First Nations (French: Premières Nations) are the predominant Aboriginal Canadians south of the Arctic. Those in the Arctic area are distinct and known as Inuit. The Métis, another distinct ethnicity, developed after European contact and relations primarily between First Nations people and Europeans. There are currently 634 recognized First Nations governments or bands spread across Canada, roughly half of which are in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia.
Under the Employment Equity Act, First Nations are a "designated group", along with women, visible minorities, and people with physical or mental disabilities. First Nations are not defined as a visible minority under the Act or by the criteria of Statistics Canada.
North American indigenous peoples have cultures spanning thousands of years. Some of their oral traditions accurately describe historical events, such as the Cascadia earthquake of 1700 and the 18th century Tseax Cone eruption. Written records began with the arrival of European explorers and colonists during the Age of Discovery, beginning in the late 15th century. European accounts by trappers, traders, explorers, and missionaries give important evidence of early contact culture. In addition, archeological and anthropological research, as well as linguistics, have helped scholars piece together an understanding of ancient cultures and historic peoples.
Although not without conflict, Euro-Canadians' early interactions with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit populations were less combative compared to the often violent battles between colonists and native peoples in the United States. Combined with later economic development, this relatively non-combative history has allowed First Nations peoples to have an influence on Canadian national culture, while preserving their own identities.