of the Aboriginal peoples of the Western Hemisphere (but excluding the Inuit and the Métis), or in the legal sense of the INDIAN ACT. The term "Inuit," replacing the term "ESKIMO" during the 1970s, identifies the people of northern Canada, Alaska, Greenland and eastern Siberia. The Métis are Aboriginal people of mixed ancestry, Indian and French, English or Scottish background. Some Métis regard themselves as the only true Aboriginal or "original" peoples, since they alone emerged as a new group in North America.

Native people worldwide often prefer the broader term "aboriginal." This avoids the distinction between "natives" and "non-natives," important from the point of view of the Métis. The term Aboriginal is also used in section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982 (seeCONSTITUTION ACT, 1982: DOCUMENT), and refers to the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.

Aboriginal people may also consider themselves minority indigenous peoples and, in Canada until the 1980s, as peoples of the "Fourth World." The Dene Declaration of 1975 included the phrase "We the Dene are part of the Fourth World" (seeDENE NATION). Among the Fourth World peoples, for example, are the Aborigines of Australia, the Maori of New Zealand, the Ainu of Japan, the Saami of Scandinavian countries and the Indian peoples of Central and South America. Fourth World indigenous minorities define themselves as powerless, exploited and often colonized populations living within First, Second and Third World countries; that is, the industrialized, capitalist, democratic, socialist and communist, developing and emerging nation-states of the world.

In 1980-81, the Joint Council of the NATIONAL INDIAN BROTHERHOOD and the ASSEMBLY OF FIRST NATIONS used the term "First Nations" for the first time in their Declaration of the First Nations. First Nations often refers only to Indian peoples. Symbolically, the term attempts to elevate Aboriginal peoples to a status of "first among equals" in their quest for self-determination and SELF-GOVERNMENT alongside the English and French founding nations in Canada. The term is not used by Aboriginal peoples outside Canada.