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Home / Featured Themes / Indigenous Peoples

Definition of Indigenous Peoples: (according to the United Nations Guide for Indigenous Peoples)

There are an estimated 300 million indigenous people in more than 70 countries worldwide. Indigenous peoples are the inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to other people and to the environment. Indigenous peoples have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live. Despite their cultural differences, the various groups of indigenous peoples around the world share common problems related to the protection of their rights as distinct peoples.

Indigenous peoples around the world have sought recognition of their identities, their ways of life and their right to traditional lands and resources; yet throughout history, their rights have been violated. Indigenous people are arguably among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people in the world today. The international community now recognizes that special measures are required to protect the rights of the world's indigenous peoples.

Despite differences in location, many Indigenous groups have shared common experiences such as environmental and land claim issues, poverty, threat or loss of culture & language, self determination, and discrimination.
  • What is your image of history in terms of what has happened to Indigenous people?
  • What are you thoughts on how we could create better relations and understandings between Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous peoples?
  • Why do you believe Indigenous peoples around the world live in rampant poverty?
  • In many educational systems, Indigenous history is often excluded. Is this so in your country? Why do you think this is?
  • To discuss more about these issues, visit the discussion board

For many centuries, Indigenous peoples' rights as distinct peoples have time and again been violated by the equally egregious acts of racism and violence through continued stream of unapologetic stereotypes and blatant acts of aggression carried out in the name of 'civilization,' and/or 'religion.'

In spite of such persistent colonial onslaught, however, many Indigenous communities have equally been relentless in preserving the very fabric of their identity: their rich customs and traditions that form the foundations of Indigenous culture. Indeed, this determination continues to today; at a time when some of the most ancient Indigenous traditions are under the constant threat of extinction, new generations have come to build on the great legacy of their ancestors.

Just as appreciating any given culture would require the thorough understanding of the history as well as present trends and challenges to the very people who contribute to it, so it would be necessary of us to take a closer look at such factors in better understanding the rich history and traditions of Indigenous peoples.

For more information, please visit the section on indigenous peoples in our Understanding the Issues page. There you will find relevant policy documents, up-to-date articles, a comprehensive list of organizations, and many more features related to Indigenous peoples.

Oral traditions tell us of a time immemorial where we are free to imagine our history without adhering to the textbook version that many of us have grown up with. Oral traditions have been an integral aspect of Indigenous traditional life. They have been passed on from one generation to the next to teach and maintain Indigenous values, customs, and beliefs. However, this and many other cultural traditions have been threatened as Indigenous communities experience the effects of globalization and the overwhelming mass media.

Many oral traditions have now been written down to ensure this part of the culture is not lost. Special stories about the origins of sacred ceremonies, especially creation legends, are told with great precision. However, some feel that out of context these sacred stories lose their meaning, while some feel it is an important way to share the traditions of Indigenous peoples so others can learn and grow in their understanding of Indigenous people. To see further into this debate of intellectual property visit our discussion boards.

For Global Gallery contest for Indigenous People section, oral traditions from Indigenous groups such as the Cree, Mayan, and Maori are shared. We also encourage you to share your oral traditions about Indigenous peoples. To submit these go to the Panorama. As you read, we hope that you become inspired to create artwork that reflects your visual and historical interpretation of these stories. visit our Global Gallery.

Tired of just reading articles and stats? Meet a person from an Indigenous community! Read a personal account of the lives and experiences of Indigenous youth from various regions from around the world!