Who are indigenous people ?

Indigenous peoples, also referred to as first people, aboriginal people, native people, or autochthonous people, are culturally distinct ethnic groups who are native to a place which has been colonised and settled by another ethnic group.

The term indigenous was first, in its modern context, used by Europeans, who used it to differentiate the indigenous peoples of the Americas from black people who were brought to the Americas as slaves from Africa. It 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.”

● United Nations observes the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on 9th August every year.

● The day is being observed to protect the rights of the world’s indigenous population and recognise the achievements and contributions that indigenous people make to improve world issues such as environmental protection.

● The theme for 2021 is ‘Leaving no one behind: Indigenous peoples and the call for a new social contract.

● The day was recognised by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December 1994.

● The date marks the day of the inaugural session of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations at the United Nations in 1982.

They have distinct social, economic or political systems. They have a distinct language, culture and beliefs. They are marginalised and discriminated against by the state. They maintain and develop their ancestral environments and systems as distinct peoples.

The term ‘indigenous peoples’ refers to culturally distinct groups affected by colonization. As a reference to a group of people, the term indigenous first came into use by Europeans who used it to differentiate the indigenous peoples of the Americas from enslaved Africans.