Indigenous peoples, also known in some regions as First peoples, First Nations, Aboriginal peoples or Native peoples, or autochthonous peoples, are ethnic groups who are the original or earliest known inhabitants of an area, in contrast to groups that have settled, occupied or colonized the area more recently.
Groups are usually described as indigenous when they maintain traditions or other aspects of an early culture that is associated with a given region. Not all indigenous peoples share this characteristic, as many have adopted substantial elements of a colonizing culture, such as dress, religion or language. Indigenous peoples may be settled in a given region (sedentary) or exhibit a nomadic lifestyle across a large territory, but they 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 except Antarctica.
Very often, indigenous people were forced into slavery or badly treated by settlers and immigrants. Indigenous people were oppressed in colonial times. Colonial settlers often robbed the indigenous treasures and lands. Indigenous people were often made slaves, or killed by colonial settlers.
Colonialism often wanted indigenous people to believe that they were lower social class than the new settlers. Indigenous people sometimes have to fight for their own land, their own history, human rights and equality.
International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples is celebrated on 9 August each year.
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.
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, 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 implemented by governments, companies and surrounding dominant societies.
Indigenous peoples of the American continent 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.
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.
All nations in North and South America have populations of indigenous peoples within their borders. In some countries (particularly in 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 (Native Communities), particularly among Amazonian societies like the Urarina and Matsés. In Chile there are indigenous peoples like the Mapuches in the Center-South and the Aymaras in the North; also the Rapa Nui indigenous to Easter Island are a Polynesian people.
In Brazil, the Portuguese term índio is used by most of the population, the media, the indigenous peoples themselves and even the government (FUNAI is an acronym for the Fundação Nacional do Índio), although its Hispanic equivalent indio is widely considered not politically correct and is falling into disuse.
Indigenous peoples in Canada comprise the First Nations, Inuit and Métis. The descriptors "Indian" and "Eskimo" have fallen into disuse in Canada. According to the 2016 Census, there are around 1 670 000 Aboriginal people. There are currently over 600 recognized First Nations governments or bands spread across Canada with distinctive Aboriginal cultures, languages, art, and music. National Aboriginal Day recognizes the cultures and contributions of Aboriginals to the history of Canada
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 autonomous Danish territory of Greenland is also home to a majority population of Inuit (about 85%) who settled the area in the 13th century, displacing the indigenous Dorset people and Greenlandic Norse.
In the United States, the combined populations of Native Americans, Inuit and other indigenous designations totaled 2,786,652 (constituting about 1.5% of 2003 U.S. census figures). Some 563 scheduled tribes are recognized at the federal level, and a number of others recognized at the state level.
In Mexico, approximately 6,000,000 (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).
The Amerindians make up 0.4% of all Brazilian population, or about 700,000 people. 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 peoples 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 peoples.
The vast regions of Asia contain the majority of the world's present-day indigenous populations, about 70% according to IWGIA figures.
The Yazidis are indigenous to the Sinjar mountain range in northern Iraq. The Yazidis are ethnically Kurd but are a religious minority of the Kurdish people. The Kurds, as a whole, are one of the indigenous peoples of Mesopotamia (south-eastern Turkey, north-eastern Syria, northern Iraq, north-western Iran and parts Armenia).
The Assyrians are indigenous to northern Iraq, southeastern and central Turkey, the fringes of northwestern Iran and northeastern Syria. They claim descent from the ancient Neo-Assyrian Empire, and lived in what was Assyria, their original homeland, and still speak dialects of Aramaic, the official language of the Assyrian Empire.
The most substantial populations of indigenous people are in India, which constitutionally recognizes a range of "Scheduled Tribes" within its borders. These various people number about 200 million. But these terms "indigenous people" and "tribal people" are different.
There are also indigenous people residing in the hills of Northern, North-eastern and Southern India like the Tamils (of Tamil Nadu), Shina, Kalasha, Khowar, Burusho, Balti, Wakhi, Domaki, Nuristani, Kohistani, Bakkarwal, Meenas, Ladakhi, Lepcha, Bhutia (of Sikkim), Naga (of Nagaland), indigenous Assamese communities, Mizo (of Mizoram), Tripuri (Tripura), Adi and Nyishi (Arunachal Pradesh), Kodava (of Kodagu), Toda, Kurumba, Kota (of the Nilgiris), Irulas and others.
India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean are also home to several indigenous groups such as the Andamanese of Strait Island, the Jarawas of Middle Andaman and South Andaman Islands, the Onge of Little Anadaman Island and the uncontacted Sentinelese of North Sentinel Island. They are registered and protected by the Indian government.
In Sri Lanka, the indigenous Veddah people constitute a small minority of the population today.
The Russians invaded Siberia and conquered the indigenous people in the 17th–18th centuries.
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.
The Russian government recognizes only 40 ethnic groups as indigenous peoples, even though there are other 30 groups to be counted as such. The reason of nonrecognition is the size of the population and relatively late advent to their current regions, thus indigenous peoples in Russia should be numbered less than 50,000 people.
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 and fought against the Japanese in Shakushain's Revolt and Menashi-Kunashir Rebellion, 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.
The Dzungar Oirats are indigenous to the Dzungaria in Northern Xinjiang.
The Pamiris are indigenous to the Tashkurgan in Xinjiang.
The Tibetans are indigenous to Tibet.
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..
The Malay Singaporeans are the indigenous people of Singapore, inhabiting it since the Austronesian migration. They have established Kingdom of Singapura back in the 13th century. The name Singapore itself comes from the Malay word Singapura (Singa=Lion, Pura=City) which means the Lion City.
The Cham are the indigenous people of the former state of Champa which was conquered by Vietnam in the Cham–Vietnamese wars during Nam tiến. The Cham in Vietnam are only recognized as a minority, and not as an indigenous people by the Vietnamese government despite being indigenous to the region.
The Degar (Montagnards) are indigenous to Central Highlands (Vietnam) and were conquered by the Vietnamese in the Nam tiến.
The Khmer Krom are the indigenous people of the Mekong Delta and Saigon which were acquired by Vietnam from Cambodian King Chey Chettha II in exchange for a Vietnamese princess.
In Indonesia, there are 50 to 70 million people who classify as indigenous peoples. However, the Indonesian government does not recognize the existence of indigenous peoples, classifying every Native Indonesian ethnic group as "indigenous" despite the clear cultural distinctions of certain groups. This problem is shared by many other countries in the ASEAN region.
In the Philippines, there are 135 ethno-linguistic groups, majority of which are considered as indigenous peoples by mainstream indigenous ethnic groups in the country. The indigenous people of Cordillera Administrative Region and Cagayan Valley in the Philippines are the Igorot people. The indigenous peoples of Mindanao are the Lumad peoples and the Moro (Tausug, Maguindanao Maranao and others) who also live in the Sulu archipelago. There are also others sets of indigenous peoples in Palawan, Mindoro, Visayas, and the rest central and south Luzon. The country has one of the largest indigenous peoples population in the world.
In Myanmar indigenous peoples include the Shan, the Karen, the Rakhine, the Karenni, the Chin, the Kachin and the Mon. However, there are more ethnic groups that are considered indigenous, for example, the Akha, the Lisu, the Lahu or the Mru, among others.
In Europe, the majority of ethnic groups are indigenous to the region in the sense of having occupied it for several centuries or millennia. Present-day indigenous populations as recognized by the UN definition, however, are relatively few, and mainly confined to its north and far east.
Notable minority of indigenous populations in Europe which are recognized include Finno-Ugric Nenets, Samoyed and Komi peoples of northern Russia, and the Circassians of southern Russia and the North Caucasus as well as Sámi of northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. That area is also referred as Sápmi.
In Australia the indigenous populations are the Aboriginal Australian peoples, within which are many different nations and tribes, and the Torres Strait Islander peoples, also with sub-groups. These groups are often together spoken of as Indigenous Australians.
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.
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.
In most parts of Oceania, indigenous peoples outnumber the descendants of colonists. Exceptions include Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii. According to the 2013 census, New Zealand Maori make up 14.9% of the population of New Zealand, with less than half (46.5%) of all Maori residents identifying solely as Maori. The Maori are indigenous to Polynesia and settled New Zealand relatively recently, the migrations were thought to have occurred in the 13th century CE. In New Zealand pre-contact Maori peoples 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 Maori national leaders signed a treaty with the British, the Treaty of Waitangi, which formed the modern geo-political entity that is New Zealand.
A majority of the Papua New Guinea (PNG) population is indigenous, with more than 700 different nationalities recognized out of a total population of 8 million. The country's Constitution and key statutes 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.
Images for kids
A Kawanua tribesman in a parade. Native Indonesians make up about 95% of 200 million Indonesian population.
Starting fire by hand. San people in Botswana.
Shaman from the shuara culture in Ecuador Amazonian forest
Yazidis, who are indigenous to Northern Mesopotamia. They are a part of the Kurdish people ethnically but have not been Islamized.
Indigenous peoples Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.