Indigenous / Indigenous Peoples

Adjective, Noun

An umbrella term for the many populations that exist across the world - from the Arctic to the South Pacific - who are the descendants (according to a common definition) of those who inhabited a country or a geographical region at the time when people of different cultures or ethnic origins arrived. The new arrivals later became dominant through conquest, occupation, settlement or other means. 

Indigenous peoples are distinct social and cultural groups, sharing collective ancestral ties to the lands and natural resources where they live, occupy or from which they have been displaced. The land and natural resources on which they depend are inextricably linked to their identities, cultures, livelihoods, as well as their physical and spiritual well-being. They often subscribe to their customary leaders and organizations for representation that are distinct or separate from those of the mainstream society or culture. Many Indigenous peoples still maintain a language distinct from the official language or languages of the country or region in which they reside.

In the United States, indigenous peoples refer to Native Americans. In Canada, indigenous peoples are referred to as First Nation. And within each of those groups, there are various tribes, cultural practices, and languages. 

Although indigenous peoples have different customs and cultures, they face the same harsh realities: eviction from their ancestral lands, being denied the opportunity to express their culture, physical attacks and treatment as second-class citizens.

Indigenous peoples are often marginalized and face discrimination in countries’ legal systems, leaving them even more vulnerable to violence and abuse.


Adapted from the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank