A band is a basic form of local residential group in traditional hunting and gathering societies all around the world. Before European colonization, Canada had 26 band-organized societies: these included the Inuit, several Athapascan (Dene) societies, several northern Algonquian societies and the Beothuk. The local bands were essentially several families, usually from about 20 to 50 people, who lived and worked together in a co-operative and egalitarian way with extensive sharing of food. The size and composition of these local groups fluctuated according to such factors as availability of game and movements related to marriages. In the annual round of hunting, fishing and plant gathering, it was common for several of these local bands to get together once or twice a year for festivals involving several hundred people (see Powwow and Sun Dance).

Today the Canadian government uses the terms band (or Indian band), and more commonly, First Nation, to describe the local unit of administration by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada. These units include the dozens of more complex Indigenous societies that were traditionally organized not as bands but as tribes or chiefdoms. There are over 615 of these modern administrative bands or First Nations, which function as small Aboriginal municipalities and are managed by elected band councils according to the laws of the Indian Act of Canada. These bands do not always coincide with the cultural and linguistic groupings of Aboriginal people.

See also Demography of Aboriginal Peoples; Reserves.