Indigenous People

Indigenous people number around 370 million worldwide, a lot of them retaining specific traditions which date back to the time before their lands were occupied.

Who are Indigenous People?

Traditional indigenous lifestyle

Many indigenous peoples maintain a traditional lifestyles, like the Yagua in the Peruvian Amazon. (Photo: fotopedia.com)

According to the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, indigenous people spread across 70 countries worldwide, practicing unique traditions, and retaining social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the societies in which they live. Indigenous people today are the descendants of those who inhabited the land before people of other origin arrived and became dominant through conquest, occupation, settlement, or other means. Examples include the Mayas in Guatemala, the Inuit of the circumpolar region, the Saami of Northern Europe, or the Aborigines of Australia.

Definition of Indigenous People

The indigenous peoples of the world are very diverse, ranging from traditional hunter-gatherers and subsistence farmers to legal scholars. Considering this immense diversity, there is no comprehensive definition of the term, given that it would make sense in one society but not in another. Instead, the U.N. has developed a modern understanding 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 communities.

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The Pachamama Alliance partners with indigenous people in the Ecuadorian Amazon to advocate for indigenous rights.

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