American Indians

Indigenous peoples in what is now the continental United States are commonly called "American Indians," or just "Indians" domestically, but are also often referred to interchangeably as "Native Americans." In the US, most people of this ethnicity prefer to be referenced by their specific tribal name, such as Lakota or Nez Perce, rather than collectively with all american indians.

In Alaska, indigenous people, which include Native Americans, Yupik and Inupiat Eskimos, and Aleuts, are referred to collectively as Alaska Natives or Alaskan Natives. Most are referenced by villages instead of tribes or reservations. There are 229 federally recognized Alaskan villages and five unrecognized Tlingit alaskan indian tribes.

Generally, the aboriginal people of Alaska don't mind being called Eskimos or Indians, but there are some individuals who don't like to be called native americans or eskimo. They prefer the terms alaskan natives or alaska indian communities or Inuits, etc.

It is important to understand the diversity of native Alaskan tribes, which speak 20 different languages, belong to five geographic areas, are organized under thirteen Alaska Native Regional Corporations and have eleven different cultures. Alaskan natives make up 20% of the population of the state of Alaska.

In Hawaii, the indigenous people are referred to as Native Hawaiians. Native Hawaiians trace their lineage and language to Polynesians, including Tahitians, Maoris, and Samoans and are not considered to be American Indians. Starting in 2000, the federal government recognized Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders as a distinct group. However, Native Hawaiians often unite with Native Americans over issues of self governance and self-determination.

In Canada, native people are usually referred to as First Nations or Treaty Tribes. Some american indians in Canada are called Inuit or Metis, which are not considered the same as First Nations. Collectively, First Nations, Inuit, and M?tis peoples constitute the Aboriginal peoples in Canada, Indigenous peoples of the Americas, or First Peoples.

"First Nations"' came into common usage in the 1980s to replace the term "Indian band". Elder Sol Sanderson says that he coined the term in the early 1980s. Others state that the term came into common usage in the 1970s to avoid using the word ?Indian,? which some people considered offensive. Apparently, no legal definition of the term exists. Some Aboriginal peoples in Canada have also adopted the term ?First Nation? to replace the word ?band? in the name of their community.

A band is a legally recognized "body of Indians for whose collective use and benefit lands have been set apart or money is held by the Canadian Crown, or declared to be a band for the purposes of the Indian Act."

While the word "Indian" is still a legal term, its use is erratic and in decline in Canada. Some First Nations people consider the term offensive, while others prefer it to "Aboriginal person" or "Aboriginal people," despite the fact that the term is a misnomer given to indigenous peoples of North America by European explorers who erroneously thought they had landed on the Indian subcontinent.

The use of the term "Native Americans", which the United States government and others have adopted, is not common in Canada. It refers more specifically to the Aboriginal peoples residing within the boundaries of the United States. The parallel term "Native Canadian" is not commonly used, but "Natives" is. Under the Royal Proclamation of 1763, also known as the "Indian Magna Carta", the Crown referred to indigenous peoples in British territory as tribes or nations.

Europeans sometimes call american indians "red indians" to distinguish them from the indian people of India. The term "indian" was first used by Columbus, when he mistakenly thought he had landed in the East Indies when he touched the shores of North America.

Native Americans and Alaska Natives make up about 2.3 percent of the U.S. population (as of the 2010 census), with more than 6 million people self identifying themselves as such, although only about 1.9 million are recognized as registered tribal members. Tribes have established their own rules for membership, some of which are increasingly exclusive. Thousands more people have unrecognized Native American ancestry together with other ethnic groups.

American Indian Tribes

There are 566 federally recognized indian tribes (as of October 1, 2010) in the United States and over 630 recognized First Nations governments or bands spread across Canada, roughly half of which are in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia.

Originally, tribes were a society of people bound by blood ties, family relations, and common language. They also had their own religion and political system. When members of different tribes were forced to live together on reservations, some new tribal groupings were formed.Indian tribes are all different, just as for example, the Irish Americans and Italian Americans have different cultural customs and beliefs.

Individual indian tribes each have their own culture, language, and traditions. Many groups may be strangers to one another, while some were once part of a larger tribe and are distantly related, and may share similar cultural practices. Some tribes were once enemies, yet today they may share a reservation with some of their former enemies.

American Indian Reservations / Reserves

The term "reservation" originates from the US federal government?s act of reserving land for federal purposes. In the United States, there are two kinds of reservations: Indian and military.

Indian reservations are areas of land reserved by the federal government as permanent tribal homelands. Today, there are 314 reservations in the United States. Some american indian tribes don't have a reservation, while other indian tribes have more than one.

About 56 million acres make up US indian reservations and indian trust lands. The largest is the Navajo reservation, with about 16 million acres, while the smallest are only a few acres.

In Canada reservations are called reserves. In Canada, an Indian reserve is specified by the Indian Act as a "tract of land, the legal title to which is vested in Her Majesty, that has been set apart by Her Majesty for the use and benefit of a band."