late 14c., natif, "natural, inborn, hereditary, connected with something in a natural way," from Old French natif "native, born in; raw, unspoiled" (14c.) and directly from Latin nativus "innate, produced by birth," from natus, past participle of nasci (Old Latin gnasci) "be born," related to gignere "beget," from PIE root *gene- "give birth, beget," with derivatives referring to procreation and familial and tribal groups.
From early 15c. as "born in a particular place, of indigenous origin or growth, not exotic or foreign," also "of or pertaining to one by birth" (as in native land). Also used from early 15c. in a now-obsolete sense of "bound; born in servitude or serfdom." Of metals, minerals, etc., "occurring in a pure state in nature," 1690s.
Native American in reference to the aboriginal peoples of the Americas is attested by c. 1900 as the name of a journal "devoted to Indian education."
In the early 1970s, ... activist Indians began calling themselves Native Americans (from the peyote-using Native American Church, incorporated in 1918 in Oklahoma and subsequently in other states). The newer term, aside from disassociating its users from the reservation life of the past, was a form of one-upsmanship, since it reminded whites just who was on the premises first. [Hugh Rawson, "Wicked Words"]