Historically, the term “Indian” was used to describe the hundreds of distinct nations of Indigenous Peoples throughout North, Central and South America and the Caribbean. It can be traced back to Christopher Columbus in the 15th and 16th centuries when he was looking for Asia.
The term was used widely by explorers and missionaries and later adopted by the Canadian federal government and used in the language of the Indian Act, 1876. It is commonly found in the context of historical government departments, documents, policies and laws.
“First Nations” is a term that came into common usage in the 1970s to replace the word “Indian,” which some people found offensive.
Some have also adopted the term “First Nation” to replace the word “Band” in the name of their community, respecting their distinct language, culture, heritage and systems of knowledge.
First Nations are one of three Aboriginal peoples in Canada recognized in the Constitution Act, 1982.
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