Indigenous Peoples

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The term "indigenous" comes from the Latin "indu": within, and from the suffix "genous": generated. That is to say "generated within". It is, therefore, connected with the concepts of birth, reproduction and offspring. The word indigenous is applied to everything that is relative to an original population of the territory that inhabits, whose establishment in it precedes that of other peoples or whose presence is sufficiently long and stable to have it as a native.

More than 370 million people across 70 countries worldwide identify as indigenous. They belong to more than 5,000 different groups, and speak more than 4,000 languages. “Indigenous Peoples” is the accepted way of referring to them all as a collective group - the equivalent of saying “the British,” or “Australians.”

In international law, “indigenous” acknowledges that a person’s ancestors lived on particular lands, before new people arrived and became dominant. Indigenous peoples have their own unique customs and cultures, and often face difficult realities such as having their land taken away, and being treated as second-class citizens. Indigenous peoples are the descendants of those who were there before the others who now constitute the majority and dominant society. They are defined in part by their ancestry, partly by the particular traits that differentiate them from those who arrived later, such as their language and ways of life, and partly by their own perception of themselves.


Other ways to refer to indigenous peoples are Aboriginal, "First Peoples" and Native Peoples. When you want to describe native people from Australia, you should use Aboriginal, with a capital “A.”

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