Indigenous Groups

The Panel Area in PNE Forum at the B.C. National Event

Who are Canada’s First People’s?

Canada’s First People’s

Indigenous Peoples (First Nations, Metis and Inuit) are the first inhabitants of Kanata (Canada)

Canada’s First Nations have been in the country we now call Canada for at least 12,000 years, perhaps much longer.  For almost all that time, they survived very well in a harsh environment, making everything they needed without polluting the water, or air, and without destroying the land or decimating the animal populations.

Each First Nation had self-government and recognized the sovereignty of other First Nations. They all developed unique systems of government, and complex material cultures (tools, clothing, shelter, transportation, etc.)

Most First Nations of Canada lived mainly from hunting and fishing. They migrated seasonally to get food. They did not wander aimlessly.  They moved their camps from season to season to specific places and areas where they knew there would be food. In one season, they would hunt large animals; in another they would fish; in the fall they would gather berries, and so on. 

The only farming people were the Iroquois and Hurons, and related tribes, in what is now southern Ontario.

Canada’s First Nations all had complex social systems, with several levels of government based on the family, the band or clan, and the nation or tribe.  Their leaders, or Chiefs, were chosen in different ways, but were always people who had special leadership qualities that brought them respect from their people. 

In most First Nations, a council of elders advised the Chief, and decisions were made by consensus, which means that the council would discuss a matter of importance, and then would make a decision that the majority agreed on. 

First Nations recognized each other as sovereign nations, and made friendship treaties, or military alliances with each other. Some nations were traditional enemies, and went through periods of war or peace.

First Nations people were very religious, and respectful of the Great Spirit, and other spirits that they believe inhabited the land and animals all around them. 

First Nations people were taught, from the time they were very young, to respect and give thanks to the animals, birds, plants, and the land and water that gave them all the things that they depended on to stay alive.

Goldi Productions Ltd. 2007

Explore by Groups

Hubert Francis performing during the concert staged at the Atlantic National Event

First Nations

First Nations people are the original inhabitants of “Kanata” or as it is now known, Canada. Kanata is from the Iroquoian word for “settlement or village” and was used by the early french colonists in the 16th century.

First Nations were the first distinct nation groups to greet European colonists and establish their own alliances with the English and French.

Learn more


The advent of the fur trade in west central North America during the 18th century was accompanied by a growing number of mixed offspring of Indian women and European fur traders. As this  population established  distinct  communities separate from those of  Indians and Europeans and married among themselves,  a new Aboriginal people emerged  – the Métis people – with their own unique culture, traditions, language (Michif), way of life, collective consciousness and nationhood.

Learn more

Photograph of Harold Robinson Unwrapping a Sash
Inuk Elder Ilashuk Paujugie lighting the qullik on the second day of the Quebec National Event


Most Inuit live in 51 communities spread across:

  • Inuvialuit Settlement Region (Northwest Territories)
  • Nunavut
  • Nunavik (Northern Quebec), and
  • Nunatsiavut (Northern Labrador)

We have lived in our homeland since time immemorial. Our communities are among the most culturally resilient in North America. Roughly 60 percent of Inuit report an ability to conduct a conversation in Inuktut (the Inuit language), and our people harvest country foods such as seal, narwhal and caribou to feed our families and communities.

The term “Inuit Nunangat” is a Canadian Inuit term that includes land, water, and ice. Inuit consider the land, water, and ice, of our homeland to be integral to our culture and our way of life.

This vast region is called Inuit Nunangat. It encompasses roughly 35 percent of Canada’s landmass and 50 percent of its coastline.

Learn more