List of Indigenous peoples

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Indigenous peoples[a] are culturally distinct ethnic groups whose members are directly descended from the earliest known inhabitants of a particular geographic region and, to some extent, maintain the language and culture of those original peoples.[4] The term Indigenous was first, in its modern context, used by Europeans, who used it to differentiate the Indigenous peoples of the Americas from the European settlers of the Americas and from the Africans who were brought to the Americas as enslaved people. The term may have first been used in this context by Sir Thomas Browne in 1646, who stated "and although in many parts thereof there be at present swarms of Negroes serving under the Spaniard, yet were they all transported from Africa, since the discovery of Columbus; and are not indigenous or proper natives of America."[5][6]

Peoples are usually described as "Indigenous" when they maintain traditions or other aspects of an early culture that is associated with the first inhabitants of a given region.[7] 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), exhibit a nomadic lifestyle across a large territory, or be resettled, 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.[8] There are approximately five thousand Indigenous nations throughout the world.[9]

Indigenous peoples' homelands have historically been colonized by larger ethnic groups, who justified colonization with beliefs of racial and religious superiority, land use or economic opportunity.[10] Thousands of Indigenous nations throughout the world are currently living in countries where they are not a majority ethnic group.[11] Indigenous peoples continue to face threats to their sovereignty, economic well-being, languages, ways of knowing, and access to the resources on which their cultures depend. Indigenous rights have been set forth in international law by the United Nations, the International Labour Organization, and the World Bank.[12] In 2007, the UN issued a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) to guide member-state national policies to the collective rights of Indigenous peoples, including their rights to protect their cultures, identities, languages, ceremonies, and access to employment, health, education and natural resources.[13]

Estimates of the total global population of Indigenous peoples usually range from 250 million to 600 million.[14] Official designations and terminology of who is considered Indigenous vary between countries. In settler states colonized by Europeans, such as in the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania, Indigenous status is generally unproblematically applied to groups directly descended from the peoples who have lived there prior to European settlement. In Asia and Africa, where the majority of Indigenous peoples live, Indigenous population figures are less clear and may fluctuate dramatically as states tend to underreport the population of Indigenous peoples, or define them by different terminology.[15]


Indigenous communities, peoples, and nations are those which have a historical continuity with pre-invasion and pre-colonial societies that developed on their territories, and may consider themselves distinct from other sectors of the societies now prevailing on 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 system.[16]

This historical continuity may consist of the continuation, for an extended period reaching into the present of one or more of the following factors:

  • Occupation of ancestral lands, or at least of part of them
  • Common ancestry with the original occupants of these lands
  • Culture in general, or in specific manifestations (such as religion, living under a tribal system, membership in an Indigenous community, dress, means of livelihood, lifestyle, etc.)
  • 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)
  • Residence in certain parts of the country, or in certain regions of the world
  • Other relevant factors.
  • On an individual basis, an Indigenous person is one who belongs to these Indigenous populations through self-identification as Indigenous (group consciousness) and is recognized and accepted by these populations as one of its members (acceptance by the group). This preserves for these communities the sovereign right and power to decide who belongs to them, without external interference.[17]


African Great Lakes[edit]

Hadza people, who are indigenous to the African Great Lakes
A Maasai traditional dance

Central Africa[edit]

Baka pygmy dancers in the East Province of Cameroon
Batwa Pygmy with traditional bow and arrow

Horn of Africa[edit]

Somali women in traditional headresses
Tigrayan women in traditional attire
Wolayta chief
Berta people playing trumpets during a wedding ceremony

North Africa[edit]

Sanhaja Berber traditional dancers

Nile Valley[edit]



Southern Africa[edit]

19th century Zulu man wearing a warrior's garb
Sotho women wearing the traditional Seana Marena blanket
Makua mother and child
Damara man wearing the ǃgūb, a traditional attire
  • Southern San languages speaking peoples: Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Kalahari desert, west and southwestern South Africa.
    • Kx'a/Ju–ǂHoan
      • ǃKung/Juu
        • ǂʼAmkoe
        • ǂKxʼao-ǁʼae (Auen)
    • Tuu
    • ǃKwi (!Ui)
      • ǀXam
      • ǂKhomani (Nǀu)
      • Khwe (Khoi, Kxoe)
    • Taa
      • ǃXooŋake/Nǀumde



Middle East/West Asia[edit]

Marsh Arabs/Ma'dan poling a mashoof in the Mesopotamian Marshes
An Assyrian woman wearing traditional clothing in Zakho
  • There are competing claims that Palestinian Arabs and Jews are indigenous to historic Palestine/the Land of Israel.[84][85][86] The argument entered the Israeli–Palestinian conflict in the 1990s, with Palestinians claiming Indigenous status as a pre-existing population displaced by Jewish settlement, and currently constituting a minority in the State of Israel.[87] Israeli Jews have in turn claimed indigeneity based on historic ties to the region and disputed the authenticity of Palestinian claims.[88][89] In 2007, the Negev Bedouin were officially recognised as Indigenous peoples of Israel by the United Nations.[90] This has been criticised both by scholars associated with the Israeli state, who dispute the Bedouin's claim to indigeneity,[91] and those who argue that recognising just one group of Palestinians as Indigenous risks undermining others' claims and "fetishising" nomadic cultures.[92]
Yazidi festival at Lalish
Baloch of Nimruz Province, Afghanistan


Traditional Adyghe clothing.

Siberia (North Asia)[edit]

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

Over 40 distinct peoples, each with their own language and culture in the Asiatic part of Russia (Siberia/North Asia).

Eurasian Steppe[edit]

South Asia[edit]

Kalash in traditional dress
Kodava men in traditional attire, India
An Indigenous Assamese woman of Assam
Veddha Chief Uruwarige Wannila Aththo, leader of the Indigenous people of Sri Lanka

Southeast Asia[edit]

Mainland Southeast Asia (Indochinese Peninsula)[edit]
A Wa woman carrying her child
Akha girl in Laos
Yi/Nuosu women
A Tai Dam lady
Maritime Southeast Asia (Malay Archipelago)[edit]
A Murut man (a member of one of the Dayak ethnicities) in Monsopiad Cultural Village, Kg. Kuai Kandazon, Penampang, Sabah, Borneo Island
Ati woman, the Philippines, 2007[96] The Negritos were the earliest inhabitants of Southeast Asia.[97]

East Asia[edit]

Western China[edit]
North China[edit]
South China[edit]
Miao (Hmong) girls in China
Bunun dancer


Americas is the supercontinent comprising North and South America, and associated islands.

List of peoples by geographical and ethnolinguistic grouping:

North America[edit]

North America includes all of the continent and islands east of the Bering Strait and north of the Isthmus of Panama; it includes Greenland, Canada, United States, Mexico, Central American and Caribbean countries. However a distinction can be made between a broader North America and a narrower Northern America and Middle America due to ethnic and cultural characteristics.


Two Inuit women in traditional amauti (packing parkas)


Pacific Northwest Coast[edit]

Northwest Plateau-Great Basin-California[edit]

Northwest Plateau[edit]
Great Basin[edit]

Great Plains[edit]

Eastern Woodlands[edit]

Northeastern Woodlands[edit]
Southeastern Woodlands[edit]



Tzeltal dancers waiting to perform, San Cristobal
Mam people
Mayan family from Yucatán
Amuzgos in traditional dress
Mazatec girls performing a dance in Huautla de Jimenez
Huichol woman and child


A Kuna woman in traditional dress

West Indies[edit]

Portrait of the Kali'na exhibited at the Jardin d'Acclimatation in Paris in 1892

The West Indies, or the Caribbean, generally includes the island chains of the Caribbean Sea.

South America[edit]

Emberá women
Bororo-Boe man from Mato Grosso at Brazil's Indigenous Games, 2007
Quechua woman and child in the Sacred Valley, Peru

South America generally includes all of the continent and islands south of the Isthmus of Panama.

Circum-Caribbean (Chibcha)[edit]



Eastern Highlands (Brazilian Highlands)[edit]


Central Andes[edit]

Southern Cone[edit]

Tierra del Fuego[edit]


Oceania includes most islands of the Pacific Ocean, New Guinea, New Zealand and the continent of Australia.

List of peoples by geographical and ethnolinguistic grouping:


Aboriginal farmers in Victoria, Australia, 1858

Indigenous Australians include Aboriginal Australians on the mainland and Tiwi Islands as well as Torres Strait Islander peoples from the Torres Strait Islands.

Western Desert[edit]




Fitzmaurice Basin[edit]

Arnhem Land[edit]

Top End[edit]

Gulf Country[edit]

Cape York[edit]

West Cape[edit]
East Cape[edit]

Daintree Rainforest[edit]

Lake Eyre Basin[edit]

Spencer Gulf[edit]

Murray-Darling Basin[edit]




Torres Strait Islands[edit]



Melanesia generally includes New Guinea and other (far-)western Pacific islands from the Arafura Sea out to Fiji. The region is mostly inhabited by the Melanesian peoples.


Micronesia generally includes the various small island chains of the western and central Pacific. The region is mostly inhabited by the Micronesian peoples.


Samoan family

Polynesia includes New Zealand and the islands of Oceania, and has various Indigenous populations.[100]


Polynesian outliers[edit]


Circumpolar peoples is an umbrella term for the various Indigenous peoples of the Arctic.

List of peoples by ethnolinguistic grouping:

See also[edit]



  1. ^ The Indigenous people of Vanuatu make up more than 95 percent of a country of just under a quarter of a million people (who speak more than 111 different languages), recognized by the United Nations as simultaneously having Least Developed status and having the world’s greatest cultural and linguistic diversity.[102]


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  6. ^ Browne, Sir Thomas (1646). "Pseudodoxia Epidemica, Chap. X. Of the Blackness of Negroes". University of Chicago. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
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  11. ^ Taylor Saito, Natsu (2020). "Unsettling Narratives". Settler Colonialism, Race, and the Law: Why Structural Racism Persist (eBook). NYU Press. ISBN 978-0-8147-0802-6. ...several thousand nations have been arbitrarly (and generally involuntarily) incorporated into approximately two hundred political constructs we call independent states...
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  1. ^ also referred to as First peoples, First nations, Aboriginal peoples, Native peoples, Indigenous Natives, or Autochthonous peoples These terms are capitalized when referring to specific Indigenous peoples as ethnic groups, nations, and the citizens or members of these groups.[1][2][3]