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Indigenous peoples

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Indigenous peoples

Raoni Metuktire, Kaye, Kadjor and Panara, leaders of the indigenous Kayapo tribe, Mato Grosso, Brazil
Sven-Roald Nystø, Aili Keskitalo and Ole Henrik Magga, the three first presidents of the Norwegian Sami Parliament
endorses Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, 2010
The New Zealand delegation endorses the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in April 2010.

Baka dancers in the East Province of Cameroon
Inuit people on a traditional qamutik (dog sled), Cape Dorset, Canada
Doll representations of a Kodava couple in traditional attire, India

Indigenous peoples are those groups specially protected in international or national legislation as having a set of specific rights based on their historical ties to a particular territory, and their cultural or historical distinctiveness from other populations.[1] The legislation is based on the conclusion that certain indigenous people are vulnerable to exploitation, marginalization and oppression by nation states formed from colonising populations or by politically dominant, different ethnic groups. A special set of political rights in accordance with international law have been set forth by international organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank.[2] The United Nations has issued a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to guide member-state national policies to collective rights of indigenous people—such as culture, identity, language, and access to employment, health, education, and natural resources. Although no definitive definition of "indigenous peoples" exists, estimates put the total population of indigenous peoples from 220 million to 350 million.[3]


  • Original meaning of indigenous 1
  • Special meaning of indigenous 2
    • Legal definitions 2.1
    • International organisations 2.2
      • International Labour Organisation 2.2.1
      • United Nations 2.2.2
    • National definitions 2.3
    • Summary 2.4
  • Population and distribution 3
  • Historical cultures 4
    • Classical antiquity 4.1
    • European expansion and colonialism 4.2
    • Globalization 4.3
  • Indigenous peoples by region 5
    • Africa 5.1
    • Americas 5.2
    • Asia 5.3
    • Europe 5.4
    • Oceania 5.5
  • Rights, issues and concerns 6
    • Health issues 6.1
    • International bodies concerned with indigenous peoples' rights 6.2
    • Non-governmental Organizations working for indigenous peoples' rights 6.3
    • International Day of the World's Indigenous People 6.4
  • Knowledge and culture 7
  • Viewpoints 8
    • Indigenous viewpoints 8.1
    • Non-indigenous viewpoints 8.2
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12
    • Institutions 12.1

Original meaning of indigenous

The adjective indigenous is derived from the Latin etymology meaning "native" or "born within".[4] Any given people, ethnic group or community may be described as indigenous in reference to some particular region or location that they see as their traditional tribal land claim.[5] Other terms used to refer to indigenous populations are aboriginal, native, original, or first (as in Canada's First Nations).

The use of the term peoples in association with the indigenous is derived from the 19th century [6]

Special meaning of indigenous

During the late twentieth century, the term Indigenous people began to be used to describe a legal category in indigenous law created in international and national legislation; it refers to culturally distinct groups affected by colonization.

There is no single, universally accepted definition of the term "indigenous peoples"; however, as the term used in this article, the most often invoked elements are:[7]

  • the voluntary perpetuation of cultural distinctiveness
  • an experience of subjugation, marginalisation and dispossession, and
  • self-identification.

James Anaya, former Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, has defined indigenous peoples as "living descendants of pre-invasion inhabitants of lands now dominated by others. They are culturally distinct groups that find themselves engulfed by other settler societies born of forces of empire and conquest".[8]

Martínez-Cobo's[9] working definition of “indigenous communities, peoples and nations” found in the WGIP's Study on the Problem of Discrimination against Indigenous Populations in the 1980s[10]
They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal system. This historical continuity may consist of the continuation, for an extended period reaching into the present of one or more of the following factors:
a. Occupation of ancestral lands, or at least of part of them
b. Common ancestry with the original occupants of these lands
c. Culture in general, or in specific manifestations (such as religion, living under a tribal system, membership of an indigenous community, dress, means of livelihood, lifestyle, etc.)
d. Language (whether used as the only language, as mother-tongue, as the habitual means of communication at home or in the family, or as the main, preferred, habitual, general or normal language)
e. Residence in certain parts of the country, or in certain regions of the world
f. Other relevant factors.

However these definitions have encountered criticism as they fail to consider regions and states where indigenous peoples constitute a majority as in Fiji, and Bolivia, or where the entire population is indigenous, as in Iceland, Tonga and the Papua New-Guinea.

Legal definitions

Legal definitions of indigenousness have changed over time. For example, in Africa:[11]

1. from the advent of the colonial rule until decolonisation, the concept was used to refer to all non-European natives on territories conquered and colonised by European powers
2. under the early years of the post-colonial era, indigenousness was popularised as a concept referring to non-Europeans in countries where peoples mainly descending from European settlers remained dominant
3. the indigenous rights movement was internationalised to cover other (marginalised) groups, in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Pacific

An early attempt at a legal definition was undertaken by the Indigenous and Tribal Populations Convention, 1957 (No. 107).

International organisations

International Labour Organisation

The Convention No. 169, concerning the rights of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, 1989) in Article 1 contains a statement of coverage rather than a definition, indicating that the Convention applies to:

Miao girls in China
a) tribal peoples in independent countries whose social, cultural and economic conditions distinguish them from other sections of the national community and whose status is regulated wholly or partially by their own customs or traditions or by special laws or regulations;
b) peoples in independent countries who are regarded as indigenous on account of their descent from the populations that inhabited the country, or a geographical region where the country belongs, at the time of conquest or colonization or the establishment of present state boundaries and who irrespective of their legal status, retain some or all of their own social, economic, cultural and political institutions.

United Nations

Veddha chief Uruwarige Wannila Aththo, leader of the indigenous people Sri Lanka
Orang Asli near Cameron Highlands, Malaysia playing a nose flute
Kodava men in traditional attire, India
In 1972 the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations (WGIP) accepted as a preliminary definition a formulation put forward by Mr. José R. Martínez-Cobo, Special Rapporteur on Discrimination against Indigenous Populations. This definition has some limitations, because the definition applies mainly to pre-colonial populations, and would likely exclude other isolated or marginal societies. In 1983 the WGIP enlarged this definition (FICN. 41Sub.211983121 Adds. para. 3 79), and in 1986 further added that any individual who identified himself or herself as indigenous and was accepted by the group or the community as one of its members was to be regarded as an indigenous person (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1986/7/Add.4. para.381) as per the Martínez-Cobo working definition. However, the report was based on data gathered from the 37 respondent countries, of which 18 were from the South and Latin America, and three from North America, while not one African country was represented.[12] Because the study terms of reference were concerned with discrimination, those instances where the indigenous populations are not subjected to discrimination because they remain the dominant demographic, or were never subject to colonisation were omitted.[13] From this evolved the more-often cited definition [14]
Indigenous communities, peoples, and nations are those that, having a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing in those territories, or parts of them. They form at present non-dominant sectors of society and are determined to preserve, develop, and transmit to future generations their ancestral territories, and their ethnic identity, as the basis of their continued existence as peoples, in accordance with their own cultural patterns, social institutions and legal systems.
Although Special Rapporteur to the UN on Indigenous peoples Erica-Irene Daes in 1995 stated that a definition was unnecessary because "historically, indigenous peoples have suffered, from definitions imposed by others" [15] Indigenous representatives also on several occasions have expressed the view before the Working Group that
...a definition of the concept of 'indigenous people' is not necessary or desirable. They have stressed the importance of self-determination as an essential component of any definition that might be elaborated by the United Nations System. In addition, a number of other elements were noted by indigenous representatives...Above all and of crucial importance is the historical and ancient connection with lands and territories[16]
The Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples prepared by the Working Group on Indigenous Populations[17] was adopted on the 13 September 2007 by the General Assembly as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is used to produce a definition of indigenous peoples or populations based on the Annex and 46 Articles. This is because
...there is a perceived erosion of indigenous claims as nothing prevents groups whose indigenousness is resisted — if not resented — by widely recognized groups to equally invoke this identity. Countries, mostly from Africa and Asia, continue to oppose domestic applicability of the concept.[18]
In particular Article 33 is used by many national lawmakers in producing indigenous definitions based on
1. Indigenous peoples have the right to determine their own identity or membership in accordance with their customs and traditions. This does not impair the right of indigenous individuals to obtain citizenship of the States where they live.
2. Indigenous peoples have the right to determine the structures and to select the membership of their institutions in accordance with their own procedures.
The primary impetus in considering indigenous identity comes from the post-colonial movements and considering the historical impacts on populations by the European imperialism. The first paragraph of the Introduction of a report published in 2009 by the Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues published a report,[19] states
For centuries, since the time of their colonization, conquest or occupation, indigenous peoples have documented histories of resistance, interface or cooperation with states, thus demonstrating their conviction and determination to survive with their distinct sovereign identities. Indeed, indigenous peoples were often recognized as sovereign peoples by states, as witnessed by the hundreds of treaties concluded between indigenous peoples and the governments of the United States, Canada, New Zealand and others.[20]
Woman from the Surma ethnic group, a Nilotic people inhabiting the Southern Region in Ethiopia.
Another recent publication by the UNPFII [21] includes the following passage with regard to the term "indigenous",
Understanding the term “indigenous”
Considering the diversity of indigenous peoples, an official definition of “indigenous” has not been adopted by any UN-system body. Instead the system has developed a modern understanding of this term based on the following:
  • Self- identification as indigenous peoples at the individual level and accepted by the community as their member.
  • Historical continuity with pre-colonial and/or pre-settler societies
  • Strong link to territories and surrounding natural resources
  • Distinct social, economic or political systems
  • Distinct language, culture and beliefs
  • Form non-dominant groups of society
  • Resolve to maintain and reproduce their ancestral environments and systems as distinctive peoples and
A Burmese depiction of the Akha in the early 1900s.

According to the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, the following organisations currently represent the indigenous peoples rights internationally:[23]

Children of the Omo Valley in Ethiopia.

National definitions

Ati woman, the Philippines, 2007[24] The Negritos were the earliest inhabitants of Southeast Asia.[25]

Throughout history different states designate the groups within their boundaries that are recognized as indigenous peoples according to international legislation by different terms. Indigenous people also include people indigenous based on their descent from populations that inhabited the country when non-indigenous religions and cultures arrived—or at the establishment of present state boundaries—who retain some or all of their own social, economic, cultural and political institutions, but who may have been displaced from their traditional domains or who may have resettled outside their ancestral domains.

The status of the indigenous groups in the subjugated relationship can be characterized in most instances as an effectively marginalized, isolated or minimally participative one, in comparison to majority groups or the nation-state as a whole. Their ability to influence and participate in the external policies that may exercise jurisdiction over their traditional lands and practices is very frequently limited. This situation can persist even in the case where the indigenous population outnumbers that of the other inhabitants of the region or state; the defining notion here is one of separation from decision and regulatory processes that have some, at least titular, influence over aspects of their community and land rights. In a ground-breaking decision involving the Ainu people of Japan, the Japanese courts recognised their claim in law, stating that "If one minority group lived in an area prior to being ruled over by a majority group and preserved its distinct ethnic culture even after being ruled over by the majority group, while another came to live in an area ruled over by a majority after consenting to the majority rule, it must be recognised that it is only natural that the distinct ethnic culture of the former group requires greater consideration."[26]

Aboriginal farmers in Victoria, Australia, 1858

The presence of external laws, claims and cultural mores either potentially or actually act to variously constrain the practices and observances of an indigenous society. These constraints can be observed even when the indigenous society is regulated largely by its own tradition and custom. They may be purposefully imposed, or arise as unintended consequence of trans-cultural interaction. They may have a measurable effect, even where countered by other external influences and actions deemed beneficial or that promote indigenous rights and interests.

Commonwealth of Australia

In the early 1980s, the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs proposed a new three-part definition of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person.
An Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander are people of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, and are accepted as such by the community where they live.[27]

The Philippines
Indigenous Peoples of the Philippines (Filipinos.[28]

Representation of a Chukchi family by Louis Choris (1816)
Shaman of Olkhon, Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia.
Nenets child

Russian Federation

According to Russian Federation law, the recognition of ethnic groups as indigenous peoples in Russia is based on
...their lifestyle, livelihoods, ethnic identity and population size. Of these criteria, only population size is relatively straightforward, whereas the others involve substantial subjectivity. In practice, historical administrative categories play an important role in determining which small groups to consider indigenous. According to the restrictions on population size, only groups that number less than fifty thousand people can be considered numerically small indigenous peoples.5 Hence, notwithstanding their claim to autochthony, larger non-Russian groups, such as the Sakha, Komi or Chechens, are not included in this concept because they count too many members. This is not to say that they are not considered indigenous (korennye) in a broader sense, but rather that this indigenousness does not entail the type of rights bestowed on the smaller peoples in Russia or on indigenous peoples of all sizes internationally.[29]


A composite special definition of indigenous people can be assembled from the above examples. This definition includes cultural groups (and their continuity or association with a region and who formerly or currently inhabit that region) under at least one of these conditions:

  • Before its subsequent colonization or annexation
  • Alongside other cultural groups during the formation or reign of a colony or nation-state
  • Independently or largely isolated from the influence of the claimed governance by a nation-state


  • Have maintained at least part of distinct cultural, social, or linguistic characteristics, and remain differentiated in some degree from surrounding populations and dominant culture
  • Self-identify as indigenous, and are recognized as such by other groups

Another defining characteristic for an indigenous group is that it has preserved traditional ways of living, such as present or historical reliance upon subsistence-based production (based on pastoral, horticultural and/or hunting and gathering techniques), and a predominantly non-urbanized society. Not all indigenous groups share these characteristics. Indigenous societies may be either settled in a given locale/region or exhibit a nomadic lifestyle across a large territory, but are generally historically associated with a specific territory on which they depend. Indigenous societies are found in every inhabited climate zone and continent of the world.[2][30]

Population and distribution

Members of an uncontacted tribe encountered in the Brazilian state of Acre in 2009.

Indigenous societies range from those who have been significantly exposed to the colonizing or expansionary activities of other societies (such as the Maya peoples of Mexico and Central America) through to those who as yet remain in comparative isolation from any external influence (such as the Sentinelese and Jarawa of the Andaman Islands).

Precise estimates for the total population of the world's Indigenous peoples are very difficult to compile, given the difficulties in identification and the variances and inadequacies of available census data. Recent source estimates range from 300 million[31] to 350 million[32] as of the start of the 21st century. This would equate to just fewer than 6% of the total world population. This includes at least 5000 distinct peoples[32] in over 72 countries.

Contemporary distinct indigenous groups survive in populations ranging from only a few dozen to hundreds of thousands and more. Many indigenous populations have undergone a dramatic decline and even extinction, and remain threatened in many parts of the world. Some have also been assimilated by other populations or have undergone many other changes. In other cases, indigenous populations are undergoing a recovery or expansion in numbers.

Certain indigenous societies survive even though they may no longer inhabit their "traditional" lands, owing to migration, relocation, forced resettlement or having been supplanted by other cultural groups. In many other respects, the transformation of culture of indigenous groups is ongoing, and includes permanent loss of language, loss of lands, encroachment on traditional territories, and disruption in traditional lifeways due to contamination and pollution of waters and lands.

Historical cultures

An Adivasi woman from the Kutia Kondh tribal group in Odisha, India

The migration, expansion and settlement of societies throughout different territories is a universal, defining thread that runs through human history. Many cross-cultural interactions that arose from these historical encounters involved societies that were considered indigenous by themselves or others.

Most often, these past encounters between indigenous and non-indigenous groups lack contemporary account or description. Any assessment or understanding of impact, result and relation can at best only be surmised, using archae ological, linguistic or other reconstructive means. Where accounts do exist, they frequently originate from the viewpoint of the colonizing, expansionary or nascent state or from rather scarce and fragmented ethnographic sources compiled by those more congenial with indigenous communities and/or representatives thereof.

Classical antiquity

Greek sources of the Classical period acknowledge the prior existence of indigenous people(s), whom they referred to as "Pelasgians". These peoples inhabited lands surrounding the Aegean Sea before the subsequent migrations of the Hellenic ancestors claimed by these authors. The disposition and precise identity of this former group is elusive, and sources such as Homer, Hesiod and Herodotus give varying, partially mythological accounts. However, it is clear that cultures existed whose indigenous characteristics were distinguished by the subsequent Hellenic cultures (and distinct from non-Greek speaking "foreigners", termed "barbarians" by the historical Greeks). Greco-Roman society flourished between 250 BC and 480 AD and commanded successive waves of conquests that gripped more than half of the globe. But because already existent populations within other parts of Europe at the time of classical antiquity had more in common culturally speaking with the Greco-Roman world, the intricacies involved in expansion across the European frontier were not so contentious relative to indigenous issues.[33] But when it came to expansion in other parts of the world, namely Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, then totally new cultural dynamics had entered into the equation, so to speak, and one sees here of what was to take the Americas, South East Asia, and the Pacific by storm a few hundred years later. The idea that peoples who possessed cultural customs and racial appearances strikingly different from those of the colonizing power is no new idea borne out of the Medieval period or the Enlightenment.

European expansion and colonialism

The rapid and extensive spread of the various European powers from the early 15th century onwards had a profound impact upon many of the indigenous cultures with whom they came into contact. The exploratory and colonial ventures in the Americas, Africa, Asia and the Pacific often resulted in territorial and cultural conflict, and the intentional or unintentional displacement and devastation of the indigenous populations.

The Canary Islands had an indigenous population called the Guanches whose origin is still the subject of discussion among historians and linguists.[34]


One product of globalization has been a revolt against the forces of cultural uniformity and the state appropriation of indigenous peoples' sovereignty. Globalization may—by relocating indigenous people, denying indigenous cultural knowledge in state schools, eliminating indigenous languages—"[impose] a gray uniformity on all of humanity, stifling and suppressing the creative cultural energies of those who are most knowledgeable and prescient about the forces of nature."[35] "Those who would destroy their way of life would first have us believe that this task is already accomplished. We now have proof to the contrary, and we have received, with gratitude, the message of harmony and respect for all life brought to us by an ancient people whose culture may still yet be allowed to make a worthy contribution to the world community of nations." [36]

Indigenous peoples by region

Indigenous populations are distributed in regions throughout the globe. The numbers, condition and experience of indigenous groups may vary widely within a given region. A comprehensive survey is further complicated by sometimes contentious membership and identification.


Tuareg nomads in southern Algeria
Starting fire by hand. San people in Botswana.
Batwa Pygmy with traditional bow and arrow

In the post-colonial period, the concept of specific indigenous peoples within the African continent has gained wider acceptance, although not without controversy. The highly diverse and numerous ethnic groups that comprise most modern, independent African states contain within them various peoples whose situation, cultures and pastoralist or hunter-gatherer lifestyles are generally marginalized and set apart from the dominant political and economic structures of the nation. Since the late 20th century these peoples have increasingly sought recognition of their rights as distinct indigenous peoples, in both national and international contexts. Though the vast majority of African peoples are indigenous in the sense that they originate from that continent and middle and south east Asia—in practice, identity as an indigenous people per the modern definition is more restrictive, and certainly not every African ethnic group claims identification under these terms. Groups and communities who do claim this recognition are those who by a variety of historical and environmental circumstances have been placed outside of the dominant state systems, and whose traditional practices and land claims often come into conflict with the objectives and policies promulgated by governments, companies and surrounding dominant societies. Given the extensive and complicated history of human migration within Africa, being the "first peoples in a land" is not a necessary precondition for acceptance as an indigenous people. Rather, indigenous identity relates more to a set of characteristics and practices than priority of arrival. For example, several populations of nomadic peoples such as the Tuareg of the Sahara and Sahel regions now inhabit areas where they arrived comparatively recently; their claim to indigenous status (endorsed by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights) is based on their marginalization as nomadic peoples in states and territories dominated by sedentary agricultural peoples. The Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee (IPACC) is one of the main trans-national network organizations recognized as a representative of African indigenous peoples in dialogues with governments and bodies such as the UN. IPACC identifies several key characteristics associated with indigenous claims in Africa:

  • political and economic marginalization rooted in colonialism;
  • de facto discrimination based often on the dominance of agricultural peoples in the State system (e.g. lack of access to education and health care by hunters and herders);
  • the particularities of culture, identity, economy and territoriality that link hunting and herding peoples to their home environments in deserts and forests (e.g. nomadism, diet, knowledge systems);
  • some indigenous peoples, such as the San and Pygmy peoples are physically distinct, which makes them subject to specific forms of discrimination.

With respect to concerns expressed that identifying some groups and not others as indigenous is in itself discriminatory, IPACC states that it:

  • "...recognises that all Africans should enjoy equal rights and respect. All of Africa's diversity is to be valued. Particular communities, due to historical and environmental circumstances, have found themselves outside the state-system and underrepresented in governance...This is not to deny other Africans their status; it is to emphasise that affirmative recognition is necessary for hunter-gatherers and herding peoples to ensure their survival."

At an African inter-governmental level, the examination of indigenous rights and concerns is pursued by a sub-commission established under the

  • IFAD and indigenous peoples (International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD)
  • IPS Inter Press Service News on indigenous peoples from around the world
  • Indigenous Peoples Issues & Resources


  • Awareness raising film by Rebecca Sommer for the Secretariat of the UNPFII

External links

African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (2003). "Report of the African Commission's Working Group of Experts on Indigenous Populations/Communities". ACHPR & IWGIA. 
Baviskar, Amita (2007). "Indian Indigeneitites: Adivasi Engagements with Hindu NAtionalism in India". In Marisol de la Cadena & Orin Starn. Indigenous Experience today. Oxford, UK: Berg Publishers.  
Bodley, John H. (2008). Victims of Progress (5th. ed.). Plymouth, England: AltaMira Press.  
de la Cadena, Marisol; Orin Starn (eds.) (2007). Indigenous Experience Today. Oxford: Berg Publishers, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.  
Clifford, James (2007). "Varieties of Indigenous Experience: Diasporas, Homelands, Sovereignties". In Marisol de la Cadena & Orin Starn. Indigenous Experience today. Oxford, UK: Berg Publishers.  
Coates, Ken S. (2004). A Global History of Indigenous Peoples: Struggle and Survival. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.  
Farah, Paolo D.; Tremolada Riccardo (2014). "Intellectual Property Rights, Human Rights and Intangible Cultural Heritage". Journal of Intellectual Property Law, Issue 2, Part I, Giuffre pp. 21-47.  
Farah, Paolo D.; Tremolada Riccardo (2014). "Desirability of Commodification of Intangible Cultural Heritage: The Unsatisfying Role of IPRs". TRANSNATIONAL DISPUTE MANAGEMENT, Special Issues “The New Frontiers of Cultural Law: Intangible Heritage Disputes”, Volume 11, Issue 2.  
Henriksen, John B. (2001). "Implementation of the Right of Self-Determination of Indigenous Peoples" (PDF). Indigenous Affairs. 3/2001 ( 
Hughes, Lotte (2003). The no-nonsense guide to indigenous peoples. Verso.  
Howard, Bradley Reed (2003). Indigenous Peoples and the State: The struggle for Native Rights. DeKalb, Illinois: Northern Illinois University Press.  
Johansen. Bruce E. (2003). Indigenous Peoples and Environmental Issues: An Encyclopedia. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.  
Martinez Cobo, J. (198). "United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations". Study of the Problem of Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations. UN Commission on Human Rights. 
Maybury-Lewis, David (1997). Indigenous Peoples, Ethnic Groups and the State. Needham Heights, Massachusetts: Allyn & Bacon.  
Merlan, Francesca (2007). "Indigeneity as Relational Identity: The Construction of Australian Land Rights". In Marisol de la Cadena & Orin Starn. Indigenous Experience today. Oxford, UK: Berg Publishers.  
Pratt, Mary Louise (2007). "Afterword: Indigeneity Today". In Marisol de la Cadena & Orin Starn. Indigenous Experience today. Oxford, UK: Berg Publishers.  
Tsing, Anna (2007). "Indigenous Voice". In Marisol de la Cadena & Orin Starn. Indigenous Experience today. Oxford, UK: Berg Publishers.  

Further reading

  1. ^ Coates 2004:12
  2. ^ a b Sanders, Douglas (1999). "Indigenous peoples: Issues of definition". International Journal of Cultural Property 8: 4–13.  
  3. ^ Bodley 2008:2
  4. ^ Klein, Ernest, Dr., A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, volume I A-K, Elsevier Publishing Company, New York, 1966, p.787
  5. ^ Mario Blaser, Harvey A. Feit, Glenn McRae, In the Way: Indigenous Peoples, Life Projects, and Development, IDRC, 2004, p.53
  6. ^ Silke Von Lewinski, Indigenous Heritage and Intellectual Property: Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge, and Folklore, Kluwer Law International, 2004, pp.130-131
  7. ^ Robert K. Hitchcock, Diana Vinding, Indigenous Peoples' Rights in Southern Africa, IWGIA, 2004, p.8 based on Working Paper by the Chairperson-Rapporteur, Mrs. Erica-Irene A. Daes, on the concept of indigenous people. UN-Dokument E/CN.4/Sub.2/AC.4/1996/2 ([1],
  8. ^ S. James Anaya, Indigenous Peoples in International Law, 2nd ed., Oxford University press, 2004, p.3; Professor Anaya teaches Native American Law, and is the third Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous People
  9. ^ was the first UN Special Rapporteur of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities
  10. ^ Martínez-Cobo (1986/7), paras. 379-382
  11. ^ Felix Mukwiza Ndahinda,A Contested Legal Framework for Empowerment of 'Marginalized' Communities, Springer, 2011, p.18
  14. ^ United Nations Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities and its Study of the Problem of Discrimination against Indigenous Populations, UN Doc. E./CN.4/Sub.2/1986/7/Add. 4.para 379 (1986)
  15. ^ Daes, Erica-Irene, Special Rapporteur, Economic and Social Council, Protection of the Heritage of Indigenous Peoples Final Report of the Special Rapporteur, Mrs Erica-Irene Daes, in Conformity with Subcommission Resolution 1993/44 and Decision 1994/105 of the Commission on Human Rights. E/C'N.4/Sub.2/1995/26, p.3.; Daes was the second Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  16. ^ Simpson, Tony, Indigenous heritage and self-determination: the cultural and intellectual property rights of indigenous peoples, The Forest Peoples Programme and IWGIA (International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs), 1997 pp.22-23
  17. ^ established in 1982
  18. ^ Felix Mukwiza Ndahinda, Indigenousness in Africa: A Contested Legal Framework for Empowerment of 'Marginalized' Communities, Springer, 2011, p.20
  19. ^ State of the World's Indigenous Peoples, p.1
  20. ^ State of the World's Indigenous Peoples, Secretariat of Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, UN, 2009
  21. ^ Who are indigenous peoples?
  22. ^ State of the World's indigenous peoples Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, UN, 2007
  23. ^ The Indigenous World 2011, International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, Copenhagen 2011, pp.452-543
  24. ^ "World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples – Philippines: Overview, 2007", UNHCR | Refworld.
  25. ^ Hanihara, T (1992). "Negritos, Australian Aborigines, and the proto-sundadont dental pattern: The basic populations in East Asia". American journal of physical anthropology 88 (2): 183–96.  
  26. ^ Judgment of the Sapporo District Court, Civil Division No. 3, 27 March 1997, in (1999) 38 ILM, p.419
  27. ^ Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Report on a Review of the Administration of the Working Definition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (1981), Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, cited in J Gardiner-Garden, The Definition of Aboriginality: Research Note 18, 2000–01 (2000), The Parliament of Australia, p.2
  28. ^ Section 3 of Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act.
  29. ^ Elana Wilson Rowe, Russia and the North, University of Ottawa Press, 2009, p.168
  30. ^ Acharya, Deepak and Shrivastava Anshu (2008): Indigenous Herbal Medicines: Tribal Formulations and Traditional Herbal Practices, Aavishkar Publishers Distributor, Jaipur- India. ISBN 978-81-7910-252-7. p. 440
  31. ^ WGIP (2001). "Indigenous Peoples and the United Nations System". Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations Office at Geneva. 
  32. ^ a b "Indigenous issues". International Work Group on Indigenous Affairs. Retrieved 5 September 2005. 
  33. ^ Hall, Gillette, and Harry Anthony Patrinos. Indigenous Peoples, Poverty and Human Development in Latin America. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, n.d. Google Scholar. Web. 11 Mar. 2013
  34. ^ Old World Contacts/Colonists/Canary Islands. (22 June 1999). Retrieved on 2011-10-11.
  35. ^ Ronald Niezen, Origins of Indigenism: Human Rights & Politics of Identity, University of California Press, 2003, p.2
  36. ^ Report from the United Nations' International NGO Conference on Discrimination against Indigenous Populations in the Americas, United Nations, 1977, p.21
  37. ^ Dean, Bartholomew 2009 Urarina Society, Cosmology, and History in Peruvian Amazonia, Gainesville: University Press of Florida ISBN 978-0-8130-3378-5 [2]
  38. ^ Mughal, Muhammad Aurang Zeb. 2012. Brazil. Steven L. Denver (ed.), Native Peoples of the World: An Encyclopedia of Groups, Cultures, and Contemporary Issues, Vol. 3. Armonk, NY: M .E. Sharpe, pp. 579-581.
  39. ^ " to Aboriginal Heritage-Culture". Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. Government of Canada. 12 May 2006. Retrieved 18 September 2009. 
  40. ^ "Inuit Circumpolar Council (Canada)-ICC Charter". Inuit Circumpolar Council > ICC Charter and By-laws > ICC Charter. 2007. Retrieved 18 September 2009. 
  41. ^ "In the Kawaskimhon Aboriginal Moot Court Factum of the Federal Crown Canada" (PDF). Faculty of Law.  
  42. ^ "Words First An Evolving Terminology Relating to Aboriginal Peoples in Canada". Communications Branch of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. 2004. Retrieved 26 June 2010. 
  43. ^ "Terminology of First Nations, Native, Aboriginal and Metis" (PDF). Aboriginal Infant Development Programs of BC. 2009. Retrieved 26 June 2010. 
  44. ^ "Aboriginal Identity (8), Sex (3) and Age Groups (12) for the Population of Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2006 Census – 20% Sample Data". Census > 2006 Census: Data products > Topic-based tabulations >. Statistics Canada, Government of Canada. 06/12/2008. Retrieved 18 September 2009. 
  45. ^ "Assembly of First Nations - Assembly of First Nations-The Story". Assembly of First Nations. Retrieved 2 October 2009. 
  46. ^ " to Aboriginal Heritage-object". Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. 12 May 2006. Retrieved 2 October 2009. 
  47. ^ Brazil urged to protect Indians. BBC News (30 March 2005). Retrieved on 2011-10-11.
  48. ^ Brazil sees traces of more isolated Amazon tribes. Retrieved on 2011-10-11.
  49. ^ "Natives in Russia's far east worry about vanishing fish". The Economic Times (India).  
  50. ^ Recognition at last for Japan's Ainu, BBC NEWS
  51. ^ Blust, R. (1999), "Subgrouping, circularity and extinction: some issues in Austronesian comparative linguistics" in E. Zeitoun & P.J.K Li, ed., Selected papers from the Eighth International Conference on Austronesian Linguistics. Taipei: Academia Sinica
  52. ^ Fox, James J."Current Developments in Comparative Austronesian Studies" PDF (105 KB). Paper prepared for Symposium Austronesia Pascasarjana Linguististik dan Kajian Budaya. Universitas Udayana, Bali 19–20 August 2004.
  53. ^ Diamond, Jared M. "Taiwan's gift to the world" PDF (107 KB). Nature, Volume 403, February 2000, pp. 709–710
  54. ^ J. K. Das, Human Rights And Indigenous Peoples, APH Publishing, 2001. pp/30-31
  55. ^ Françoise Vergès, Monsters and Revolutionaries: Colonial Family Romance and Métissage, Duke University Press, 1999, p.80
  56. ^ James Summers, Peoples and International Law: How Nationalism and Self-Determination Shape a Contemporary Law of Nations, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2007, p.245
  57. ^ Pygmy human remains found on rock islands, Science | The Guardian
  58. ^ Bartholomew Dean and Jerome Levi (eds.) At the Risk of Being Heard: Indigenous Rights, Identity and Postcolonial States University of Michigan Press (2003)[3]
  59. ^ Trask, Haunani-Kay. From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawaii (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999), 2nd ed., 33. 
  60. ^ (Last update: 5 October 2012). Retrieved on 2012-12-11.
  61. ^ No 'indigenous', reiterates Shafique. (18 June 2011). Retrieved on 2011-10-11.
  62. ^ Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs. Retrieved on 2012-03-28.
  63. ^ INDIGENOUS PEOPLEChakma Raja decries non-recognition. (28 May 2011). Retrieved on 2011-10-11.
  64. ^ 'Define terms minorities, indigenous'. (27 May 2011). Retrieved on 2011-10-11.
  65. ^ Disregarding the Jumma. Retrieved on 2011-10-11.
  66. ^ "RESOLUTIONS AND DECISIONS. WHA47.27 International Decade of the World's Indigenous People. The Forty-seventh World Health Assembly," (PDF). World Health Organization. Retrieved 17 April 2011. 
  67. ^ Hanley, Anthony J. Diabetes in Indigenous Populations, Medscape Today
  68. ^ Ohenjo, Nyang'ori; Willis, Ruth; Jackson, Dorothy; Nettleton, Clive; Good, Kenneth; Mugarura, Benon (2006). "Health of Indigenous people in Africa". The Lancet 367 (9526): 1937.  
  69. ^ Health and Ethnic Minorities in Viet Nam, Technical Series No. 1, June 2003, WHO, p. 10
  70. ^ Facts on Suicide Rates, First Nations and Inuit Health, Health Canada
  71. ^ "Health of indigenous peoples". Health Topics A to Z. Retrieved 17 April 2011. 
  72. ^ International Day of the World's Indigenous People – 9 August. Retrieved on 2012-03-28.
  73. ^ Charles Theodore Greve (1904). Centennial History of Cincinnati and Representative Citizens, Volume 1. Biographical Publishing Company. p. 35. Retrieved 2013-05-22. 
  74. ^ See Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe, 435 U.S. 191 (1978); also see Robert Williams, Like a Loaded Weapon
  75. ^ Survival International website – About Us/FAQ. Retrieved on 2012-03-28.
  76. ^ Friends of Peoples close to Nature website – Our Ethos and statement of principles at the Wayback Machine (archived February 26, 2009) Retrieved from Internet Archive December 13th 2013.


See also

After World War I, however, many Europeans came to doubt the morality of the means used to "civilize" peoples. At the same time, the anti-colonial movement, and advocates of indigenous peoples, argued that words such as "civilized" and "savage" were products and tools of colonialism, and argued that colonialism itself was savagely destructive. In the mid 20th century, European attitudes began to shift to the view that indigenous and tribal peoples should have the right to decide for themselves what should happen to their ancient cultures and ancestral lands.

Indigenous peoples have been denoted primitives, savages,[73] or uncivilized. These terms were common during the heights of European colonial expansion, but still continue in modern times.[74] During the 17th century, indigenous peoples were commonly labeled "uncivilized". While there was a swell in bringing back creative elements of classical antiquity in artistic pursuits, there was also the not so creative side of regurgitating xenophobic ideas from that period. Some philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes considered indigenous people to be merely 'savages', while others are purported to have considered them to be "noble savages". Those who were close to the Hobbesian view tended to believe themselves to have a duty to "civilize" and "modernize" the indigenous. Although anthropologists, especially from Europe, used to apply these terms to all tribal cultures, it has fallen into disfavor as demeaning and, according to many anthropologists, inaccurate Survival International runs a campaign to stamp out media portrayal of indigenous peoples as 'primitive' or 'savages'.[75] Friends of Peoples Close to Nature considers not only that indigenous culture should be respected as not being inferior, but also sees their way of life as a lesson of sustainability and a part of the struggle within the "corrupted" western world, from which the threat stems.[76]

"Savages of Mokka and Their House in Formosa", pre-1945, Taiwan under Japanese rule.

Non-indigenous viewpoints

Indigenous peoples are increasingly faced with threats to their sovereignty, environment, and access to natural resources. Examples of this can be the deforestation of tropical rainforests where many native tribe's subsistence lifestyles are threatened. Assimilative colonial policies resulted in ongoing issues related to aboriginal child protection.

Indigenous viewpoints

A range of differing viewpoints and attitudes have arisen from the experience and history of contact between Indigenous and "non-indigenous" communities. The cultural, regional and historical contexts in which these viewpoints have developed are complex, and many competing viewpoints exist simultaneously in any given society, albeit promulgated with greater or lesser force depending on the extent of cross-cultural exposure and internal societal change. These views may be noted from both sides of the relationship.


For some people (e.g. Indigenous communities from India, Brazil, and Malaysia and some NGOs such as GRAIN and Third World Network), Indigenous peoples have often been victims of biopiracy when they are subjected to unauthorized use of their natural resources, of their traditional knowledge on these biological resources, of unequal share of benefits between them and a patent holder.

The preservation and investigation of specialized Indigenous knowledge, particularly in relation to the resources of the natural environment with which the society is associated, is a goal of both the Indigenous and the societies who thereby seek to identify new resources and benefits (example: partnerships established to research biological extracts from vegetation in the Amazon rainforests).

Knowledge and culture

The UN General Assembly decided on 23 December 1994 that the International Day of the World's Indigenous People should be observed on 9 August every year during the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People (resolution 49/214). Thereafter, on 20 December 2004, the General Assembly decided to continue observing the International Day of Indigenous People every year during the Second International Decade of the World's Indigenous People (2005–2014) (resolution 59/174).[72]

The International Day of the World's Indigenous People falls on 9 August as this was the date of the first meeting in 1982 of the United Nations Working Group of Indigenous Populations of the Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities of the Commission on Human Rights.

International Day of the World's Indigenous People

Akha girl in Laos
Various organizations are devoted to the preservation or study of indigenous peoples. Of these, several have widely recognized credentials to act as an intermediary or representative on behalf of indigenous peoples' groups, in negotiations on indigenous issues with governments and international organizations. These include:

Non-governmental Organizations working for indigenous peoples' rights

International bodies concerned with indigenous peoples' rights

The WHO notes that "Statistical data on the health status of indigenous peoples is scarce. This is especially notable for indigenous peoples in Africa, Asia and eastern Europe", but snapshots from various countries, where such statistics are available, show that indigenous people are in worse health than the general population, in advanced and developing countries alike: higher incidence of diabetes in some regions of Australia;[67] higher prevalence of poor sanitation and lack of safe water among Twa households in Rwanda;[68] a greater prevalence of childbirths without prenatal care among ethnic minorities in Vietnam;[69] suicide rates among Inuit youth in Canada are eleven times higher than the national average;[70] infant mortality rates are higher for indigenous peoples everywhere.[71]

[66] In December 1993, the

Health issues

It is also sometimes argued that it is important for the human species as a whole to preserve a wide range of cultural diversity as possible, and that the protection of indigenous cultures is vital to this enterprise.

A scene depicting the Chinese campaign against the indigenous Miao people in Hunan in 1795.

Despite the diversity of Indigenous peoples, it may be noted that they share common problems and issues in dealing with the prevailing, or invading, society. They are generally concerned that the cultures of Indigenous peoples are being lost and that indigenous peoples suffer both discrimination and pressure to assimilate into their surrounding societies. This is borne out by the fact that the lands and cultures of nearly all of the peoples listed at the end of this article are under threat. Notable exceptions are the Sakha and Komi peoples (two of the northern indigenous peoples of Russia), who now control their own autonomous republics within the Russian state, and the Canadian Inuit, who form a majority of the territory of Nunavut (created in 1999).

Wherever indigenous cultural identity is asserted, common societal issues and concerns arise from the indigenous status. These concerns are often not unique to indigenous groups.

The Bangladesh Government has stated that there are "no Indigenous Peoples in Bangladesh".[61] This has angered the Indigenous Peoples of Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh, collectively known as the Jumma (which include the Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Tenchungya, Chak, Pankho, Mru, Murung, Bawm, Lushai, Khyang, Gurkha, Assamese, Santal and Khumi).[62] Experts have protested against this move of the Bangladesh Government and have questioned the Government's definition of the term "Indigenous Peoples".[63][64] This move by the Bangladesh Government is seen by the Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh as another step by the Government to further erode their already limited rights.[65]

Trask observes that “indigenous peoples are defined in terms of collective aboriginal occupation prior to colonial settlement.”[59] She points one an important difference between indigenous history and that of settler history: settlers can claim a voluntary status-- they chose to relocate to lands where their descendants now claim a legal inheritance. Indigenous peoples have an involuntary status: their physical lives on homeland areas are tied to emergence or other creation stories. Their formal nationalities were imposed upon them by outside governments.[60]

A reference page devoted to Indigenous Matters on the website of The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) includes the following passage.

The interaction between indigenous and non-indigenous societies throughout history has been complex, ranging from outright conflict and subjugation to some degree of mutual benefit and cultural transfer. A particular aspect of anthropological study involves investigation into the ramifications of what is termed first contact, the study of what occurs when two cultures first encounter one another. The situation can be further confused when there is a complicated or contested history of migration and population of a given region, which can give rise to disputes about primacy and ownership of the land and resources.

Indigenous peoples confront a diverse range of concerns associated with their status and interaction with other cultural groups, as well as changes in their inhabited environment. Some challenges are specific to particular groups; however, other challenges are commonly experienced. Bartholomew Dean and Jerome Levi (2003) explore why and how the circumstances of indigenous peoples are improving in some places of the world, while their human rights continue to be abused in others.[58] These issues include cultural and linguistic preservation, land rights, ownership and exploitation of natural resources, political determination and autonomy, environmental degradation and incursion, poverty, health, and discrimination.

Rights, issues and concerns

The independent state of Papua New Guinea (PNG) has a majority population of indigenous societies, with more than 700 different tribal groups recognized out of a total population of just over 5 million. The PNG Constitution and other Acts identify traditional or custom-based practices and land tenure, and explicitly set out to promote the viability of these traditional societies within the modern state. However, conflicts and disputes concerning land use and resource rights continue between indigenous groups, the government, and corporate entities.

In most parts of Oceania, indigenous peoples outnumber the descendants of colonists. Exceptions include Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii. According to the 2001 Australian census, indigenous Australians make up 2.4% of the total population, while in New Zealand 14.6% of the population identify at least partially as indigenous Māori, with slightly more than half (53%) of all Māori residents identifying solely as Māori. The Māori are indigenous to Polynesia and settled New Zealand relatively recently, the migrations were thought to have occurred between 1000–1200 CE. In New Zealand pre-contact Māori tribes were not a single people, thus the more recent grouping into tribal (iwi) arrangements has become a more formal arrangement in more recent times. Many Māori tribal leaders signed a treaty with the British, the Treaty of Waitangi, which formed the modern geo-political entity that is New Zealand.

The remains of at least 25 miniature humans, who lived between 1,000 and 3,000 years ago, were recently found on the islands of Palau in Micronesia.[57]

Many of the present-day Pacific Island nations in the Oceania region were originally populated by Polynesian, Melanesian and Micronesian peoples over the course of thousands of years. European colonial expansion in the Pacific brought many of these under non-indigenous administration. During the 20th century several of these former colonies gained independence and nation-states were formed under local control. However, various peoples have put forward claims for Indigenous recognition where their islands are still under external administration; examples include the Chamorros of Guam and the Northern Marianas, and the Marshallese of the Marshall Islands.

Indigenous Australians playing footy
Huli man from the Southern Highlands, Papua New Guinea. New Guinea has more than 1,000 indigenous languages.


In Europe, present-day recognized indigenous populations are relatively few, mainly confined to northern and far-eastern reaches of this Eurasian peninsula. While there are various ethnic minorities distributed within European countries, few of these still maintain traditional subsistence cultures and are recognized as indigenous peoples, per se. Notable indigenous populations include the Basque people of northern Spain and southern France, the Sami people of northern Scandinavia, the Nenets and other Samoyedic peoples of the northern Russian Federation, and the Komi peoples of the western Urals, beside the Circassians in the North Caucasus.

The indigenous people of Greenland, previously a Danish colony, achieved self-rule in 2009


The plurality of this usage to all of the World's indigenous communities is therefore indigenous peoples'. In the 1970s and 1980s concerns were initially raised by some UN member countries in using the term.[54] The concern was due in part to the use of the same term amongst Maoist-oriented groups of a variation invented by Vladimir Lenin, 'Workers and Oppressed Peoples and Nations of the World, Unite!', that would include emancipation of the indigenous communities. This slogan was the rallying cry of the 2nd Comintern congress in 1920, and denoted the anti-Imperialist and anti-Colonialist agenda of the Comintern, and later the many indigenous Maoist and Communist-leaning liberation movements although the socialist doctrine rejected "indigenous nationalism".[55] China, to comply with this very Maoist doctrine, as recently as 2003 claimed it had no "indigenous peoples".[56]

The Assyrians are indigenous to areas of the geocultural region of Mesopotamia.

There are also indigenous people in Southeast Asia. There are indigenous peoples of the Philippines, which Spain and the United States colonized.

The languages of Taiwanese aborigines have significance in historical linguistics, since in all likelihood Taiwan was the place of origin of the entire Austronesian language family, which spread across Oceania.[51][52][53]

Ainu people are an ethnic group indigenous to Hokkaidō, the Kuril Islands, and much of Sakhalin. As Japanese settlement expanded, the Ainu were pushed northward, until by the Meiji period they were confined by the government to a small area in Hokkaidō, in a manner similar to the placing of Native Americans on reservations.[50]

The most substantial populations are in India, which constitutionally recognizes a range of "Scheduled Tribes" within its borders. These various peoples (collectively referred to as Adivasis, or tribal peoples) number about 68 million (1991 census figures, approximately 8% of the total national population). There are also indigenous people residing in the hills of Northern, North-eastern and Southern India like the Ladakhi, Kinnaurs, Lepcha, Bhutia (of Sikkim), Naga (of Nagaland), Bodo, Munda people of Chota Nagpur Plateau, Mizo (of Mizoram), Kodava (of Kodagu), Toda, Kurumba, Kota (of the Nilgiris), Irulas and others. Nivkh people are an ethnic group indigenous to Sakhalin, having a few speakers of the Nivkh language, but their fisher culture has been endangered due to the development of oil field of Sakhalin from 1990s.[49]

The vast regions of Asia contain the majority of the world's present-day Indigenous populations, about 70% according to IWGIA figures.

A Nenets family in their tent, Yamal peninsula, Russia.
The Circassians are one of the oldest nations in the European North Caucasus
Ainu man of Hokkaidō, Japan in traditional dress


Guatemala is 50 to 80% indigenous, depending on whose statistics are used (Nelson, Finger in the Wound 1999)

The Amerindians make up 0.4% of Brazil's population, or about 700,000 people.[47] Indigenous peoples are found in the entire territory of Brazil, although the majority of them live in Indian reservations in the North and Center-Western part of the country. On 18 January 2007, FUNAI reported that it had confirmed the presence of 67 different uncontacted tribes in Brazil, up from 40 in 2005. With this addition Brazil has now overtaken the island of New Guinea as the country having the largest number of uncontacted tribes.[48]

In Mexico, approximately 6,011,202 (constituting about 6.7% of 2005 Mexican census figures) identify as Indígenas (Spanish for natives or indigenous peoples). In the southern states of Chiapas, Yucatán and Oaxaca they constitute 26.1%, 33.5% and 35.3%, respectively, of the population. In these states several conflicts and episodes of civil war have been conducted, in which the situation and participation of indigenous societies were notable factors (see for example EZLN).

In the United States, the combined populations of Native Americans, Inuit and other indigenous designations totalled 2,786,652 (constituting about 1.5% of 2003 US census figures). Some 563 scheduled tribes are recognized at the federal level, and a number of others recognized at the state level.

The Inuit have achieved a degree of administrative autonomy with the creation in 1999 of the territories of Nunavik (in Northern Quebec), Nunatsiavut (in Northern Labrador) and Nunavut, which was until 1999 a part of the Northwest Territories. The self-ruling Danish territory of Greenland is also home to a majority population of indigenous Inuit (about 85%).

Aboriginal peoples in Canada comprise the First Nations,[39] Inuit[40] and Métis.[41] The descriptors "Indian" and "Eskimo" are falling into disuse in Canada.[42][43] There are currently over 600 recognized First Nations governments or bands encompassing 1,272,790 2006 peoples spread across Canada with distinctive Aboriginal cultures, languages, art, and music.[44][45][46] National Aboriginal Day recognises the cultures and contributions of Aboriginals to the history of Canada

In Brazil, the term índio (Portuguese pronunciation:  or ˈĩdʒju) is used by most of the population, the media, the indigenous peoples themselves and even the government (FUNAI is acronym for Fundação Nacional do Índio), although its Hispanic equivalent indio is widely not considered politically correct and falling into desuse. Nevertheless, Portuguese for Amerindian and amerindio, ameríndio (ameˈɾĩdʒi.u or ameˈɾĩdʒju in the standard South American dialects) is gaining some popularity, still, it seems odd for many. The widespread completely politically correct term is indígena ĩˈdʒiʒenɐ (though its literal translation is indigenous person or peoples from anywhere, it is colloquially a synonym for Amerindian, with no need to specify indigenous peoples of what continent). It has more ethnic meanings than racial ones, and a "Westerner" in Brazil can be an acculturated ameríndio/índio but not an indígena, which officially means indigenous in the narrow sense.[38]

All nations in North and South America have populations of indigenous peoples within their borders. In some countries (particularly Latin American), indigenous peoples form a sizable component of the overall national population—in Bolivia they account for an estimated 56%–70% of the total nation, and at least half of the population in Guatemala and the Andean and Amazonian nations of Peru. In English, indigenous peoples are collectively referred to by different names that vary by region and include such ethnonyms as Native Americans, Amerindians, and American Indians. In Spanish or Portuguese speaking countries one finds the use of terms such as pueblos indígenas, amerindios, povos nativos, povos indígenas, and in Peru, Comunidades Nativas, particularly among Amazonian societies like the Urarina[37] and Matsés.

The impact of European colonization of the Americas on the indigenous communities has been in general quite severe, with many authorities estimating ranges of significant population decline primarily due to disease but also violence. The extent of this impact is the subject of much continuing debate. Several peoples shortly thereafter became extinct, or very nearly so.

Indigenous peoples of the American continents are broadly recognized as being those groups and their descendants who inhabited the region before the arrival of European colonizers and settlers (i.e., Pre-Columbian). Indigenous peoples who maintain, or seek to maintain, traditional ways of life are found from the high Arctic north to the southern extremities of Tierra del Fuego.

A Navajo man on horseback in Monument valley, Arizona
A Maya family in the hamlet of Patzutzun, Guatemala, 1993
Quechua woman and child in the Sacred Valley, Andes, Peru
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