Indigenous peoples of the Americas
"Indian nation" redirects here.
For the South Asian country, see India.
For the peoples of India, see Indian people.
|Regions with significant populations|
|United States||5.2 million|
|France (French Guiana)||19,000|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||2,000|
|Trinidad and Tobago||1,500|
|Related ethnic groups|
The impact of their agricultural endowment to the world is a testament to their time and work in reshaping and cultivating the flora indigenous to the Americas.
Although some societies depended heavily on agriculture, others practiced a mix of farming, hunting and gathering.
Some had varying degrees of knowledge of engineering, architecture, mathematics, astronomy, writing, physics, medicine, planting and irrigation, geology, mining, sculpture and goldsmithing.
At least a thousand different indigenous languages are spoken in the Americas.
Like most cultures, over time, cultures specific to many indigenous peoples have evolved to incorporate traditional aspects but also cater to modern needs.
Eventually, those islands came to be known as the "West Indies," a name still used.
This led to the blanket term "Indies" and "Indians" (Spanish: indios; Portuguese: índios; French: indiens; Dutch: indianen) for the indigenous inhabitants, which implied some kind of racial or cultural unity among the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
This unifying concept, codified in law, religion and politics, was not originally accepted by the myriad groups of indigenous peoples themselves, but has since been embraced or tolerated by many over the last two centuries.
Even though the term "Indian" generally does not include the culturally and linguistically distinct indigenous peoples of the Arctic regions of the Americas—such as the Aleuts, Inuit or Yupik peoples, who entered the continent as a second, more recent wave of migration several thousand years before and have much more recent genetic and cultural commonalities with the aboriginal peoples of the Asiatic Arctic Russian Far East—these groups are nonetheless considered "indigenous peoples of the Americas."
In Canada, indigenous peoples are commonly known as Indigenous Canadians—and sometimes Aboriginal Canadians, though the term has fallen out of favour in recent times—which includes not only First Nations and Arctic Inuit, but also the minority population of Métis people, a First Nations-European mixed race who identify culturally and ethnically with indigenous peoplehood.
The Métis people of Canada can be contrasted, for instance, to the American Indian-European mixed race mestizos (or caboclos in Brazil) of Hispanic America who, with their larger population (in most Latin-American countries constituting either outright majorities, pluralities, or at the least large minorities), identify largely as a new ethnic group distinct from both Europeans and Indigenous Americans, but still considering themselves a subset of the European-derived Hispanic or Brazilian peoplehood in culture and ethnicity (cf.
Among Spanish-speaking countries, indígenas or pueblos indígenas ('indigenous peoples') is a common term, though nativos or pueblos nativos ('native peoples') may also be heard; moreover, aborigen ('aborigine') is used in Argentina and pueblos originarios ('original peoples') is common in Chile.
In Brazil, indígenas or povos indígenas ('indigenous peoples') are common of formal-sounding designations, while índio ('Indian') is still the more often-heard term (the noun for the South-Asian nationality being indiano).
Aborígene and nativo is rarely used in Brazil in Amerindian-specific contexts (e.g. aborígene is usually understood as the ethnonym for Indigenous Australians).
The Spanish and Portuguese equivalents to Indian, nevertheless, could be used to mean any hunter-gatherer or full-blooded Indigenous person, particularly to continents other than Europe or Africa—for example, indios filipinos.
Native American name controversy
Main article: Native American name controversy
The Native American name controversy relates to the dispute over acceptable ways to refer to the indigenous peoples of the Americas and to broad subsets thereof, such as those living in a specific country or sharing certain cultural attributes.
Early settlers often adopted terms that some tribes used for each other, not realizing these were derogatory terms used by enemies.
When discussing broader subsets of peoples, naming may be based on shared language, region, or historical relationship.
Many English exonyms have been used to refer to the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
Some of these names were based on foreign-language terms used by earlier explorers and colonists, while others resulted from the colonists' attempts to translate or transliterate endonyms from the native languages.
Other terms arose during periods of conflict between the colonizers and indigenous peoples.
Since the late 20th century, indigenous peoples in the Americas have been more vocal about how they want to be addressed, pushing to suppress use of terms widely considered to be obsolete, inaccurate, or racist.
During the latter half of the 20th century and the rise of the Indian rights movement, the United States government responded by proposing the use of the term "Native American," to recognize the primacy of indigenous peoples' tenure in the nation.
As may be expected among people of different cultures, not all Native Americans/American Indians agree on its use.
No single group naming convention has been accepted by all indigenous peoples.
Most prefer to be addressed as people of their tribe or nations when not speaking about Native Americans/American Indians as a whole.
Migration into the continents
The specifics of Paleo-Indian migration to and throughout the Americas, including the exact dates and routes traveled, are the subject of ongoing research and discussion.
Indigenous genetic studies suggest that the first inhabitants of the Americas share a single ancestral population, one that developed in isolation, conjectured to be Beringia.
The isolation of these peoples in Beringia might have lasted 10–20,000 years.
Around 16,500 years ago, the glaciers began melting, allowing people to move south and east into Canada and beyond.
Archeological evidence of the latter would have been covered by the sea level rise of more than 120 meters since the last ice age.
The time range of 40,000–16,500 years ago is debatable and probably will remain so for years to come.
The few agreements achieved to date include:
- origin from South Siberia (DNA studies reported in 2012 indicate the area of Altai Republic, with a separation of populations 20,000-25,000 years ago)
- widespread habitation of the Americas during the end of the last glacial period, or more specifically what is known as the Late Glacial Maximum, around 16,000–13,000 years before present.
The data indicated that the individual was closely related to present North American Native American populations.
But, the DNA was ancestral to present-day South American and Central American Native American populations.
The implication is that there was an early divergence between North American indigenous peoples and those of Central and South America.
Ruled out were hypotheses which posit that invasions subsequent to the Clovis culture overwhelmed or assimilated previous migrants into the Americas.
After study, the remains were returned to Montana for burial by Native Americans.
Similarly, the skeleton of a teenage girl (named 'Naia' after a water nymph from Greek mythology) was found in 2007 in the underwater caves called sistema Sac Actun in Mexico's eastern Yucatán Peninsula.
DNA was extracted and dated.
The skeleton was found to be 13,000 years old, and it is considered the oldest genetically intact human skeleton ever found in the Americas.
The DNA indicates she was from a lineage derived from East Asian origins and also represented in the DNA of the modern native population.
The remains of two infants found at the Upward Sun River site have been dated to 11,500 years ago.
They show that all Native Americans descended from a single founding population that initially split from East Asians around 36,000 years ago.
They also show that the basal northern and southern Native American branches, to which all other indigenous Americans belong, diverged around 16,000 years ago.
At least two morphologically different Paleo-Indian populations were coexisting in different geographical areas of Mexico 10,000 years ago.
The Pre-Columbian era refers to all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European and African influences on the American continents, spanning the time of the original arrival in the Upper Paleolithic to European colonization during the early modern period.
While technically referring to the era before Christopher Columbus' voyages of 1492 to 1504, in practice the term usually includes the history of American indigenous cultures until Europeans either conquered or significantly influenced them.
"Pre-Columbian" is used especially often in the context of discussing the pre-contact Mesoamerican indigenous societies: Olmec; Toltec; Teotihuacano' Zapotec; Mixtec; Aztec and Maya civilizations; and the complex cultures of the Andes: Inca Empire, Moche culture, Muisca Confederation, and Cañari.
Many later pre-Columbian civilizations achieved great complexity, with hallmarks that included permanent or urban settlements, agriculture, engineering, astronomy, trade, civic and monumental architecture, and complex societal hierarchies.
Some of these civilizations had long faded by the time of the first significant European and African arrivals (ca. late 15th–early 16th centuries), and are known only through oral history and through archaeological investigations.
Others were contemporary with the contact and colonization period, and were documented in historical accounts of the time.
However, the European colonists of the time worked to eliminate non-Christian beliefs, and burned many pre-Columbian written records.
Only a few documents remained hidden and survived, leaving contemporary historians with glimpses of ancient culture and knowledge.
According to both Indigenous American and European accounts and documents, American civilizations before and at the time of European encounter had achieved great complexity and many accomplishments.
For instance, the Aztecs built one of the largest cities in the world, Tenochtitlan (the historical site of what would become Mexico City), with an estimated population of 200,000 for the city proper and a population of close to five million for the extended empire.
By comparison, the largest European cities in the 16th century were Constantinople and Paris with 300,000 and 200,000 inhabitants respectively.
The population in London, Madrid and Rome hardly exceeded 50,000 people.
In 1523, right around the time of the Spanish conquest, the entire population in the country of England was just under three million people.
This fact speaks to the level of sophistication, agriculture, governmental procedure and rule of law that existed in Tenochtitlan, needed to govern over such a large citizenry.
American civilizations also displayed impressive accomplishments in astronomy and mathematics, including the most accurate calendar in the world.
The domestication of maize or corn required thousands of years of selective breeding, and continued cultivation of multiple varieties was done with planning and selection, generally by women.
Inuit, Yupik, Aleut, and American Indian creation myths tell of a variety of origins of their respective peoples.
Some were "always there" or were created by gods or animals, some migrated from a specified compass point, and others came from "across the ocean".
Main article: European colonization of the Americas
The European colonization of the Americas fundamentally changed the lives and cultures of the resident Indigenous peoples.
Although the exact pre-colonization population-count of the Americas is unknown, scholars estimate that Indigenous populations diminished by between 80% and 90% within the first centuries of European colonization.
The majority of these losses are attributed to the introduction of Afro-Eurasian diseases into the Americas.
The spread of infectious diseases was slow initially, as most Europeans were not actively or visibly infected, due to inherited immunity from generations of exposure to these diseases in Europe.
Like the Native Americans, these African people, newly exposed to European diseases, lacked any inherited resistances to the diseases of Europe.
In 1520 an African who had been infected with smallpox had arrived in Yucatán.
By 1558, the disease had spread throughout South America and had arrived at the Plata basin.
Colonist violence towards Indigenous peoples accelerated the loss of lives.
European colonists perpetrated massacres on the indigenous peoples and enslaved them.
According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census (1894), the North American Indian Wars of the 19th century cost the lives of about 19,000 Europeans and 30,000 Native Americans.
Within thirty years about 70% of the Taínos had died.
One such outbreak occurred in a camp of enslaved Africans, where smallpox spread to the nearby Taíno population and reduced their numbers by 50%.
Increasing punishment of the Taínos for revolting against forced labor, despite measures put in place by the encomienda, which included religious education and protection from warring tribes, eventually led to the last great Taíno rebellion (1511–1529).
Following years of mistreatment, the Taínos began to adopt suicidal behaviors, with women aborting or killing their infants and men jumping from cliffs or ingesting untreated cassava, a violent poison.
Eventually, a Taíno Cacique named Enriquillo managed to hold out in the Baoruco Mountain Range for thirteen years, causing serious damage to the Spanish, Carib-held plantations and their Indian auxiliaries.
Hearing of the seriousness of the revolt, Emperor Charles V (also King of Spain) sent captain Francisco Barrionuevo to negotiate a peace treaty with the ever-increasing number of rebels.
Two months later, after consultation with the Audencia of Santo Domingo, Enriquillo was offered any part of the island to live in peace.
The Laws of Burgos, 1512–1513, were the first codified set of laws governing the behavior of Spanish settlers in America, particularly with regard to native Indians.
The laws forbade the maltreatment of natives and endorsed their conversion to Catholicism.
The Spanish crown found it difficult to enforce these laws in distant colonies.
Epidemic disease was the overwhelming cause of the population decline of the American natives.
Smallpox killed from one third to half of the native population of Hispaniola in 1518.
Smallpox was only the first epidemic.
Smallpox killed millions of native inhabitants of Mexico.
Unintentionally introduced at Veracruz with the arrival of Pánfilo de Narváez on 23 April 1520, smallpox ravaged Mexico in the 1520s, possibly killing over 150,000 in Tenochtitlán (the heartland of the Aztec Empire) alone, and aiding in the victory of Hernán Cortés over the Aztec Empire at Tenochtitlan (present-day Mexico City) in 1521.
There are many factors as to why Native Americans suffered such immense losses from Afro-Eurasian diseases.
Many European diseases, like cow pox, are acquired from domesticated animals that are not indigenous to the Americas.
European populations had adapted to these diseases, and built up resistance, over many generations.
Many of the European diseases that were brought over to the Americas were diseases, like yellow fever, that were relatively manageable if infected as a child, but were deadly if infected as an adult.
Children could often survive the disease, resulting in immunity to the disease for the rest of their lives.
But contact with adult populations without this childhood or inherited immunity would result in these diseases proving fatal.
Their culture was destroyed by 1650.
Only 500 had survived by the year 1550, though the bloodlines continued through to the modern populace.
In Amazonia, indigenous societies weathered, and continue to suffer, centuries of colonization and genocide.
Contact with European diseases such as smallpox and measles killed between 50 and 67 per cent of the aboriginal population of North America in the first hundred years after the arrival of Europeans.
Some 90 per cent of the native population near Massachusetts Bay Colony died of smallpox in an epidemic in 1617–1619.
In 1633, in Fort Orange (New Netherland), the Native Americans there were exposed to smallpox because of contact with Europeans.
As it had done elsewhere, the virus wiped out entire population-groups of Native Americans.
During the 1770s smallpox killed at least 30% of the West Coast Native Americans.
In 1832 the federal government of the United States established a smallpox vaccination program for Native Americans (The Indian Vaccination Act of 1832).
The indigenous peoples in Brazil declined from a pre-Columbian high of an estimated three million to some 300,000 in 1997.
Some of these animals escaped and began to breed and increase their numbers in the wild.
Indigenous historical trauma (IHT)
See also: Historical trauma
Indigenous historical trauma (IHT) is the trauma that can accumulate across generations that develops as a result of the historical ramifications of colonization and is linked to mental and physical health hardships and population decline.
IHT affects many different people in a multitude of ways because the indigenous community and their history is diverse.
Many studies (e.g., Whitbeck et al., 2014; Brockie, 2012; Anastasio et al., 2016; Clark & Winterowd, 2012; Tucker et al., 2016) have evaluated the impact of IHT on health outcomes of indigenous communities from the United States and Canada.
IHT is a difficult term to standardize and measure because of the vast and variable diversity of indigenous people and their communities.
Therefore, it is an arduous task to assign an operational definition and systematically collect data when studying IHT.
Many of the studies that incorporate IHT measure it in different ways, making it hard to compile data and review it holistically.
This is an important point that provides context for the following studies that attempt to understand the relationship between IHT and potential adverse health impacts.
Some of the methodologies to measure IHT include a “Historical Losses Scale" (HLS), "Historical Losses Associated Symptoms Scale" (HLASS), and residential school ancestry studies.
HLS uses a survey format that includes “12 kinds of historical losses,” such as loss of language and loss of land and asks participants how often they think about those losses.
The HLASS includes 12 emotional reactions and asks participants how they feel when they think about these losses.
Lastly, the residential school ancestry studies ask respondents if their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents or “elders from their community” went to a residential school to understand if family or community history in residential schools are associated with negative health outcomes.
In a comprehensive review of the research literature, Joseph Gone and colleagues compiled and compared outcomes for studies using these IHT measures relative to health outcomes of indigenous peoples.
The connection between IHT and health conditions is complicated because of the difficult nature of measuring IHT, the unknown directionality of IHT and health outcomes, and because the term indigenous people used in the various samples comprises a huge population of individuals with drastically different experiences and histories.
That being said, some studies such as Bombay, Matheson, and Anisman (2014), Elias et al.
(2012), and Pearce et al.
(2008) found that indigenous respondents with a connection to residential schools have more negative health outcomes (i.e., suicide ideation, suicide attempts, and depression) than those who did not have a connection to residential schools.
Additionally, indigenous respondents with higher HLS and HLASS scores had one or more negative health outcomes.
While there many studies that found an association between IHT and adverse health outcomes, scholars continue to suggest that it remains difficult to understand the impact of IHT.
IHT needs to be systematically measured.
Indigenous people also need to be understood in separated categories based on similar experiences, location, and background as opposed to being categorized as one monolithic group.
In the course of thousands of years, American indigenous peoples domesticated, bred and cultivated a large array of plant species.
These species now constitute between 50% and 60% of all crops in cultivation worldwide.
In certain cases, the indigenous peoples developed entirely new species and strains through artificial selection, as with the domestication and breeding of maize from wild teosinte grasses in the valleys of southern Mexico.
The South American highlands became a center of early agriculture.
Over 99% of all modern cultivated potatoes worldwide are descendants of a subspecies indigenous to south-central Chile, Solanum tuberosum ssp.
tuberosum, where it was cultivated as long as 10,000 years ago.
According to Linda Newson, "It is clear that in pre-Columbian times some groups struggled to survive and often suffered food shortages and famines, while others enjoyed a varied and substantial diet."
Persistent drought around AD 850 coincided with the collapse of Classic Maya civilization, and the famine of One Rabbit (AD 1454) was a major catastrophe in Mexico.
Technology had advanced to the point where pottery had started to become common and the small-scale felling of trees had become feasible.
Concurrently, the Archaic Indians began using fire in a controlled manner.
They carried out intentional burning of vegetation to mimic the effects of natural fires that tended to clear forest understories.
It made travel easier and facilitated the growth of herbs and berry-producing plants, which were important both for food and for medicines.
They would have used prescribed burning further away, in forest and prairie areas.
Many crops first domesticated by indigenous Americans are now produced and used globally, most notably maize (or "corn") arguably the most important crop in the world.
Other significant crops include cassava; chia; squash (pumpkins, zucchini, marrow, acorn squash, butternut squash); the pinto bean, Phaseolus beans including most common beans, tepary beans and lima beans; tomatoes; potatoes; avocados; peanuts; cocoa beans (used to make chocolate); vanilla; strawberries; pineapples; peppers (species and varieties of Capsicum, including bell peppers, jalapeños, paprika and chili peppers); sunflower seeds; rubber; brazilwood; chicle; tobacco; coca; manioc, blueberries, cranberries, and some species of cotton.
Studies of contemporary indigenous environmental management—including of agro-forestry practices among Itza Maya in Guatemala and of hunting and fishing among the Menominee of Wisconsin—suggest that longstanding "sacred values" may represent a summary of sustainable millennial traditions.
Cultural practices in the Americas seem to have been shared mostly within geographical zones where distinct ethnic groups adopting shared cultural traits, similar technologies, and social organizations.
An example of such a cultural area is Mesoamerica, where millennia of coexistence and shared development among the peoples of the region produced a fairly homogeneous culture with complex agricultural and social patterns.
Another well-known example is the North American plains where until the 19th century several peoples shared the traits of nomadic hunter-gatherers based primarily on buffalo hunting.
Main article: Indigenous languages of the Americas
The languages of the North American Indians have been classified into 56 groups or stock tongues, in which the spoken languages of the tribes may be said to centre.
In connection with speech, reference may be made to gesture language which was highly developed in parts of this area.
The development of writing is counted among the many achievements and innovations of pre-Columbian American cultures.
What may be the earliest-known example in the Americas of an extensive text thought to be writing is by the Cascajal Block.
The Olmec hieroglyphs tablet has been indirectly dated from ceramic shards found in the same context to approximately 900 BCE, around the time that Olmec occupation of San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán began to wane.
It is the only pre-Columbian writing system known to represent completely the spoken language of its community.
In total, the script has more than one thousand different glyphs, although a few are variations of the same sign or meaning, and many appear only rarely or are confined to particular localities.
At any one time, no more than about five hundred glyphs were in use, some two hundred of which (including variations) had a phonetic or syllabic interpretation.
The Zapotec writing system is one of the earliest writing systems in the Americas.
The oldest example of the Zapotec script is a monument discovered in San José Mogote, dating from around from 600 BCE.
The remains of the Zapotec writing system are present in the monumental architecture.
There are only a few extant inscriptions, making study of this writing system difficult.
The pre-Columbian codices differ from European codices in that they are largely pictorial; they were not meant to symbolize spoken or written narratives.
Spanish mendicants in the sixteenth century taught indigenous scribes in their communities to write their languages in Latin letters, and there are a large number of local-level documents in Nahuatl, Zapotec, Mixtec, and Yucatec Maya from the colonial era, many of which were part of lawsuits and other legal matters.
Although Spaniards initially taught indigenous scribes alphabetic writing, the tradition became self-perpetuating at the local level.
The Spanish crown gathered such documentation, and contemporary Spanish translations were made for legal cases.
Scholars have translated and analyzed these documents in what is called the New Philology to write histories of indigenous peoples from indigenous viewpoints.
Music and art
Native American music can vary between cultures, however there are significant commonalities.
Traditional music often centers around drumming and singing.
Flutes are made of rivercane, cedar, and other woods.
The music of the indigenous peoples of Central Mexico and Central America, like that of the North American cultures, tend to be spiritual ceremonies.
It traditionally includes a large variety of percussion and wind instruments such as drums, flutes, sea shells (used as trumpets) and "rain" tubes.
No remnants of pre-Columbian stringed instruments were found until archaeologists discovered a jar in Guatemala, attributed to the Maya of the Late Classic Era (600–900 CE); this jar was decorated with imagery depicting a stringed musical instrument which has since been reproduced.
This instrument is one of the very few stringed instruments known in the Americas prior to the introduction of European musical instruments; when played, it produces a sound that mimics a jaguar's growl.
Because too many artists were posing as Native Americans and Alaska Natives in order to profit from the cachet of Indigenous art in the United States, the U.S. passed the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, requiring artists to prove that they are enrolled in a state or federally recognized tribe.
To support the ongoing practice of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian arts and cultures in the United States, the Ford Foundation, arts advocates and American Indian tribes created an endowment seed fund and established a national Native Arts and Cultures Foundation in 2007.
Further information: Population history of indigenous peoples of the Americas
The following table provides estimates for each country in the Americas of the populations of indigenous people and those with partial indigenous ancestry, each expressed as a percentage of the overall population.
The total percentage obtained by adding both of these categories is also given.
Note: these categories are inconsistently defined and measured differently from country to country.
Some figures are based on the results of population-wide genetic surveys while others are based on self-identification or observational estimation.
|Country||Indigenous||Ref.||Part indigenous||Ref.||Combined total||Ref.|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||%||%||%|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||2%||%||%|
|Trinidad and Tobago||0.8%||88%||88.8%|
|Country||Indigenous||Ref.||Part indigenous||Ref.||Combined total||Ref.|
History and status by continent and country
Main article: Indigenous peoples in Canada
In Canada, it is quite frowned upon to use the name "Indian" in casual conversation.
"Eskimo" is considered derogatory in many other places because it was given by non-Inuit people and was said to mean "eater of raw meat."
Hundreds of Indigenous nations evolved trade, spiritual and social hierarchies.
The Métis ethnicity developed a culture from the mid-17th century after generations of First Nations and native Inuit married European settlers.
They were small farmers, hunters and trappers, and usually Catholic and French-speaking.
The Inuit had more limited interaction with European settlers during that early period.
Although not without conflict, European/Canadian early interactions in the east with First Nations and Inuit populations were relatively peaceful compared to the later experience of native peoples in the United States.
Combined with a late economic development in many regions, this relatively peaceful history resulted in Indigenous peoples having a fairly strong influence on the early national culture, while preserving their own identity.
From the late 18th century, European Canadians worked to force Indigenous people to assimilate into the mainstream European-influenced culture, which they referred to as Canadian culture.
The government attempted violent forced integration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Notable examples here include residential schools.
National Aboriginal Day recognises the cultures and contributions of Indigenous peoples of Canada.
There are currently over 600 recognized First Nations governments or bands encompassing 1,172,790 people spread across Canada, with distinctive Indigenous cultures, languages, art, and music.
Greenland, Kingdom of Denmark
Main article: Greenlandic Inuit
Approximately 89 percent of Greenland's population of 57,695 is Greenlandic Inuit, or 51,349 people as of 2012.
Ethnographically, they consist of three major groups:
- the Kalaallit of west Greenland, who speak Kalaallisut
- the Tunumiit of Tunu (east Greenland), who speak Tunumiit oraasiat ("East Greenlandic")
- the Inughuit of north Greenland, who speak Inuktun ("Polar Inuit")
Main article: Indigenous peoples of Mexico
The territory of modern-day Mexico was home to numerous indigenous civilizations prior to the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores: The Olmecs, who flourished from between 1200 BCE to about 400 BCE in the coastal regions of the Gulf of Mexico; the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs, who held sway in the mountains of Oaxaca and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec; the Maya in the Yucatán (and into neighbouring areas of contemporary Central America); the Purépecha in present-day Michoacán and surrounding areas, and the Aztecs/Mexica, who, from their central capital at Tenochtitlan, dominated much of the centre and south of the country (and the non-Aztec inhabitants of those areas) when Hernán Cortés first landed at Veracruz.
In contrast to what was the general rule in the rest of North America, the history of the colony of New Spain was one of racial intermingling (mestizaje).
Mestizos, which in Mexico designate people who do not identify culturally with any indigenous grouping, quickly came to account for a majority of the colony's population; but 6% of the Mexican population identify as speakers of one of the indigenous languages.
The CDI identifies 62 indigenous groups in Mexico, each with a unique language.
In Northern Mexico indigenous people are a small minority.
The General Law of Linguistic Rights of the Indigenous Peoples grants all indigenous languages spoken in Mexico, regardless of the number of speakers, the same validity as Spanish in all territories in which they are spoken, and indigenous peoples are entitled to request some public services and documents in their native languages.
Along with Spanish, the law has granted them—more than 60 languages—the status of "national languages".
The law includes all indigenous languages of the Americas regardless of origin; that is, it includes the indigenous languages of ethnic groups non-native to the territory.
The National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples recognizes the language of the Kickapoo, who immigrated from the United States, and recognizes the languages of the Guatemalan indigenous refugees.
The Mexican government has promoted and established bilingual primary and secondary education in some indigenous rural communities.
Nonetheless, of the indigenous peoples in Mexico, only about 67% of them (or 5.4% of the country's population) speak an indigenous language and about a sixth do not speak Spanish (1.2% of the country's population).
The indigenous peoples in Mexico have the right of free determination under the second article of the constitution.
According to this article the indigenous peoples are granted:
- the right to decide the internal forms of social, economic, political and cultural organization;
- the right to apply their own normative systems of regulation as long as human rights and gender equality are respected;
- the right to preserve and enrich their languages and cultures;
- the right to elect representatives before the municipal council in which their territories are located;
amongst other rights.
Indigenous peoples in what is now the contiguous United States, including their descendants, were commonly called "American Indians", or simply "Indians" domestically.
Since the late 20th century, when some insisted on using "Native American", as their preferred term, the United States Census Bureau and other parts of government have also adopted it.
In Alaska, indigenous peoples belong to 11 cultures with 11 languages.
They include Native American peoples as well as Inuit, who are distinct but occupy areas of the region.
They are geographically, genetically, and culturally distinct from indigenous peoples of the mainland continents of the Americas.
Native Americans in the United States make up 0.97% to 2% of the population.
In the 2010 census, 2.9 million people identified as Native American, Native Hawaiian, and Alaska Native alone.
A total of 5.2 million people identified as Native Americans, either alone or in combination with one or more ethnicity or other races.
A minority of Native Americans live in land units called Indian reservations.
By treaty, Haudenosaunee people have the legal right to freely cross the US–Canada border.
The international border cut through their common cultural territory.
Main article: Indigenous peoples of Costa Rica
There are over 114,000 inhabitants of Native American origins, representing 2.4% of the population.
Most of them live in secluded reservations, distributed among eight ethnic groups: Quitirrisí (In the Central Valley), Matambú or Chorotega (Guanacaste), Maleku (Northern Alajuela), Bribri (Southern Atlantic), Cabécar (Cordillera de Talamanca), Boruca (Southern Costa Rica) and Ngäbe (Southern Costa Rica long the Panamá border).
These native groups are characterized for their work in wood, like masks, drums and other artistic figures, as well as fabrics made of cotton.
Their subsistence is based on agriculture, having corn, beans and plantains as the main crops.
The Pipil had no precious mineral resources, but they did have rich and fertile land that was good for farming.
The Spaniards were disappointed not to find gold or jewels in El Salvador as they had in other lands like Guatemala or Mexico, but upon learning of the fertile land in El Salvador, they attempted to conquer it.
Noted Meso-American indigenous warriors to rise militarily against the Spanish included Princes Atonal and Atlacatl of the Pipil people in central El Salvador and Princess Antu Silan Ulap of the Lenca people in eastern El Salvador, who saw the Spanish not as gods but as barbaric invaders.
After fierce battles, the Pipil successfully fought off the Spanish army led by Pedro de Alvarado along with their Mexican Indian allies (the Tlaxcalas), sending them back to Guatemala.
After many other attacks with an army reinforced with Guatemalan Indian allies, the Spanish were able to conquer Cuzcatlan.
After further attacks, the Spanish also conquered the Lenca people.
Eventually, the Spaniards intermarried with Pipil and Lenca women, resulting in the Mestizo population which would become the majority of the Salvadoran people.
Main article: Demographics of Guatemala
Guatemala has one of the largest Indigenous populations in Central America, with approximately 41% of the population considering themselves Indigenous.
The Indigenous demographic portion of Guatemala's population consists of majority Mayan groups and one Non-Mayan group.
The Non-Mayan group consists of the Xinca who are another set of Indigenous people making up 0.5% of the population.
Another sources indicate that between 50-60% of the population could be Indigenous, because part of Mestizo population is predominantly Amerindian.
The Mayan tribes cover a vast geographic area throughout Central America and expanding beyond Guatemala into other countries.
One could find vast groups of Mayan people in Boca Costa, in the Southern portions of Guatemala, as well as the Western Highlands living together in close communities.
Of these 23 languages, they only received official recognition by the Government in 2003 under the Law of National Languages.
The Law on National Languages recognizes 23 Indigenous languages including Xinca, enforcing that public and government institutions not only translate but also provide services in said languages.
The Law of National Languages has been an effort to grant and protect Indigenous people rights not afforded to them previously.
Along with the Law of National Languages passed in 2003, in 1996 the Guatemalan Constitutional Court had ratified the ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples.
The ILO Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, is also known as Convention 169 .
Which is the only International Law regarding Indigenous peoples that Independent countries can adopt.
The convention, establishes that governments like Guatemala's must consult with indigenous groups prior to any projects occurring on tribal lands.
About five percent of the population are of full-blooded indigenous descent, but as much as 80 percent of Hondurans are mestizo or part-indigenous with European admixture, and about ten percent are of indigenous or African descent.
About 5% of the Nicaraguan population are indigenous.
The largest indigenous group in Nicaragua is the Miskito people.
Their use of Creole English came about through frequent contact with the British, who colonized the area.
Many Miskitos are Christians.
Traditional Miskito society was highly structured, politically and otherwise.
It had a king, but he did not have total power.
Historical information on Miskito kings is often obscured by the fact that many of the kings were semi-mythical.
Another major indigenous culture in eastern Nicaragua are the Mayangna (or Sumu) people, counting some 10,000 people.
A smaller indigenous culture in southeastern Nicaragua are the Rama.
Main article: Indigenous peoples of South America
In 2005, Argentina's indigenous population (known as pueblos originarios) numbered about 600,329 (1.6% of total population); this figure includes 457,363 people who self-identified as belonging to an indigenous ethnic group and 142,966 who identified themselves as first-generation descendants of an indigenous people.
The ten most populous indigenous peoples are the Mapuche (113,680 people), the Kolla (70,505), the Toba (69,452), the Guaraní (68,454), the Wichi (40,036), the Diaguita–Calchaquí (31,753), the Mocoví (15,837), the Huarpe (14,633), the Comechingón (10,863) and the Tehuelche (10,590).
The Selknam (Ona) people are now virtually extinct in its pure form.
The languages of the Diaguita, Tehuelche, and Selknam nations have become extinct or virtually extinct: the Cacán language (spoken by Diaguitas) in the 18th century and the Selknam language in the 20th century; one Tehuelche language (Southern Tehuelche) is still spoken by a handful of elderly people.
In Bolivia, the 2001 census reported that 62% of residents over the age of 15 identify as belonging to an indigenous people.
Some 3.7% report growing up with an indigenous mother tongue but do not identify as indigenous.
When both of these categories are totaled, and children under 15, some 66.4% of Bolivia's population was recorded as indigenous in the 2001 Census.
Some 124,000 belong to smaller indigenous groups.
The Constitution of Bolivia, enacted in 2009, recognizes 36 cultures, each with its own language, as part of a pluri-national state.
Some groups, including CONAMAQ (the National Council of Ayllus and Markas of Qullasuyu), draw ethnic boundaries within the Quechua- and Aymara-speaking population, resulting in a total of 50 indigenous peoples native to Bolivia.
Large numbers of Bolivian highland peasants retained indigenous language, culture, customs, and communal organization throughout the Spanish conquest and the post-independence period.
They mobilized to resist various attempts at the dissolution of communal landholdings and used legal recognition of "empowered caciques" to further communal organization.
Indigenous revolts took place frequently until 1953.
While the National Revolutionary Movement government begun in 1952 discouraged people identifying as indigenous (reclassifying rural people as campesinos, or peasants), renewed ethnic and class militancy re-emerged in the Katarista movement beginning in the 1970s.
Many lowland indigenous peoples, mostly in the east, entered national politics through the 1990 March for Territory and Dignity organized by the CIDOB confederation.
That march successfully pressured the national government to sign the ILO Convention 169 and to begin the still-ongoing process of recognizing and giving official title to indigenous territories.
The 1994 Law of Popular Participation granted "grassroots territorial organizations;" these are recognized by the state and have certain rights to govern local areas.
Some radio and television programs are produced in the Quechua and Aymara languages.
The constitutional reform in 1997 recognized Bolivia as a multi-lingual, pluri-ethnic society and introduced education reform.
In 2005, for the first time in the country's history, an indigenous Aymara, Evo Morales, was elected as president.
Morales began work on his "indigenous autonomy" policy, which he launched in the eastern lowlands department on 3 August 2009.
Bolivia was the first nation in the history of South America to affirm the right of indigenous people to self-government.
Speaking in Santa Cruz Department, the President called it "a historic day for the peasant and indigenous movement", saying that, though he might make errors, he would "never betray the fight started by our ancestors and the fight of the Bolivian people."
A vote on further autonomy for jurisdictions took place in December 2009, at the same time as general elections to office.
The issue divided the country.
At that time, indigenous peoples voted overwhelmingly for more autonomy: five departments that had not already done so voted for it; as did Gran Chaco Province in Taríja, for regional autonomy; and 11 of 12 municipalities that had referendums on this issue.
Indigenous peoples of Brazil make up 0.4% of Brazil's population, or about 817,000 people, but millions of Brazilians are mestizo or have some indigenous ancestry.
Indigenous peoples are found in the entire territory of Brazil, although in the 21st century, the majority of them live in indigenous territories in the North and Center-Western part of the country.
Brazil is now the nation that has the largest number of uncontacted tribes, and the island of New Guinea is second.
The Washington Post reported in 2007, "As has been proved in the past when uncontacted tribes are introduced to other populations and the microbes they carry, maladies as simple as the common cold can be deadly.
In the 1970s, 185 members of the Panara tribe died within two years of discovery after contracting such diseases as flu and chickenpox, leaving only 69 survivors."
Main article: Indigenous peoples in Chile
The Mapuche successfully fought off defeat in the first 300–350 years of Spanish rule during the Arauco War.
Relations with the new Chilean Republic were good until the Chilean state decided to occupy their lands.
During the Occupation of Araucanía the Mapuche surrendered to the country's army in the 1880s.
Their land was opened to settlement by Chileans and Europeans.
Conflict over Mapuche land rights continues to the present.
Other groups include the Aymara, the majority of whom live in Bolivia and Peru, with smaller numbers in the Arica-Parinacota and Tarapacá regions, and the Atacama people (Atacameños), who reside mainly in El Loa.
Main article: Indigenous peoples in Colombia
A variety of collective rights for indigenous peoples are recognized in the 1991 Constitution.
Main article: Indigenous peoples in Ecuador
Ecuador was the site of many indigenous cultures, and civilizations of different proportions.
An early sedentary culture, known as the Valdivia culture, developed in the coastal region, while the Caras and the Quitus unified to form an elaborate civilization that ended at the birth of the Capital Quito.
Their architecture remains were later destroyed by Spaniards and the Incas.
Approximately 96.4% of Ecuador's Indigenous population are Highland Quichuas living in the valleys of the Sierra region.
Primarily consisting of the descendants of peoples conquered by the Incas, they are Kichwa speakers and include the Caranqui, the Otavalos, the Cayambe, the Quitu-Caras, the Panzaleo, the Chimbuelo, the Salasacan, the Tugua, the Puruhá, the Cañari, and the Saraguro.
Linguistic evidence suggests that the Salascan and the Saraguro may have been the descendants of Bolivian ethnic groups transplanted to Ecuador as mitimaes.
Coastal groups, including the Awá, Chachi, and the Tsáchila, make up 0.24% percent of the indigenous population, while the remaining 3.35 percent live in the Oriente and consist of the Oriente Kichwa (the Canelo and the Quijos), the Shuar, the Huaorani, the Siona-Secoya, the Cofán, and the Achuar.
In 1986, indigenous people formed the first "truly" national political organization.
The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) has been the primary political institution of the Indigenous since then and is now the second largest political party in the nation.
Main article: Indigenous peoples in Peru
According to the Census, Indigenous population in Peru make up around 26% approximately.
Native Peruvian traditions and customs have shaped the way Peruvians live and see themselves today.
Cultural citizenship—or what Renato Rosaldo has called, "the right to be different and to belong, in a democratic, participatory sense" (1996:243)—is not yet very well developed in Peru.
This is perhaps no more apparent than in the country's Amazonian regions where indigenous societies continue to struggle against state-sponsored economic abuses, cultural discrimination, and pervasive violence.
Main article: Indigenous peoples in Suriname
Main article: Indigenous peoples in Venezuela
But those who identify as indigenous, from being raised in those cultures, make up only around 2% of the total population.
The indigenous peoples speak around 29 different languages and many more dialects.
As some of the ethnic groups are very small, their native languages are in danger of becoming extinct in the next decades.
The most advanced native people to have lived within the boundaries of present-day Venezuela is thought to have been the Timoto-cuicas, who lived mainly in the Venezuelan Andes.
Historians estimate that there were between 350 thousand and 500 thousand indigenous inhabitants at the time of Spanish colonization.
The most densely populated area was the Andean region (Timoto-cuicas), thanks to their advanced agricultural techniques and ability to produce a surplus of food.
The government provides primary education in their languages in public schools to some of the largest groups, in efforts to continue the languages.
Other parts of the Americas
According to the 2011 Census, 2.4% of Uruguayans reported having indigenous ancestry.
Some governments recognize some of the major Native American languages as official languages: Quechua in Peru and Bolivia; Aymara also in Peru and Bolivia, Guarani in Paraguay, and Greenlandic in Greenland.
Rise of indigenous movements
Since the late 20th century, indigenous peoples in the Americas have become more politically active in asserting their treaty rights and expanding their influence.
Some have organized in order to achieve some sort of self-determination and preservation of their cultures.
Organizations such as the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon River Basin and the Indian Council of South America are examples of movements that are overcoming national borders to reunite indigenous populations, for instance those across the Amazon Basin.
Similar movements for indigenous rights can also be seen in Canada and the United States, with movements like the International Indian Treaty Council and the accession of native Indian groups into the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization.
There has been a recognition of indigenous movements on an international scale.
In Colombia, various indigenous groups have protested the denial of their rights.
People organized a march in Cali in October 2008 to demand the government live up to promises to protect indigenous lands, defend the indigenous against violence, and reconsider the free trade pact with the United States.
His election encouraged the indigenous movement across Latin America.
Representatives from indigenous and rural organizations from major South American countries, including Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile and Brazil, started a forum in support of Morales' legal process of change.
The meeting condemned plans by the European "foreign power elite" to destabilize the country.
The forum also expressed solidarity with Morales and his economic and social changes in the interest of historically marginalized majorities.
It questioned US interference through diplomats and NGOs.
The forum was suspicious of plots against Bolivia and other countries that elected leftist leaders, including Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Paraguay and Nicaragua.
The forum rejected the supposed violent method used by regional civic leaders from the called "Crescent departments" in Bolivia to impose autonomous statutes, applauded the decision to expel the US ambassador to Bolivia, and reaffirmed the sovereignty and independence of the presidency.
Main article: Genetic history of indigenous peoples of the Americas
Neither recombines, and thus Y-DNA and mtDNA change only by chance mutation at each generation with no intermixture between parents' genetic material.
Autosomal "atDNA" markers are also used, but differ from mtDNA or Y-DNA in that they overlap significantly.
There is general agreement among anthropologists that the source populations for the migration into the Americas originated from an area somewhere east of the Yenisei River.
Genetic studies of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of Amerindians and some Siberian and Central Asian peoples also revealed that the gene pool of the Turkic-speaking peoples of Siberia such as Altaians, Khakas, Shors and Soyots, living between the Altai and Lake Baikal along the Sayan mountains, are genetically close to Amerindians.
This view is shared by other researchers who argue that "the ancestors of the American Indians were the first to separate from the great Asian population in the Middle Paleolithic."
The genetic pattern indicates indigenous peoples of the Americas experienced two very distinctive genetic episodes; first with the initial peopling of the Americas, and secondly with European colonization of the Americas.
The micro-satellite diversity and distributions of the Y lineage specific to South America indicates that certain indigenous peoples of the Americas populations have been isolated since the initial colonization of the region.
The Na-Dené, Inuit and Indigenous Alaskan populations exhibit haplogroup Q (Y-DNA) mutations, however are distinct from other indigenous peoples of the Americas with various mtDNA and atDNA mutations.
This suggests that the earliest migrants into the northern extremes of North America and Greenland derived from later migrant populations.
A 2013 study in Nature reported that DNA found in the 24,000-year-old remains of a young boy from the archaeological Mal'ta-Buret' culture suggest that up to one-third of the ancestry of indigenous Americans may be traced back to western Eurasians, who may have "had a more north-easterly distribution 24,000 years ago than commonly thought" (with the rest tracing back to early East Asian peoples).
"We estimate that 14 to 38 percent of Native American ancestry may originate through gene flow from this ancient population", the authors wrote.
Professor Kelly Graf said,
A route through Beringia is seen as more likely than the Solutrean hypothesis.
Kashani et al.
2012 state that "The similarities in ages and geographical distributions for C4c and the previously analyzed X2a lineage provide support to the scenario of a dual origin for Paleo-Indians.
Taking into account that C4c is deeply rooted in the Asian portion of the mtDNA phylogeny and is indubitably of Asian origin, the finding that C4c and X2a are characterized by parallel genetic histories definitively dismisses the controversial hypothesis of an Atlantic glacial entry route into North America."
Genetic analyses of HLA I and HLA II genes as well as HLA-A, -B, and -DRB1 gene frequencies links the Ainu people in northern Japan and southeastern Russia to some Indigenous peoples of the Americas, especially to populations on the Pacific Northwest Coast such as Tlingit.
A 2016 study found that indigenous Americans and Polynesians most likely came into contact around 1200.
For a more comprehensive list, see List of indigenous people of the Americas.
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigenous peoples of the Americas.