Who Are Indigenous Peoples

According to the United Nations, there are approximately 400 million Indigenous people worldwide, making up more than 5,000 distinct tribes. Together we are one of the largest minority groups in the world, spanning over 90 countries. While Indigenous Peoples total only about 6% of the world’s population, we represent 90% of the cultural diversity.


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There is no rigid definition of what makes a group Indigenous, but the United Nations and the International Labour Organization have outlined a few characteristics that usually define an Indigenous group:

● We are descended from the pre-colonial/pre-invasion inhabitants of our region.
● We maintain a close tie to our land in both our cultural and economic practices.
● We suffer from economic and political marginalization as a minority group.
● A group is considered Indigenous if it defines itself that way.

Each Indigenous group is unique. We speak thousands of different languages, and our traditions are as diverse as our lands. However, there are basic principles that all Indigenous communities share. These principles are the foundation of all Indigenous practices, and it is because of them that our economies and our societies are equitable, balanced, and sustainable.

Click here to learn more about How Indigenous Societies Work.

Given that Indigenous lands contain so much of the world’s natural assets, why are we not the wealthiest, healthiest people on Earth?
The answer is clear: we are not simply losing control of our assets, our assets are being stripped from us. At the same time, we are systematically denied access to the legal and political tools to secure our rights. This is the single most unifying issue for all Indigenous Peoples. Regardless of where we live, Indigenous Peoples are suffering from eviction, violence, exclusion, discrimination and disenfranchisement, leading to poverty, health issues, and the destruction of our cultures. Perhaps most detrimental is the widespread perception that we lack the capacity to take care of ourselves. We have been prosperous for the vast majority of our history, and the loss of that prosperity is the only possible result of being completely stripped of our resources and our rights. The same would become of any civilization on Earth if it were to experience the same asset-stripping.

The perception that Indigenous Peoples lack capacity not only leads to further marginalization, it prevents us from working effectively with non-Indigenous partners, and from acquiring the capital to create change for our communities.

Click here to learn more about the Challenges We Face.


The idea that Indigenous Peoples lack capacity is a myth. Our traditional knowledge and the strength of our social and economic systems have sustained our existence for thousands of years. We are adaptable and powerful, while remaining dedicated to preserving the whole of life on this planet for generations to come. And now, despite oppression, extreme poverty and exclusion from world development, we have begun to build the world’s first global human rights movement.

The tectonic plates of the global economy have begun to shift toward recognizing the rights of Indigenous Peoples. In 2007, the universal Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations. That same year the shareholders of Newmont Mining voted overwhelmingly to include the interests of Indigenous Peoples in their company’s policies, an unprecedented victory for Indigenous rights. Behind these changes is the largest civil rights movement the world has ever seen, and it’s gaining momentum. Click here to learn about the Global Movement to protect Indigenous communities and their assets.

Also visit our blog for the latest news about Indigenous Peoples worldwide.

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“Values are important for societies, and what we need now is a financial system that can recognize and reinforce values for society’s well being.”
-Rebecca Adamson, Founder and President


First Peoples Worldwide’s Keepers of the Earth Fund is geared toward preserving traditional knowledge and putting it to use in contemporary applications. To learn more about Keepers of the Earth, visit our Grants page.

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First Peoples Worldwide’s Keepers of the Earth Fund is geared toward preserving traditional knowledge and putting it to use in contemporary applications. To learn more about Keepers of the Earth, visit our Grants page.

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