The Indigenous peoples of the Americas, also known as Amerindians or Indians, are the inhabitants of the
Americas The Americas (also collectively called America) is a landmass comprising the totality of North North is one of the four compass points or cardinal directions. It is the opposite of south and is perpendicular to East and West. ''North'' ...

before the arrival of the European settlers in the 15th century, and the ethnic groups who now identify themselves with those peoples. Although some
Indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as first peoples, first nations, aboriginal peoples, native peoples (with these terms often capitalized when referred to relating to specific countries), or autochthonous peoples, are culturally distinct e ...
of the Americas were traditionally
hunter-gatherer A hunter-gatherer is a human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, hairlessness, and intelligence allowing the use of culture, language and tools. T ...
s—and many, especially in the
Amazon basin The Amazon Basin is the part of South America South America is a entirely in the and mostly in the , with a relatively small portion in the . It can also be described as the southern of a single continent called (see the ). Th ...
, still are—many groups practiced
aquaculture Aquaculture (less commonly spelled aquiculture), also known as aquafarming, is the farming of fish Fish are Aquatic animal, aquatic, craniate, gill-bearing animals that lack Limb (anatomy), limbs with Digit (anatomy), digits. Included in ...
agriculture Agriculture is the science, art and practice of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of , whereby farming of species created food that enabled people to live in cities. The began thousands of ...

. While some societies depended heavily on agriculture, others practiced a mix of farming, hunting, and gathering. In some regions, the Indigenous peoples created monumental architecture, large-scale organized cities,
city-states A city-state is an independent sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French ''souverain'', which is ultimately derived from the Latin Latin (, or ...
chiefdom A chiefdom is a form of hierarchical political organization in non-industrial societies usually based on kinship In anthropology, kinship is the web of social relationships that form an important part of the lives of all humans in all soci ...
states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, Un ...
, confederacies, and
empire An empire is a "political unit" made up of several territories and peoples, "usually created by conquest, and divided between a dominant center and subordinate peripheries". Narrowly defined, an empire is a sovereign state called an empire and w ...

s. Some had varying degrees of knowledge of engineering, architecture, mathematics, astronomy, writing, physics, medicine, planting and irrigation, geology, mining, metallurgy, sculpture, and goldsmithing. Many parts of the Americas are still populated by Indigenous peoples; some countries have sizeable populations, especially
Bolivia Bolivia ; ay, Wuliwya ; : ''Puliwya'' , officially the Plurinational State of Bolivia, is a located in western-central . The constitutional capital is , while the and executive capital is . The largest city and principal industrial ce ...
Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces and territories of Canada, ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, Pacific and northward into the Arctic Oce ...
Ecuador Ecuador ( ; ; Quechua Quechua may refer to: *Quechua people, several indigenous ethnic groups in South America, especially in Peru *Quechuan languages, a Native South American language family spoken primarily in the Andes, derived from a ...
Guatemala Guatemala ( ; ), officially the Republic of Guatemala ( es, República de Guatemala, links=no), is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, Belize and the Caribbean Sea, Caribbean to the northeast, Honduras to t ...

Mexico Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a List of sovereign states, country in the southern portion of North America. It is borders of Mexico, bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to ...
Peru , , image_flag = Flag_of_Peru.svg , image_coat = Escudo_nacional_del_Perú.svg , other_symbol = Great Seal of the State , other_symbol_type = National seal , national_motto ...
Chile Chile, officially the Republic of Chile, is a country in the western part of South America South America is a entirely in the and mostly in the , with a relatively small portion in the . It can also be described as the southern ...
and the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...
. At least a thousand different
Indigenous languages An indigenous language or autochthonous language, is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have ...
are spoken in the Americas. Some, such as the
Quechuan languages Quechua (, ; ), usually called ("people's language") in Quechuan languages, is an indigenous Indigenous may refer to: *Indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochth ...
Aymara Aymara may refer to: Languages and people * Aymaran languages Aymaran (also Jaqi or Aru) is one of the two dominant language families in the central Andes alongside Quechua languages, Quechuan. The family consists of Aymara language, Aymara, wide ...
, Guaraní,
Mayan languages The Mayan languagesIn linguistics, it is conventional to use ''Mayan'' when referring to the languages, or an aspect of a language. In other academic fields, ''Maya'' is the preferred usage, serving as both a singular and plural noun, and as ...
, and
Nahuatl Nahuatl (; ),The Classical Nahuatl word (noun stem ''nāhua'', + absolutive ''-tl'' ) is thought to mean "a good, clear sound" This language name has several spellings, among them náhuatl (the standard spelling in the Spanish language),() Nao ...

, count their speakers in the millions. Many also maintain aspects of Indigenous cultural practices to varying degrees, including religion,
social organization In sociology Sociology is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The te ...
, and
subsistence A subsistence economy is an economy directed to basic subsistence (the provision of food, clothing, shelter) rather than to the market. Henceforth, "subsistence" is understood as supporting oneself at a minimum level. Often, the subsistence econom ...
practices. Like most cultures, over time, cultures specific to many Indigenous peoples have evolved to incorporate traditional aspects but also cater to modern needs. Some Indigenous peoples still live in relative isolation from
Western culture Western culture, also known as Western civilization, Occidental culture, or Western society, is the heritage Heritage may refer to: History and society * In history History (from Greek , ''historia'', meaning "inquiry; knowledge acquired b ...
and a few are still counted as
uncontacted peoples Uncontacted peoples are communities or groups of indigenous peoples 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 p ...

uncontacted peoples


Application of the term "
Indian Indian or Indians refers to people or things related to India, or to the indigenous people of the Americas, or Aboriginal Australians until the 19th century. People South Asia * Indian people, people of Indian nationality, or people who come ...
" originated with
Christopher Columbus Christopher Columbus * lij, Cristoffa C(or)ombo * es, Cristóbal Colón * pt, Cristóvão Colombo * ca, Cristòfor (or ) * la, Christophorus Columbus. (; born between 25 August and 31 October 1451, died 20 May 1506) was an Italian ...

Christopher Columbus
, who, in his search for
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi Hindi (Devanagari: , हिंदी, ISO 15919, ISO: ), or more precisely Modern Standard Hindi (Devanagari: , ISO 15919, ISO: ), is an Indo-Aryan language spoken chiefly in Hindi Belt, ...

, thought that he had arrived in the
East Indies 300px, The East Indies (or simply the Indies), is a term used in historical narratives of the Age of Discovery The Age of Discovery, or the Age of Exploration (sometimes also, particularly regionally, Age of Contact or Contact Period), ...
. Eventually, those islands came to be known as the "
West Indies The West Indies are a subregion A subregion is a part of a larger region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, features, in ...
", a name still used. This led to the blanket term "Indies" and "Indians" ( es, indios; pt, índios; french: indiens; nl, indianen) for the Indigenous inhabitants, which implied some kind of ethnic 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
Aleut The Aleuts (; russian: Алеуты, Aleuty), who are usually known in the Aleut language by the endonyms Unangan (eastern dialect), Unangas (western dialect),
Inuit Inuit (; iu, ᐃᓄᐃᑦ 'the people', singular: Inuk, , dual: Inuuk, ) are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, ...
, or
Yupik peoples man with raven maskette; the raven A raven is one of several larger-bodied species of the genus Genus (plural genera) is a taxonomic rank Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including t ...
, who entered the continent as a second, more recent wave of migration several thousand years later and have much more recent genetic and cultural commonalities with the
Aboriginal peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, are culturally distinct ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people who identify with each other on the b ...
of the Asiatic Arctic
Russian Far East The Russian Far East ( rus, Дальний Восток России, r=Dal'niy Vostok Rossii, p=ˈdalʲnʲɪj vɐˈstok rɐˈsʲiɪ) is a region in . It is the easternmost part of and the n continent; and is administered as part of the , w ...

Russian Far East
—these groups are nonetheless considered "Indigenous peoples of the Americas". The term ''Amerindian'', a
portmanteau A portmanteau (, ) or portmanteau word (from "portmanteau (luggage) A portmanteau is a piece of luggage Baggage or luggage consists of bags, cases, and containers which hold a travel Travel is the movement of people between distant ...

of "American Indian", was coined in 1902 by the
American Anthropological Association The American Anthropological Association (AAA) is an organization of scholars and practitioners in the field of anthropology Anthropology is the Science, scientific study of humanity, concerned with human behavior, human biology, cultures, an ...
. However, from its creation, it has been controversial. It was immediately rejected by some leading members of the Association, and, while adopted by many, it was never universally accepted. While never popular in Indigenous communities themselves, it remains a preferred term among some anthropologists, notably in some parts of Canada and the
English-speaking Caribbean The Commonwealth Caribbean is the region of the Caribbean with English-speaking world, English-speaking nations and territories, which once constituted the Caribbean portion of the British Empire and are now part of the Commonwealth of Nations ...

English-speaking Caribbean
. In Canada, Indigenous peoples are commonly known as Indigenous—and sometimes Aboriginals, though the latter has fallen out of favour in recent times—which includes not only
First Nations The First Nations (french: Premières Nations ) are groups of Canadian indigenous peoples, who are classified as distinct from the Inuit Inuit (; iu, ᐃᓄᐃᑦ 'the people', singular: Inuk, , dual: Inuuk, ) are a group of culturally s ...
and Arctic Inuit, but also the minority population of
Métis people The Métis (; ) are Indigenous peoples of the Americas, Indigenous peoples in the three Canadian Prairies, Prairie Provinces (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta), as well as parts of Ontario, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories, and the ...
, a historically First Nations-European mixed race that developed a unique indigenous culture in Western Canada. The Métis people of Canada ''can'' be contrasted, for instance, to the Indigenous-European mixed race
mestizos (; ; fem. ) is a term used in Hispanic America Hispanic America ( Spanish: ''Hispanoamérica'' or ''América Hispana'') (also known as Spanish America ( es, América española)) is the portion of the Americas comprising the Spanish-speaki ...
(or in Brazil) of
Hispanic America Hispanic America (: ''Hispanoamérica'' or ''América Hispana'') (usually known as Spanish America ( es, América española)) is the portion of the comprising the of North, Central, and South America. In all of these countries, is the main la ...

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, but still considering themselves a subset of the European-derived
Hispanic The term ''Hispanic'' ( es, hispano) refers to people, cultures Culture () is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior Social behavior is behavior Behavior (American English) or behaviour (British English; American and B ...

Brazilian peoplehood
Brazilian peoplehood
in culture and ethnicity (
cf. The abbreviation ''cf.'' (short for the la, confer/conferatur, both meaning 'compare') is used in writing to refer the reader to other material to make a comparison with the topic being discussed. Style guides recommend that ''cf.'' be used only ...
). Among
Spanish-speaking countries The following is a list of countries where Spanish is an official language, plus a number of countries where Spanish or any language closely related to it, is an important or significant language. Official or national language Spanish is the of ...
, or ('Indigenous peoples') is a common term, though or ('native peoples') may also be heard; moreover, ('aborigine') is used in
Argentina Argentina (), officially the Argentine Republic ( es, link=no, República Argentina), is a country located mostly in the southern half of South America South America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasse ...

and ('original peoples') is common in
Chile Chile, officially the Republic of Chile, is a country in the western part of South America South America is a entirely in the and mostly in the , with a relatively small portion in the . It can also be described as the southern ...

. In Brazil, or ('Indigenous peoples') are common of formal-sounding designations, while ('Indian') is still the more often-heard term (the noun for the South-Asian nationality being ). and is rarely used in Brazil in Amerindian-specific contexts (e.g., is usually understood as the ethnonym for
Indigenous Australians Indigenous Australians are people with familial heritage to groups that lived in Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continen ...
). The Spanish and Portuguese equivalents to Indian, nevertheless, could be used to mean any
hunter-gatherer A hunter-gatherer is a human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposable thumbs, hairlessness, and intelligence allowing the use of culture, language and tools. T ...
or full-blooded Indigenous person, particularly to continents other than Europe or Africa—for example, . Indigenous peoples of the United States are commonly known as
Native Americans Native Americans may refer to: Ethnic groups * Indigenous peoples of the Americas, the pre-Columbian peoples of North and South America and their descendants * Native Americans in the United States * Indigenous peoples in Canada, the indigenous p ...
, as well as
Alaska Natives Alaska Natives or Alaskan Natives are indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as first peoples, first nations, aboriginal peoples, native peoples (with these terms often capitalized when referred to relating to specific c ...
. The term "Indian" is still used in some communities and remains in use in the official names of many institutions and businesses in
Indian Country Indian country is any of the many self-governing Native American/American Indian communities throughout the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Conti ...

Native American name controversy

The various Nations, tribes, and bands of Indigenous peoples of the Americas have differing preferences in terminology for themselves. While there are regional and generational variations in which umbrella terms are preferred for Indigenous peoples as a whole, in general, most Indigenous peoples prefer to be identified by the name of their specific Nation, tribe, or band. 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 has often been based on shared language, region, or historical relationship. Many English
exonyms An endonym (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 milli ...
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 An endonym (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 milli ...
from the native languages. Other terms arose during periods of conflict between the colonists 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 Racism is the belief that groups of humans possess different behavioral traits corresponding to inherited attributes and can be divided based on the superiority Superior may refer to: *Superior (hierarchy), something which is higher in a hi ...

. During the latter half of the 20th century and the rise of the Indian rights movement, the
United States government The federal government of the United States (U.S. federal government or U.S. government) is the Federation#Federal governments, national government of the United States, a federal republic in North America, composed of 50 U.S. state, state ...
responded by proposing the use of the term "
Native American Native Americans may refer to: Ethnic groups * Indigenous peoples of the Americas, the pre-Columbian peoples of North and South America and their descendants * Native Americans in the United States * Indigenous peoples in Canada, the indigenous p ...
", to recognize the primacy of Indigenous peoples' tenure in the nation. As may be expected among people of over 400 different cultures in the US alone, not all of the people intended to be described by this term have agreed on its use or adopted it. No single group naming convention has been accepted by all Indigenous peoples in the Americas. Most prefer to be addressed as people of their tribe or nations when not speaking about Native Americans/American Indians as a whole. Since the 1970s, ''Indigenous'' (capitalized when referring to people) has gradually emerged as a favored umbrella term. The capitalization is to acknowledge that Indigenous peoples have cultures and societies that are equal to Europeans, Africans, and Asians. This has recently been acknowledged in the AP Stylebook. Some consider it improper to call Indigenous people as "Indigenous Americans" or to append any colonial nationality to the term because Indigenous cultures have existed prior to European colonization. Indigenous groups have territorial claims that are different from modern national and international borders, and when labelled as part of a country, their traditional lands are not acknowledged. Some who have written guidelines consider it more appropriate to describe an Indigenous person as "living in" or "of" the Americas, rather than calling them "American"; or to simply call them "Indigenous" without any addition of a colonial state.


Settlement of the Americas

The specifics of Paleo-Indian
migration Migration, migratory, or migrate may refer to: Human migration * Human migration, physical movement by humans from one region to another ** International migration, when peoples cross state boundaries and stay in the host state for some minimum len ...

to and throughout the Americas, including the exact dates and routes traveled, are the subject of ongoing research and discussion. According to
archaeological Archaeology or archeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis Analysis is the process of breaking a complexity, complex topic or Substance theory, substance into smaller parts in order to gain a better underst ...
and genetic evidence, North and South America were the last continents in the world to gain
human habitation Habitability is the conformance of a House, residence or wikt:abode, abode to the implied warranty of habitability. A residence that complies is said to be habitable. It is an implied warranty or contract, meaning it does not have to be an express ...
. During the
Wisconsin glaciation The Wisconsin Glacial Episode, also called the Wisconsin glaciation, was the most recent glacial period of the North American ice sheet complex. This advance included the Cordilleran Ice Sheet, which nucleated in the northern North American Cordil ...
, 50–17,000 years ago, falling sea levels allowed people to move across the land bridge of
Beringia Beringia is defined today as the land and maritime area bounded on the west by the Lena River in Russia; on the east by the Mackenzie River in Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces and territori ...
that joined
Siberia Siberia (; rus, Сибирь, r=Sibir', p=sʲɪˈbʲirʲ, a=Ru-Сибирь.ogg) is an extensive geographical region, constituting all of North Asia, from the Ural Mountains in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east. It has been a part of R ...

to northwest North America (Alaska). Alaska was a
glacial refugiumA glacial refugium (''plural refugia'') is a geographic region which made possible the survival of flora Flora is all the plant life present in a particular region or time, generally the naturally occurring (indigenous (ecology), indigenous) nati ...
because it had , allowing a small population to exist. The
Laurentide Ice Sheet The Laurentide Ice Sheet was a massive sheet of ice that covered millions of square miles, including most of Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces and territories of Canada, ten provinces and three ...
covered most of North America, blocking
nomad A nomad ( frm, nomade "people without fixed habitation") is a member of a community without fixed habitation who regularly moves to and from the same areas. Such groups include hunter-gatherer A hunter-gatherer is a human Humans (''Homo ...

ic inhabitants and confining them to Alaska (East Beringia) for thousands of years. 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.page 2
Around 16,500 years ago, the glaciers began melting, allowing people to move south and east into Canada and beyond. These people are believed to have followed herds of now-extinct
Pleistocene megafauna Pleistocene megafauna is the set of large animals that lived on Earth during the Pleistocene The Pleistocene ( , often referred to as the ''Ice Age'') is the geological Epoch (geology), epoch that lasted from about 2,580,000 to 11,700 years ago, ...
along ice-free corridors that stretched between the Laurentide and Cordilleran Ice Sheets. Another route proposed involves migration – either on foot or using – along the
Pacific Northwest The Pacific Northwest (PNW) is a geographic region in western North America bounded by its coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean to the west and, loosely, by the Rocky Mountains to the east. Though no official boundary exists, the most common co ...
coast to the south, including as far as South America. Archeological evidence of the latter would have been covered by the
sea level rise Tide gauge measurements show that the current global sea level rise began at the start of the 20th century. Between 1900 and 2017, the globally averaged sea level Mean sea level (MSL) (often shortened to sea level) is an average In colloqui ...

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 South Central Siberia is a geographical region north of the point where Russia, China, Kazakhstan and Mongolia come together. The Four Corners At approximately , the borders of , , and intersect in the . Mongolia and Kazakhstan are separ ...
(DNA studies reported in 2012 indicate the area of
Altai Republic The Altai Republic (; russian: Респу́блика Алта́й, Respúblika Altáy, ; Altai language, Altai: , ''Altay Respublika'', also known as Gorno-Altai Republic) is a republics of Russia, republic of Russia located in southern Siberia. ...

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 The Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), also referred to as the Late Glacial Maximum, was the most recent time during the Last Glacial Period that ice sheets In glaciology Lateral moraine on a glacier joining the Gorner Glacier, Zermatt">Gorner_Glac ...

Late Glacial Maximum
, around 16,000–13,000 years before present.
Stone tool A stone tool is, in the most general sense, any tool made either partially or entirely out of Rock (geology), stone. Although stone tool-dependent societies and cultures still exist today, most stone tools are associated with prehistory, prehisto ...

Stone tool
s, particularly
projectile point In North American archaeological terminology Archaeology or archeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. Archaeology is often considered a branch of socio-cultural anthropology, but archae ...
s and
scraper Scrape, scraper or scraping may refer to: Biology and medicine * Abrasion (medical), a type of injury * Scraper (biology), grazer-scraper, a water animal that feeds on stones and other substrates by grazing algae, microorganism and other matter * ...
s, are the primary evidence of the earliest human activity in the Americas.
Archaeologists Archaeology or archeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis Analysis is the process of breaking a complex topic or substance into smaller parts in order to gain a better understanding of it. The technique h ...
anthropologistsAn anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology Anthropology is the scientific study of human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread species of primates, characterized by bipedality, opposab ...
have studied differences among these crafted
lithic flake In archaeology, a lithic flake is a "portion of rock (geology), rock removed from an objective piece by percussion or pressure,"Andrefsky, W. (2005) ''Lithics: Macroscopic Approaches to Analysis''. 2d Ed. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press and m ...

lithic flake
d tools to classify cultural periods. The
Clovis culture The Clovis culture is a prehistoric Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, also known as world history, is the description of humanity's past. It is informed by archaeology ...
, the earliest definitively-dated
Paleo-Indians Paleo-Indians, Paleoindians or Paleo-Americans, were the first peoples 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 ...
in the Americas, appears around 11,500 RCBP ( radiocarbon years
Before Present Before Present (BP) years is a time scale used mainly in archaeology Archaeology or archeology is the study of human activity through the recovery and analysis of material culture. Archaeology is often considered a branch of socio-cultural ...
), equivalent to 13,500 to 13,000 calendar years ago. In 2014, the
autosomal An autosome is any chromosome that is not a sex chromosome (an allosome). The members of an autosome pair in a diploid Ploidy () is the number of complete sets of chromosome A chromosome is a long DNA molecule with part or all of the ...
DNA was sequenced of a 12,500+-year-old infant from
Montana Montana () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper ...

, whose remains were found in close association with several Clovis artifacts. These are the
Anzick-1 Anzick-1 is a Paleo-Indian Paleo-Indians, Paleoindians or Paleo-Americans, were the first peoples who entered, and subsequently inhabited, the Americas The Americas (also collectively called America) is a landmass comprising the total ...
remains from the Anzick Clovis burial in Montana. The data indicated that the individual was closely related to present Indigenous populations of North America. But, the DNA was ancestral to present-day Indigenous populations of Central and South America. The implication is that there was an early divergence between Indigenous peoples of North America 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 (skeleton), 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. Her mitochondrial DNA indicated that she belonged to what is considered an "Asian-derived" genetic lineage that is also seen in modern Native American populations. The remains of two infants found at the Upward Sun River site have been dated to approximated 11,500 years ago. This genetic evidence suggests that the Native American population studied descended from a single founding population that initially split from a Basal-East Asian source population in Mainland Southeast Asia around 36,000 years ago, at the same time at which the proper Jōmon people split from Basal-East Asians, either together with Ancestral Native Americans or during a separate expansion wave. The authors also provided evidence that the basal northern and southern Native American branches, in which all other Indigenous peoples are categorized, diverged around 16,000 years ago. An Indigenous American sample from 16,000BC in Idaho, which is craniometrically similar to modern Native Americans as well as Indigenous peoples of Siberia, Paleosiberians, was found to have been largely East-Eurasian genetically, and showed high affinity with contemporary East Asians, as well as Jōmon period samples of Japan. Researchers believe that this confirms "evidence of shared genetic heritage between late Pleistocene peoples of northern Japan and North America."

Pre-Columbian era

The Pre-Columbian era refers to all archaeology of the Americas, period subdivisions in the history of the Americas, 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 of the Americas, European colonization during the early modern period. While technically referring to the era before
Christopher Columbus Christopher Columbus * lij, Cristoffa C(or)ombo * es, Cristóbal Colón * pt, Cristóvão Colombo * ca, Cristòfor (or ) * la, Christophorus Columbus. (; born between 25 August and 31 October 1451, died 20 May 1506) was an Italian ...

Christopher Columbus
' voyages of 1492 to 1504, in practice the term usually includes the history of 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 List of pre-Columbian cultures, Indigenous societies: Olmec; Toltec; Teotihuacano' Zapotec civilization, Zapotec; Mixtec; Aztec and Maya civilizations; and the complex cultures of the Andes: Inca Empire, Moche culture, Muisca Confederation, and Cañari. The Norte Chico civilization (in present-day Peru) is one of the defining six original civilizations of the world, arising independently around the same time as that of Egypt. 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 society, 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. A few, such as the Mayan, Olmec, Mixtec, Aztec Empire, Aztec and Nahua peoples, had their own written languages and records. 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 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. Indigenous 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 Indigenous 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 points of the compass, compass point, and others came from "across the ocean".

European colonization

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. Epidemics ravaged the Americas with diseases such as smallpox, measles, and cholera, which the early colonists brought from Europe. 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. This changed when the Europeans began the human trafficking of massive numbers of Atlantic slave trade, enslaved Western and Central African people to the Americas. Like Indigenous peoples, 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 American Indian Wars, North American Indian Wars of the 19th century cost the lives of about 19,000 Europeans and 30,000 Native Americans. The first Indigenous group encountered by Columbus, the 250,000 Taínos of Hispaniola, represented the dominant culture in the Greater Antilles and the Bahamas. Within thirty years about 70% of the Taínos had died. They had no immunity to European diseases, so outbreaks of measles and smallpox ravaged their population. 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.''Espagnols-Indiens: le choc des civilisations"'' in ''L'Histoire'', n°322, July–August 2007, pp.14–21 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, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, 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, Laws of Burgos, 1512–1513, were the first codified set of laws governing the behavior of Spanish settlers in America, particularly with regard to Indigenous peoples. The laws forbade the maltreatment of them 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 Indigenous peoples. After initial contact with Europeans and Africans, Old World diseases caused the deaths of 90 to 95% of the native population of the New World in the following 150 years. Smallpox killed from one third to half of the native population of Hispaniola in 1518. By killing the Incan ruler Huayna Capac, smallpox caused the Inca Civil War of 1529–1532. Smallpox was only the first epidemic. Typhus (probably) in 1546, influenza and smallpox together in 1558, smallpox again in 1589, diphtheria in 1614, measles in 1618—all ravaged the remains of Inca culture. 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 Indigenous peoples 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. Colonization of the Caribbean led to the destruction of the Arawaks of the Lesser Antilles. 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 Indigenous 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. It reached Lake Ontario in 1636, and the lands of the Iroquois by 1679. During the 1770s smallpox killed at least 30% of the West Coast of the United States, West Coast Native Americans. The 1775–82 North American smallpox epidemic and the 1837 Great Plains smallpox epidemic brought devastation and drastic population depletion among the Plains Indians. In 1832 the federal government of the United States established a smallpox vaccine, 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. The Spanish Empire and other Europeans re-introduced horses to the Americas. Some of these animals escaped and began to breed and increase their numbers in the wild. The re-introduction of the horse, extinct in the Americas for over 7500 years, had a profound impact on horse culture, Indigenous cultures in the Great Plains of North America and in Patagonia in South America. By domesticating horses, some tribes had great success: horses enabled them to expand their territories, exchange more goods with neighboring tribes, and more easily capture game (hunting), game, especially bison.

Indigenous historical trauma (IHT)

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.Gone, Joseph P., William E. Hartmann, Andrew Pomerville, Dennis C. Wendt, Sarah H. Klem, and Rachel L. Burrage. 2019.
The impact of historical trauma on health outcomes for indigenous populations in the USA and Canada: A systematic review
" ''American Psychologist'' 74(1):20-35. .
IHT affects many different people in a multitude of ways because the Indigenous community and their history is diverse. Many studies (such as Whitbeck et al., 2014; Brockie, 2012; Anastasio et al., 2016; Clark & Winterowd, 2012; Tucker et al., 2016)Tucker, Raymond P., LaRicka R. Wingate, Victoria M. O'Keefe. 2016. "Historical loss thinking and symptoms of depression are influenced by ethnic experience in American Indian college students." ''Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology'' 22(3):350–58. 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 Canadian Indian residential school system, 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 study defined negative health outcomes to include such concepts as anxiety, suicidal ideation, suicidal attempts, polysubstance abuse, Post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, depression, Binge eating, binge-eating, anger, and sexual abuse. 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, 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. Numerous such agricultural products retain their native names in the English and Spanish lexicons. The South American highlands became a center of early agriculture. Genetic testing of the wide variety of cultivars and wild species suggests that the potato has a single origin in the area of southern Peru, from a species in the ''Solanum brevicaule'' complex. Over 99% of all modern cultivated potatoes worldwide are descendants of a subspecies Indigenous to south-central
Chile Chile, officially the Republic of Chile, is a country in the western part of South America South America is a entirely in the and mostly in the , with a relatively small portion in the . It can also be described as the southern ...

, ''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 collapse, Classic Maya civilization, and the famine of One Rabbit (AD 1454) was a major catastrophe in Mexico. Indigenous peoples of North America began practicing farming approximately 4,000 years ago, late in the Archaic period in the Americas, Archaic period of North American cultures. 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 Native American use of fire, Indigenous peoples 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. In the Mississippi River valley, Europeans noted that Native Americans managed groves of Nut (fruit), nut- and fruit tree, fruit-trees not far from villages and towns and their gardens and agricultural fields. They would have used Controlled burn, prescribed burning further away, in forest and prairie areas. Many crops first domesticated by Indigenous peoples are now produced and used globally, most notably maize (or "corn") arguably the most important crop in the world. Other significant crops include cassava; Salvia hispanica, chia; squash (plant), squash (pumpkins, zucchini, marrow (vegetable), marrow, acorn squash, butternut squash); the pinto bean, ''Phaseolus'' beans including most common beans, tepary beans and lima beans; tomatoes; potatoes; sweet potatoes; avocados; peanuts; cocoa beans (used to make chocolate); vanilla; strawberries; pineapples; Capsicum, peppers (species and varieties of ''Capsicum'', including bell peppers, jalapeños, paprika and chili peppers); sunflower, sunflower seeds; rubber; brazilwood; chicle; tobacco; coca; blueberries, Cranberry, cranberries, and some species of cotton. Studies of contemporary Indigenous environmental management—including of agro-forestry practices among Itza people, Itza Maya peoples, 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.


Indigenous peoples also domesticated some animals, such as turkey (bird), turkeys, llamas, alpacas, and guinea-pigs.


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
nomad A nomad ( frm, nomade "people without fixed habitation") is a member of a community without fixed habitation who regularly moves to and from the same areas. Such groups include hunter-gatherer A hunter-gatherer is a human Humans (''Homo ...

ic hunter-gatherers based primarily on buffalo hunting.


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. Of equal interest is the picture writing especially well developed among the Ojibwe language, Chippewas and Lenape, Delawares.

Writing systems

Beginning in the 1st millennium BCE, pre-Columbian cultures in Mesoamerica developed several Mesoamerican writing systems, Indigenous writing systems (independent of any influence from the writing systems that existed in other parts of the world). The Cascajal Block is perhaps the earliest-known example in the Americas of what may be an extensive written text. The Olmec hieroglyphs tablet has been indirectly dated (from ceramic shards found in the same context) to approximately 900 BCE-which is around the same time that the Olmec occupation of San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán began to weaken. The Maya script, Maya writing system was logosyllabic (a combination of phonetic syllabary, syllabic symbols and logograms). It is the only pre-Columbian writing system known to have completely represented the spoken language of its community. It has more than a thousand different glyphs, but a few are variations on the same sign or have the same meaning, many appear only rarely or in particular localities, no more than about five hundred were in use in any given time period, and, of those, it seems only about two hundred (including variations) represented a particular phoneme or syllable. The Zapotec script, Zapotec writing system, one of the earliest in the Americas,Urcid Javier, 2005; La Escritura zapoteca was logogram, logographic and presumably syllabary, syllabic. There are remnants of Zapotec writing in inscriptions on some of the monumental architecture of the period, but so few inscriptions are extant that it is difficult to fully describe the writing system. The oldest example of Zapotec script, dating from around 600 BCE, is on a monument that was discovered in San José Mogote. Aztec codices (singular ''codex'') are books that were written by pre-Columbian and colonial-era Aztecs. These codices are some of the best primary sources for descriptions of Aztec society, Aztec culture. The pre-Columbian codices are largely pictorial; they do not contain symbols that represent spoken or written language. By contrast, colonial-era codices contain not only Aztec writing, Aztec pictograms, but also writing that uses the Latin alphabet in several languages: Classical Nahuatl, Spanish, and occasionally Latin. Spanish mendicants in the sixteenth century taught Indigenous scribes in their communities to write their languages using Latin letters, and there are a large number of local-level documents in
Nahuatl Nahuatl (; ),The Classical Nahuatl word (noun stem ''nāhua'', + absolutive ''-tl'' ) is thought to mean "a good, clear sound" This language name has several spellings, among them náhuatl (the standard spelling in the Spanish language),() Nao ...

, Zapotecan languages, Zapotec, Mixtec, and Yucatec Mayan languages, 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. The Wiigwaasabak, birch bark scrolls on which the Ojibwa (Anishinaabe) people wrote complex geometrical patterns and shapes, can also be considered a form of writing, as can Mi'kmaq hieroglyphic writing, Mi'kmaq hieroglyphics. Aboriginal syllabic writing, or simply syllabics, is a family of abugidas used to write some Indigenous languages of the Algonquian languages, Algonquian, Eskimo–Aleut languages, Inuit, and Athabaskan languages, Athabaskan language families.

Music and art

Native American music, Indigenous music can vary between cultures, however there are significant commonalities. Traditional music often centers around drumming and singing. Rattle (percussion instrument), Rattles, clapper sticks, and rasps are also popular percussive instruments, both historically and in contemporary cultures. Flutes are made of river-cane, cedar, and other woods. The Apache have a type of Apache fiddle, fiddle, and fiddles are also found among a number of
First Nations The First Nations (french: Premières Nations ) are groups of Canadian indigenous peoples, who are classified as distinct from the Inuit Inuit (; iu, ᐃᓄᐃᑦ 'the people', singular: Inuk, , dual: Inuuk, ) are a group of culturally s ...
and Métis cultures. 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. Visual arts by indigenous peoples of the Americas, Visual arts by Indigenous peoples of the Americas comprise a major category in the world Collection (museum), art collection. Contributions include Native American pottery, pottery, paintings, jewellery, weavings, sculptures, basketry, Wikt:carving, carvings, and beadwork. 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 recognized tribes, state or federally recognized tribe. To support the ongoing practice of Native Americans in the United States, American Indian, Alaska Natives, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiians, 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. After the entry of the Spaniards, the process of spiritual conquest was favored, among other things, by the liturgical musical service to which the natives, whose musical gifts came to surprise the missionaries, were integrated. The musical gifts of the natives were of such magnitude that they soon learned the rules of counterpoint and polyphony and even the virtuous handling of the instruments. This helped to ensure that it was not necessary to bring more musicians from Spain, which significantly annoyed the clergy. The solution that was proposed was not to employ but a certain number of indigenous people in the musical service, not to teach them counterpoint, not to allow them to play certain instruments (Brass instrument, brass breaths, for example, in Oaxaca, Mexico) and, finally, not to import more instruments so that the indigenous people would not have access to them. The latter was not an obstacle to the musical enjoyment of the natives, who experienced the making of instruments, particularly rubbed strings (violins and double basses) or plucked (third). It is there where we can find the origin of what is now called traditional music whose instruments they have their own tuning and a typical western structure.


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.

History and status by continent and country

North America


Indigenous peoples in Canada comprise the
First Nations The First Nations (french: Premières Nations ) are groups of Canadian indigenous peoples, who are classified as distinct from the Inuit Inuit (; iu, ᐃᓄᐃᑦ 'the people', singular: Inuk, , dual: Inuuk, ) are a group of culturally s ...
Inuit Inuit (; iu, ᐃᓄᐃᑦ 'the people', singular: Inuk, , dual: Inuuk, ) are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, ...
and Métis people (Canada), Métis; the descriptors "Indian" and "Eskimo" are falling into disuse. 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 during the 18th century after generations of First Nations 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. Various Canadian Indigenous law, laws, treaties, and legislation have been enacted between European-Canadians and First Nations across Canada. Aboriginal Right to Self-Government provides the opportunity for First Nations to manage their own historical, cultural, political, health care and economic control within their communities. Although not without conflict, early European interactions in the east with First Nations and Inuit populations were relatively peaceful compared to the later experience of Indigenous 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 peoples to assimilate into the mainstream European-influenced culture, which they referred to as Culture of Canada, Canadian culture. The government attempted violent forced integration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Notable examples here include Canadian Indian residential school system, residential schools. National Aboriginal Day, National Indigenous Peoples Day recognizes the cultures and contributions of Indigenous peoples of Canada. There are currently over 600 recognized List of First Nations peoples, First Nations governments or bands encompassing 1,172,790 2006 people spread across Canada, with distinctive Indigenous cultures, languages, art, and music.


The Greenlandic Inuit (West Greenlandic, Kalaallisut: ''kalaallit'', Tunumiisut: ''tunumiit'', Inuktun: ''inughuit'') are the Indigenous peoples, Indigenous and most populous ethnic group in Greenland. This means that Denmark has one officially recognized Indigenous group. the
Inuit Inuit (; iu, ᐃᓄᐃᑦ 'the people', singular: Inuk, , dual: Inuuk, ) are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, ...
- the Greenlandic Inuit of Greenland and the Greenlandic people in Denmark (Inuit residing in Denmark). Approximately 89 percent of Greenland's population of 57,695 is Greenlandic
Inuit Inuit (; iu, ᐃᓄᐃᑦ 'the people', singular: Inuk, , dual: Inuuk, ) are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, ...
, or 51,349 people ."People and Society: Peru."
''CIA – The World Factbook''. Retrieved 28 Dec 2011.
"Inuktitut, Greenlandic."
''Ethnologue.'' Retrieved 6 Aug 2012.
Ethnographically, they consist of three major groups: * the Kalaallit of west Greenland, who speak West Greenlandic, Kalaallisut * the Tunumiit of Tunu (east Greenland), who speak Tunumiit language, Tunumiit oraasiat ("East Greenlandic") * the Inughuit of north Greenland, who speak Inuktun ("Polar Inuit")


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 Zapotec peoples, Zapotecs and the Mixtecs, who held sway in the mountains of Oaxaca and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec; the Maya civilization, Maya in the Yucatán (and into neighbouring areas of contemporary Central America); the Purépecha people, 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, Veracruz, 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. Today, Mestizos in Mexico of mixed indigenous and European ancestry (with a minor African contribution) are still a majority of the population. Genetic studies vary over whether indigenous or European ancestry predominates in the Mexican Mestizo population. In the 2015 census, 20.3% of the Mexican population self-identified as indigenous. In the 2020 National Institute of Statistics and Geography, INEGI (National Institute of Statistics and Geography) census showed that at the national level there are 11.8 million indigenous people (9.3% of the Mexican population). The indigenous population is distributed throughout the territory of Mexico, but is especially concentrated in the Sierra Madre del Sur, the Yucatán Peninsula, Yucatan Peninsula and in the most remote and difficult-to-access areas, such as the Sierra Madre Oriental, the Sierra Madre Occidental and neighboring areas. The National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples, CDI identifies 62 Indigenous groups in Mexico, each with a unique language. In the states of Chiapas and Oaxaca and in the interior of the Yucatán Peninsula a large amount of the population is Indigenous descent with the largest ethnic group being mayan with a population of 900,000. Large Indigenous minorities, including Aztecs or Nahua people, Nahua, Purépecha people, Purépechas, Mazahua people, Mazahua, Otomi people, Otomi, and Mixtecs are also present in the central regions of Mexico. In the Northern Mexico, Northern and Bajío, Bajio regions of Mexico, Indigenous people are a small minority. The Ley General de Derechos Lingüísticos de los Pueblos Indígenas, 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 people, Kickapoo, who immigrated from the United States, and recognizes the languages of the Indigenous refugees from Guatemala. The Mexican government has promoted and established bilingual primary and secondary education in some Indigenous rural communities. Nonetheless, of the Indigenous peoples in Mexico, 93% are either a native speaker or a bilingual second language speaker of spanish with only about 62.4% of them (or 5.4% of the country's population) speak an Indigenous language and about a sixth do not speak Spanish (0.7% 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.

United States

Indigenous peoples in what is now the Continental United States, contiguous United States, including their descendants, were commonly called American Indians, or simply Indians domestically and since the late 20th century the term Native American came into Native American name controversy#"Native American" (since the 1960s), common use. In Alaska, Indigenous peoples belong to 11 cultures with 11 languages. These include the St. Lawrence Island Yupik, Iñupiat, Alaskan Athabaskans, Athabaskan, Yup'ik, Cup'ik, Unangax, Alutiiq, Eyak, Haida people, Haida, Tsimshian, and Tlingit, and are collectively called
Alaska Natives Alaska Natives or Alaskan Natives are indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as first peoples, first nations, aboriginal peoples, native peoples (with these terms often capitalized when referred to relating to specific c ...
. They include Native American peoples as well as Inuit, who are distinct but occupy areas of the region. The United States has authority with Indigenous Polynesia, Polynesian peoples, which include Native Hawaiians, Hawaiians, Marshallese people, Marshallese (Micronesian), and Samoan people, Samoan; politically they are classified as Pacific Islander American. 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. Tribes have established their own criteria for membership, which are often based on blood quantum, lineal descent, or residency. A minority of Native Americans live in land units called Indian reservations. Some California and Southwestern tribes, such as the Kumeyaay, Cocopa, Pascua Yaqui, Tohono O'odham and Apache, span both sides of the US–Mexican border. By treaty, Iroquois, Haudenosaunee people have the legal right to freely cross the US–Canada border. Athabaskan languages, Athabascan, Tlingit, Haida people, Haida, Tsimshian people, Tsimshian, Inupiat people, Iñupiat, Blackfoot Confederacy, Blackfeet, Nakota, Cree, Anishinaabe, Wyandot people, Huron, Lenape, Mi'kmaq people, Mi'kmaq, Penobscot people, Penobscot, and Haudenosaunee, among others, live in both Canada and the United States. The international border cut through their common cultural territory.

Central America


Mestizos (mixed European-Indigenous) number about 34% of the population; unmixed Maya peoples, Maya make up another 10.6% (Q'eqchi' people, Kekchi, Mopan people, Mopan, and Yucatec). The Garifuna people, Garifuna, who came to Belize in the 19th century from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, have Zambo, mixed African, Island Caribs, Carib and Arawak ancestry and make up another 6% of the population.

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 people, Chorotega (Guanacaste), Maleku people, Maleku (Northern Alajuela), Bribri people, Bribri (Southern Atlantic), Cabécar people, Cabécar (Cordillera de Talamanca), Boruca people, Boruca (Southern Costa Rica) and Ngäbe people, 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.

El Salvador

Much of El Salvador was home to the Pipil people, Pipil, the Lenca people, Lenca, Xinca, and Kakawira. The Pipil lived in western El Salvador, spoke Nahuat, Nawat, and had many settlements there, most noticeably Cuzcatlan. The Pipil had no precious mineral resources, but they did have rich and fertile soil, 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 Indigenous allies (the Tlaxcalas), sending them back to Guatemala. After many other attacks with an army reinforced with Indigenous 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. Today many Pipil and other Indigenous populations live in the many small towns of El Salvador like Izalco, Panchimalco, Sacacoyo, and Nahuizalco.


Guatemala has one of the largest Indigenous populations in Central America, with approximately 43.6% of the population considering themselves Indigenous. The Indigenous peoples, Indigenous demographic portion of Guatemala's population consists of majority Mayan groups and one Non-Mayan group. The Mayan language speaking portion makes up 29.7% of the population and is distribuied into 23 groups namely Q'eqchi' people, Q’eqchi' 8.3%, K'iche' people, K’iche 7.8%, Mam people, Mam 4.4%, Kaqchikel people, Kaqchikel 3%, Q'anjob'al 1.2%, Poqomchi' 1%, and Other 4%. The Non-Mayan group consists of the Xinca people, Xinca who are another set of Indigenous people making up 1.8% of the population. Other sources indicate that between 50% and 60% of the population could be Indigenous, because part of the 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. Within these communities and outside of them, around 23 Indigenous languages or Amerindian Languages are spoken as a first language. 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. It would provide services in Kaqchikel language, Cakchiquel, Garifuna language, Garifuna, Q'eqchi' language, Kekchi, Mam language, Mam, Quiche language, Quiche and Xincan languages, Xinca.  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 International Labour Organization, 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 Afro-Hondurans, African descent. The largest concentrations of Indigenous communities in Honduras are in the westernmost areas facing Guatemala and along the coast of the Caribbean Sea, as well as on the border with Nicaragua. The majority of Indigenous people are Lenca people, Lencas, Miskito people, Miskitos to the east, Maya peoples, Mayans, Pech people, Pech, Sumo people, Sumos, and Tolupan people, Tolupan.


About 5% of the Nicaraguan population are Indigenous. The largest Indigenous group in Nicaragua is the Miskito people. Their territory extended from Cape Camarón, Honduras, to La Cruz de Río Grande, Rio Grande, Nicaragua along the Mosquito Coast. There is a native Miskito language, but large numbers speak Miskito Coast Creole, Spanish, Rama language, Rama and other languages. Their use of English-based creole languages, 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. Instead, the power was split between himself, a Miskito Governor, a Miskito General, and by the 1750s, a Miskito Admiral. Historical information on Miskito kings is often obscured by the fact that many of the kings were semi-mythology, mythical. Another major Indigenous culture in eastern Nicaragua are the Sumo people, Mayangna (or Sumu) people, counting some 10,000 people. A smaller Indigenous culture in southeastern Nicaragua are the Rama people, Rama. Other Indigenous groups in Nicaragua are located in the central, northern, and Pacific areas and they are self-identified as follows: Chorotega people, Chorotega, Cacaopera people, Cacaopera (or Matagalpa), Subtiaba language, Xiu-Subtiaba, and Nicarao people, Nicarao.

South America


In 2005, Indigenous population living in Argentina (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 people, Kolla (70,505), the Toba people, Toba (69,452), the Guaraní people, Guaraní (68,454), the Wichí people, Wichi (40,036), the Diaguita–Calchaquí (31,753), the Mocoví people, Mocoví (15,837), the Huarpe (14,633), the Comechingón (10,863) and the Tehuelche people, Tehuelche (10,590). Minor but important peoples are the Quechua people, Quechua (6,739), the Charrúa (4,511), the Pilagá (4,465), the Chané (4,376), and the Chorote (2,613). The Selknam people, 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.Indigenous identification was treated in a complex way in the 2001 Census, which collected data based on three criteria: self-identification, capacity to speak an indigenous language, and learning an indigenous language as a child. CEPAL,
Los pueblos indígenas de Bolivia: diagnóstico sociodemográfico a partir del censo del 2001
", 2005, p. 32
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.CEPAL,
Los pueblos indígenas de Bolivia: diagnóstico sociodemográfico a partir del censo del 2001
", 2005, p. 42
The largest Indigenous ethnic groups are: Quechuas, Quechua, about 2.5 million people; Aymara people, Aymara, 2.0 million; Chiquitano people, Chiquitano, 181,000; Guarani people, Guaraní, 126,000; and Mojeño, 69,000. Some 124,000 belong to smaller Indigenous groups.CEPAL,
Los pueblos indígenas de Bolivia: diagnóstico sociodemográfico a partir del censo del 2001
", 2005, p. 47
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 Katarismo, 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, 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 Departments of Bolivia, 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 (Bolivia), 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;"La Bolivia autonómica", ''Los Tiempos'' (Cochabamba), edición especial, 6 August 2010 as did Gran Chaco Province in Taríja, for regional autonomy; and 11 of 12 municipalities that had referendums on this issue.Diego Andrés Chávez Rodríguez, "La Autonomía Indígena Originario Campesina: Entre la formalidad y la autodeterminación", ''Diálogos en Democracia'', 21 March 2010 (Supplement to ''Pulso Bolivia'').


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 territory (Brazil), Indigenous territories in the North and Center-Western part of the country. On 18 January 2007, Fundação Nacional do Índio (FUNAI) reported that it had confirmed the presence of 67 different uncontacted peoples, uncontacted tribes in Brazil, up from 40 in 2005. 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 Panará people, Panara tribe died within two years of discovery after contracting such diseases as flu and chickenpox, leaving only 69 survivors."


According to the 2012 Census, 10% of the Chilean population, including the Rapa Nui people, Rapa Nui (a Polynesians, Polynesian people) of Easter Island, was Indigenous, although most show varying degrees of mixed heritage. Many are descendants of the Mapuche, and live in Santiago, Chile, Santiago, Araucanía Region, Araucanía and Los Lagos Region. 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. Mapuche conflict, Conflict over Mapuche land rights continues to the present. Other groups include the Aymara people, Aymara, the majority of whom live in Bolivia and Peru, with smaller numbers in the Arica-Parinacota Region, Arica-Parinacota and Tarapacá Region, Tarapacá regions, and the Atacama people (''Atacameños''), who reside mainly in El Loa.


A minority today within Colombia's overwhelmingly Mestizo and White Colombian population, Indigenous peoples living in Colombia, consist of around 85 distinct cultures and more than 1,378,884 people. A variety of collective rights for Indigenous peoples are recognized in the 1991 Constitution. One of the influences is the Muisca people, Muisca culture, a subset of the larger Chibcha ethnic group, famous for their use of gold, which led to the legend of ''El Dorado''. At the time of the Spanish conquest, the Muisca were the largest Indigenous civilization geographically between the Inca Empire, Incas and the Aztecs empires.


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 (tribe), Caras and the Quitus unified to form an elaborate civilization that ended at the birth of the Capital Quito. The Cañaris near Cuenca, Ecuador, Cuenca were the most advanced, and most feared by the Inca, due to their fierce resistance to the Incan expansion. Their architecture remains were later destroyed by Spaniards and the Incas. Between 55% and 65% of Ecuador's population consists of Mestizos of mixed indigenous and European ancestry while indigenous people comprise about 25%. Genetic analysis indicates that Ecuadorian Mestizos are of predominantly indigenous ancestry. 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 Inca-Caranqui, Caranqui, the Otavalo people, Otavalos, the Cayambe, the Quitu-Caras, the Panzaleo, the Chimbuelo, the Salasacan, the Tugua, the Puruhá, the Cañari, and the Saraguro people, 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 (kwaiker), Awá, Ecuador, 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 people, Shuar, the Huaorani, the Siona-Secoya, the Cofán people, Cofán, and the Achuar people, Achuar. In 1986, Indigenous peoples formed the first "truly" national Political organisation, political organization. CONAIE, The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) has been the primary political institution of Indigenous peoples since then and is now the second largest political party in the nation. It has been influential in national politics, contributing to the ouster of presidents Abdalá Bucaram in 1997 and Jamil Mahuad in 2000.


According to the Census, the Indigenous population in Peru make up around 26% approximately. However, this does not include Mestizos of mixed indigenous and European descent, who make up the majority of the population. Genetic testing indicates that Peruvian Mestizos are of predominantly indigenous ancestry. Indigenous 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.



Most Venezuelans have some Indigenous heritage and are pardo, even if they identify as white. 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 important Indigenous groups are the Ye'kuana, the Wayuu, the Pemon and the Warao people, Warao. The most advanced Indigenous peoples to have lived within the boundaries of present-day Venezuela is thought to have been the Timoto-cuicas, who lived 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 1999 constitution of Venezuela gives Indigenous peoples special rights, although the vast majority of them still live in very critical conditions of poverty. 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

Indigenous peoples make up the majority of the population in Bolivia and Peru, and are a significant element in most other former Spanish colonies. Exceptions to this include Uruguay (Charrua, Native Charrúa). According to the 2011 Census, 2.4% of Uruguayans reported having Indigenous ancestry. Some governments recognize some of the major Indigenous languages as official languages: Quechua language, Quechua in Peru and Bolivia;
Aymara Aymara may refer to: Languages and people * Aymaran languages Aymaran (also Jaqi or Aru) is one of the two dominant language families in the central Andes alongside Quechua languages, Quechuan. The family consists of Aymara language, Aymara, wide ...
also in Peru and Bolivia, Guarani language, Guarani in Paraguay, and Greenlandic language, 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 Indigenous groups into the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization. There has been a recognition of Indigenous movements on an international scale. The membership of the United Nations voted to adopt the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, despite dissent from some of the stronger countries of the Americas. 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.

Indigenous heads of state

The first Indigenous candidate to be democratically elected as head of a country in Latin America was Benito Juárez, a Zapotec peoples, Zapotec Mexican; he was elected President of Mexico in 1858. In 2005 Bolivian general election, 2005, Evo Morales of the Aymara people was the first Indigenous candidate elected as president of Bolivia and the first in South America.

Genetic research

Genetic history of Indigenous peoples of the Americas primarily focuses on Human Y-chromosome DNA haplogroups and Human mitochondrial DNA haplogroups. "Y-DNA" is passed solely along the patrilineal line, from father to son, while "mtDNA" is passed down the matrilineal line, from mother to offspring of both sexes. Neither Genetic recombination, recombines, and thus Y-DNA and mtDNA change only by chance mutation at each generation with no intermixture between parents' genetic material. Autosome, Autosomal "atDNA" markers are also used, but differ from mtDNA or Y-DNA in that they overlap significantly. AtDNA is generally used to measure the average continent-of-ancestry genetic admixture in the entire human genome and related Population bottleneck, isolated populations. Genetic comparisons of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of some Native Americans to that of some Siberian and Central Asian peoples have led Russian researcher I.A. Zakharov to believe that, among all the previously-studied Asian peoples, it is "the peoples living between Altai Mountains, Altai and Lake Baikal along the Sayan mountains that are genetically closest to" Indigenous Americans. Some scientific evidence links Indigenous peoples of the Americas to Asian peoples, specifically the Indigenous peoples of Siberia, such as the Ket people, Ket, Selkup people, Selkup, Chukchi people, Chukchi and Koryaks, Koryak peoples. Indigenous peoples of the Americas have been linked to some extent to North Asian populations by the distribution of blood types, and in Genetic code, genetic composition as reflected by Molecule, molecular data, and limited DNA studies. The common occurrence of the mtDNA Haplogroups Haplogroup A (mtDNA), A, Haplogroup B (mtDNA), B, Haplogroup C (mtDNA), C, and Haplogroup D (mtDNA), D among eastern Asian and Native American populations has been noted. Some subclades of C and D that have been found in the limited populations of Native Americans who have agreed to DNA testing bear some resemblance to the C and D sublades in Mongolian people, Mongolian, Amur Oblast, Amur, Japanese people, Japanese, Korean people, Korean, and Ainu people, Ainu populations. Available genetic patterns lead to two main theories of genetic episodes affecting the Indigenous peoples of the Americas; first with the initial peopling of the
Americas The Americas (also collectively called America) is a landmass comprising the totality of North North is one of the four compass points or cardinal directions. It is the opposite of south and is perpendicular to East and West. ''North'' ...

, and secondly with European colonization of the Americas. The former is the determinant factor for the number of gene lineages, zygosity mutations, and founding haplotypes present in today's Indigenous peoples of the Americas Population history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, populations. The most popular theory among anthropologists is the Bering Strait theory, of human settlement of the New World occurred in stages from the Bering Sea, Bering sea coast line, with a possible initial layover of 10,000 to 20,000 years in
Beringia Beringia is defined today as the land and maritime area bounded on the west by the Lena River in Russia; on the east by the Mackenzie River in Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces and territori ...
for the small Founder effect, founding population.page 2
The Microsatellite (genetics), 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 Inuit (; iu, ᐃᓄᐃᑦ 'the people', singular: Inuk, , dual: Inuuk, ) are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, ...
and Alaska Natives, Indigenous populations of Alaska 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 (journal), Nature'' reported that DNA found in the 24,000-year-old remains of a young boy from the Mal'ta-Buret' culture, archaeological Mal'ta-Buret' culture suggest that up to one-third of the ancestry of Indigenous peoples may be traced back to Eurasia#Anthropology and genetics, 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 15 to 30 percent of Native American ancestry may originate through gene flow from this ancient population", the authors wrote. Professor Kelly Graf said:
"Our findings are significant at two levels. First, it shows that Upper Paleolithic Siberians came from a cosmopolitan population of early modern humans that spread out of Africa to Europe and Central and South Asia. Second, Paleoindian skeletons like Buhl Woman with phenotypic traits atypical of modern-day indigenous Americans can be explained as having a direct historical connection to Upper Paleolithic Siberia."
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 Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast, Pacific Northwest Coast such as Tlingit. The scientists suggest that the main ancestor of the Ainu and of some Indigenous groups can be traced back to Paleolithic groups in Southern Siberia. A 2016 study found that Indigenous peoples of the Americas and Polynesians most likely came into contact around 1200. A study published in the Nature (journal), Nature journal in 2018 concluded that Native Americans descended from a single founding population which initially split from East Asians at about ~36,000 BC, with geneflow between Ancestral Native Americans and Siberians persisting until ~25,000BC, before becoming isolated in the Americas at ~22,000BC. Northern and Southern Native American subpopulationes split from each other at ~17,500BC. There is also some evidence for a back-migration from the Americas into Siberia after ~11,500BC. A study published in the Cell (journal), Cell journal in 2019, analysed 49 ancient Native American samples from all over North and South America, and concluded that all Native American populations descended from an single ancestral source population which split from Siberians and East Asians, and gave rise to the Ancestral Native Americans, which later diverged into the various Indigenous groups. The authors further dismissed previous claims for the possibility of two distinct population groups among the peopling of the Americas and concluded that both Northern and Southern Native Americans are closest to each other, and do not show evidence of admixture with hypothetical previous populations. Another study published in the Nature (journal), Nature journal in 2021, which analysed a large amount of ancient genomes, similarly concluded that all Native Americans descended from the movement of people from Northeast Asia into the Americas. These Ancestral Americans, once south of the continental ice sheets, spread and expanded rapidly, and branched into multiple groups, which later gave rise to the major subgroups of Native American populations. The study also dismissed the existence of an hypothetical distinct non-Native American population (suggested to have been related to Indigenous Australians and Papuans), sometimes called "Paleoamerican". The authors posited that these previous claims were based on a misinterpreted genetic echo, which was revealed to represent early East-Eurasian geneflow (close but distinct to the 40,000BC old Tianyuan lineage) into Aboriginal Australians and Papuans.

Notable people

See also

List of Indigenous peoples

* List of Greenlandic Inuit * List of indigenous artists of the Americas, List of Indigenous artists of the Americas * List of indigenous peoples#Americas, List of Indigenous peoples of the Americas * List of writers from peoples indigenous to the Americas, List of Indigenous writers from the Americas


* Ceramics of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Ceramics of Indigenous peoples of the Americas * Chunkey * Fully feathered basket * Indian Mass * Pow wow

Population and demographics

* Child development of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, Child development of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas * Classification of Indigenous peoples of the Americas * Indigenous Movements in the Americas * Origins of Paleoindians * Pacific Islander * Population history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Population history of Indigenous peoples of the Americas

Latin America

* Indigenous peoples of South America * List of Mayan languages * Criollo people#Spanish colonial caste system, Society in the Spanish Colonial Americas

North America

* Genocide of indigenous peoples#Native American Genocide, Genocide of Indigenous peoples of the Americas * History of the west coast of North America * List of traditional territories of the indigenous peoples of North America, List of traditional territories of the Indigenous peoples of North America * Native Americans in the United States ** List of American Inuit ** Native American Languages Act of 1990 ** Native American weaponry ** Native Americans in German popular culture ** Republic of Lakotah * Redskin



Journal articles

* * * * Woodhead, M. (1998). Children's perspectives on their working lives: A participatory study in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. * * Gaskins, S. (2006). 13 The Cultural Organization of Yucatec Mayan Children's Social Interactions. Peer relationships in cultural context, 283.


* * * * * * * * * *

Further reading

* Hamilton, Charles, ed. 1950. ''Cry of the Thunderbird: The American Indian's Own Story''. New York: Macmillan Company

External links

America's Stone Age Explorers
from PBS's ''Nova (American TV series), Nova''
A History of the Native People of Canada
from the Canadian Museum of Civilization
Indigenous Peoples in Brazil
from the Instituto Socioambiental (ISA)
Official website
of the National Museum of the American Indian, part of the Smithsonian Institution * {{Authority control Indigenous peoples of the Americas, Latin American caste system Person of color