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In accordance with the Constitution Act of 1982, Canada recognizes three main groups of Aboriginal peoples: the First Nations and Inuit, which were the first groups to settle in the country, and the Metis, who emerged after the Europeans settled Canada. The number of Aboriginal languages is currently more than 53, with the majority of these languages spoken only in Canada.
All areas of Canada were home to members of the First Nations. The coasts of Canada provided food and clothing for those who depended on fishing and hunting, while the prairies provided food, clothing, and tools for those who hunted buffalo. First Nations people who lived in central and eastern Canada hunted and grew vegetable crops. Today, more than half of the First Nations people live on reserves. Others live and work in cities across Canada.
Canada's northern regions are populated by the Inuit who live and settled there. They adjusted to the cold northern climate and lived by hunting seals, whales, caribou, polar bears and other wild animals. The majority of Inuit people live in the North today and some still hunt for food and clothing.
Many of the early French fur traders and some English traders married First Nations women. Their children and descendants are the Metis people. The Metis were an important part of the fur trade and they developed their own distinct culture on the prairies.
Aboriginal peoples made agreements or treaties with Europeans once the Europeans arrived in Canada. Indigenous peoples gave up their title to their land in order to gain certain rights and benefits as part of the treaty-making process.
In most agreements, Aboriginals were given exclusive rights to use the land. These lands are exclusively for Aboriginal people. These areas of land are known as "reserves". The Canadian government and Aboriginal groups continue negotiating new land agreements and other rights.
Throughout Canada, Aboriginal peoples care for their unique cultures and languages. By becoming self-governed, they are trying to regain control over life-changing decisions. The role of Aboriginal peoples in building Canada's future continues to grow.