B.C. First Nations & Indigenous People

Indigenous people have lived in the area now known as B.C. for more than 10,000 years. They developed their own societies, cultures, territories and laws. When European explorers and settlers first came to B.C. in the mid-18th century, the province was home to thousands of Indigenous people.

Today, there are approximately 200,000 Indigenous people in British Columbia. They include First Nations, Inuit and Métis. There are 198 distinct First Nations in B.C., each with their own unique traditions and history. More than 30 different First Nation languages and close to 60 dialects are spoken in the province.

As Europeans moved into Indigenous territories, they brought with them their philosophies, technologies and political and economic systems. Relationships between Indigenous peoples and settlers varied across regions and changed over time.

Sometimes, the cultures – with their differences in language, customs and world-view – peacefully co-existed. At other times they clashed, leaving a legacy of mistrust. For many years, governments and religions did not recognize Indigenous peoples' rights. In fact they developed policies to eliminate their rich and diverse languages and cultures.

Many First Nations communities are currently in the process of negotiating treaties with the provincial government. These treaties address issues such as Indigenous rights, self-government and use of land and resources.

Learn more:

  • Many First Nations communities have developed tourism businesses to attract and welcome visitors to learn about their cultures and traditions. For more information, visit Indigenous Tourism BC.
  • To learn about the history of First Nations and Indigenous people, visit the Royal BC Museum's First Nations & Repatriation page on its website.