Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Who are indigenous people?
According to Cultural Survival – an indigenous-led international organization—whereas there is no universally agreed definition for “Indigenous,” there are characteristics that tend to be common among Indigenous Peoples:
- Indigenous People are distinct populations relative to the dominant post-colonial culture of their country. They are often minority populations within the current post-colonial nations states.
- Indigenous People usually have (or had) their own language, cultures, and traditions influenced by living relationships with their ancestral homelands. Today, Indigenous people speak some 4,000 languages.
- Indigenous People have distinctive cultural traditions that are still practiced.
- Indigenous People have (or had) their own land and territory, to which they are tied in myriad ways.
- Indigenous People self-identify as Indigenous.
Examples of Indigenous Peoples include the Inuit of the Arctic, the White Mountain Apache of Arizona, the Yanomami and the Tupi People of the Amazon, traditional pastoralists like the Maasai in East Africa, and tribal peoples like the Bontoc people of the mountainous region of the Philippines.
The above description is consistent with the interpretation clause in the constitution of Kenya which has gone ahead to provide for affirmative action aimed at addressing the historical exclusion of indigenous people from mainstream decision-making processes. There is still a lot to be done with the laws and practices in Kenya to mainstream indigenous rights.
You can find more about Indigenous Peoples and the United Nations (UN) on this link.
What are the Indigenous-specific mechanisms at the UN?
- Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, an advisory body to the United Nations Economic and Social Council and supported under DESA’s IPDB/DISD since 2000.
- Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples established in 2001.
- Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007) supported under Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.