On this Indigenous Peoples’ Day, there are an estimated 370 to 500 million indigenous people
living in the world. They call 90 countries home and represent around 5,000 different cultures, according to the UN.
An analysis of the 63 countries featured in the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs’ publication, The Indigenous World 2019,
shows that out of all the countries and territories featured, Greenland was the territory with the most indigenous people as a share of the total population. Almost 90 percent of the population are Greenlandic Inuit who call themselves Kalaallit and their homeland Kalaallit Nunaát.
Countries with large shares of indigenous people are scattered all over the world. In South and Central America, Quechua, Aymara and countless other American Indian tribes are making up large swaths of the population, while in Africa Berbers inhabit countries in the North and Twa (also known as Pygmies) and Maasai, among many others, live in Central and East Africa.
French Polynesia is comprised of 80 percent indigenous Polynesian people. In the tiny island nation, this only amounts to 275,000 people in total. Indigenous populations in Asia are much larger by comparison. China is the country with the biggest indigenous population in absolute terms. Almost 112 million indigenous people – Tibetans, Uyghurs, Zhuang and 52 other recognized groups – still make up only 8.5 percent of the total population. India has 104 million indigenous people (8.6 percent of the population), 16 million live in Myanmar (32 percent), 15 million in the Philippines (15 percent) and 14 million in Vietnam (14.6 percent).
By comparison, the U.S. indigenous population, which is between 2.5 million and 6 million people strong, makes up 0.8 percent to 1.8 percent of the population. Canada’s share of indigenous people is slightly higher at 4.9 percent (1.7 million people).
While more and more countries formally recognize the rights of indigenous people, the living conditions of many of them are still dire. While indigenous people make up 5 percent of the world population, they also account for 15 percent of the extreme poor.