In Section Thirty-five of the Constitution Act, 1982, "Aboriginal peoples of Canada" includes the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples. Aboriginal peoples is a legal term encompassing all indigenous Canadian groups. Aboriginal peoples is beginning to be considered outdated and slowly being replaced by the term Indigenous peoples. First Nations (most often used in the plural) has come into general use since the 1970s replacing "Indians" in everyday vocabulary. However, on reserves, First Nations is being supplanted by members of various nations referring to themselves by their group or ethnical identity. In conversation this would be "I am Haida", or "we are Kwantlens", in recognition of their First Nations ethnicities.
The Indian Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. I-5) sets the legal term Indian and "means a person who pursuant to this Act is registered as an Indian or is entitled to be registered as an Indian". Section 5 of this act states that a registry shall be maintained "in which shall be recorded the name of every person who is entitled to be registered as an Indian under this Act". No other term is legally recognized for the purpose of registration and the term Indian specifically excludes reference to Inuit as per section 4 of the Indian Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. I-5). Indian remains in place as the legal term used in the Canadian Constitution. Its usage outside such situations can be considered offensive.
The term Eskimo has pejorative connotations in Canada and Greenland. Indigenous peoples in those areas have replaced the term Eskimo with Inuit. The Yupik of Alaska and Siberia do not consider themselves Inuit, and ethnographers agree they are a distinct people. They prefer the terminology Yupik, Yupiit, or Eskimo. The Yupik languages are linguistically distinct from the Inuit languages. Linguistic groups of Arctic people have no universal replacement term for Eskimo, inclusive of all Inuit and Yupik people across the geographical area inhabited by the Inuit and Yupik peoples.
Besides these ethnic descriptors, Aboriginal peoples are often divided into legal categories based on their relationship with the Crown (i.e. the state). Section 91 (clause 24) of the Constitution Act, 1867 gives the federal government (as opposed to the provinces) the sole responsibility for "Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians". The government inherited treaty obligations from the British colonial authorities in Eastern Canada and signed treaties itself with First Nations in Western Canada (the Numbered Treaties). It also passed the Indian Act in 1876 which governed its interactions with all treaty and non-treaty peoples. Members of First Nations bands that are subject to the Indian Act with the Crown are compiled on a list called the Indian Register, and such people are called Status Indians. Many non-treaty First Nations and all Inuit and Métis peoples are not subject to the Indian Act. However, two court cases have clarified that Inuit, Métis, and non-status First Nations people, all are covered by the term "Indians" in the Constitution Act, 1867. The first was Re Eskimos in 1939 covering the Inuit, the second being Daniels v. Canada in 2013 which applies to Métis and non-Status First Nations.
Notwithstanding Canada's location within the Americas, the term "Native American" is not used in Canada as it is typically used solely to describe the indigenous peoples within the boundaries of the present-day United States.