The term First Nations, as of 2013, refers to some 617 different communities, traditionally composed of groups of 400 or so who lived in America long before European contact.
World War II brought a new awareness of human rights around the world. After the horrors of the Holocaust came to full light, few people could deny the dangers of racism. The anti-colonial movement was growing stronger around the world, and with the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 by the newly formed United Nations, many turned their attention to the rights of colonized people globally. In Africa, Asia, and the Americas, liberation movements helped bring the plight of millions under European colonialism to public attention.
In the 1990s, residential schools scholars such as James R. Miller and many indigenous leaders began to argue that the efforts of the Canadian government to assimilate the Indigenous Peoples in the residential schools embodied the principle of cultural genocide: assimilation was intended to destroy the Indigenous Peoples as culturally distinct group. Other scholars pushed back, noting that the cultural destruction of a group is not included as genocide in the final version of the UN Genocide Convention. The debate has continued since then and, if anything, has gained momentum: What is the proper way to address the near-destruction of Indigenous Peoples, their languages, and their cultures? What is the government’s culpability?
The term Inuit refers broadly to the Arctic indigenous population of Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. Inuit means “people,” and the language they speak is called Inuktitut, though there are regional dialects that are known by slightly different names. Today, the Inuit communities of Canada live in the Inuit Nunangat—loosely defined as “Inuit homeland”—which is divided into four regions.