Indigenous peoples by region
See also: List of indigenous peoples
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 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 implemented 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.
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 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 tribes like the Mapuches in the Center-South and the Aymaras in the North, also the Rapa Nui indigenous to Easter Island are a Polynesian tribe.
In Brazil, the term índio (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈĩdʒi.u] or ˈĩdʒju) is used by most of the population, the media, the indigenous peoples themselves and even the government (FUNAI is acronym for the Fundação Nacional do Índio) (National Indio Foundation), although its Hispanic equivalent indio is widely not considered politically correct and falling into disuse.
Aboriginal peoples in Canada comprise the First Nations, Inuit and Métis. The descriptors “Indian” and “Eskimo” are falling into disuse in Canada. 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. National Aboriginal Day recognises 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 Québec), 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%).
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.
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).
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 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.
The vast regions of Asia contain the majority of the world’s present-day Indigenous populations, about 70% according to IWGIA figures.
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), Karbi (formely known as Mikir & are in Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and even in Bangladesh), 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.
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 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 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 Javanese, Sundanese, Bantenese, Betawi, Tengger, Osing, Badui, Madurese, Malays, Batak, Minangkabau, Acehnese, Lampung, Kubu, Dayak, Banjar, Makassarese, Buginese, Mandar, Minahasa, Buton, Gorontalo, Toraja, Bajau, Balinese, Sasak, Nuaulu, Manusela, Wemale, Dani, Bauzi, Asmat are indigenous peoples in Indonesia. There are over 300 ethnic groups in Indonesia. 200 million of those are of Native Indonesian ancestry.
In Europe, present-day indigenous populations as recognized by the UN are relatively few, mainly confined to northern and far-eastern reaches of this Eurasian peninsula. Nevertheless, the ethnic groups traditionally inhabiting most, if not all, European countries are considered to be indigenous to Europe. This includes the majority populations.
Notable minority indigenous populations in Europe 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.
In Australia the indigenous populations are the Aboriginal Australians, within which are many different nations and tribes, and the Torres Strait Islanders. These groups are often 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.
In most parts of Oceania, indigenous peoples outnumber the descendants of colonists. Exceptions include New Zealand and Hawaii. According to the 2013 census, New Zealand Māori make up 14.9% of the population of New Zealand, with less than half (46.5%) 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 in the 13th century 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 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.
Indigenous rights and other issues
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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. 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.
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.
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. 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). In Australia, a landmark case, Mabo v Queensland (No 2), saw the High Court of Australia reject the idea of terra nullius. This rejection ended up recognizing that there was a pre-existing system of law practiced by the Meriam people.
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.