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"First Nations" is a term used mainly in Canada (but gaining popularity in the US) to refer to groups otherwise known as "Indians," "American Indians," or "Native Americans."

The term was born out of the successful land claim negotiations and associated cultural renaissance experienced by Canadian First Nations (especially in the Yukon) in the 1980s.

As for why many wanted the term, here's one example: The Dawson Indian Band, a Han group of Athapaskan people named because of their proximity to Dawson City (which was named after George Dawson of the Geological Survey of Canada) recently changed the name of their group. They are now the Tron'dek Hwech'in ("people of the hammer water") First Nation. Their name is a Han language reference to the fishing of spawning salmon in the Yukon and Klondike Rivers, and is much more appropriate and relevant for them.

Others disagree with the term. While no one is seriously arguing in favor of the term "Indian" anymore (forget political correctness, the word is just plain inaccurate), some point out that the concept of "nation" is European, and it is strange (and just as inaccurate) to apply it to a band and family oriented society.

Many groups, especially in the US, still prefer the term "Native American."


"Specificity in language use does not constitute political correctness, but instead demonstrates an awareness of the appropriate use of and sensitivity to language."
--Kathryn Lehman, University of Auckland

The term "First Nations" refers to the building of the present-day country of Canada. When the French and English came to settle in Canada, they were trading partners and allies in defence with the many aboriginal bands in modern-day Quebec, Ontario and Atlantic Canada. The aboriginals knew the land, how to hunt and trap the animals, how to travel over the river systems, which plants were edible and which were medicinal. Many French settlers married aboriginal women. The original settlers, knowing their vulnerability in the unfamiliar territory, work with, rather than against, the aboriginal people.

Yes, there was some of the latent racism in the Europeans, but it wasn't until after the French and English had firmly settled in Canada that they began the policy of assimilation and racism against the aboriginal people. Hundreds of years later, the government of Canada began using the term "First Nations" to recognize that the aboriginal people of Canada were one of the three founding nations of Canada: Aboriginal, English and French.

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