International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

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Sami with reindeer in Finnmark, Northern Norway. Photo: Terje Rakke/Nordic Life - Visitnorway.com.

Today we celebrate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. This year also marks the 10-year anniversary of the signing of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world, living across 90 countries. They make up less than 5 per cent of the world's population, but account for 15 per cent of the poorest. They speak an overwhelming majority of the world's estimated 7.000 languages and represent 5.000 different cultures.

Indigenous peoples are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. They have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live. Despite their cultural differences, indigenous peoples from around the world share common problems related to the protection of their rights as distinct peoples and their right to traditional lands, territories and natural resources.

The declaration was an important milestone in the struggle to ensure human rights for indigenous peoples. It has contributed to better legal protection in many countries, but greater efforts are required for the effective protection of indigenous human rights defenders. Norway supports the human rights of indigenous peoples in the UN and through its development cooperation.

In Norway, the Sami people is the only group who is recognized as indigenous peoples. The Sami reside in four countries; Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia, represents between 50.000 and 70.000 people and about half of them live in Norway. A distinctive feature of the Sami is their close relationship with nature, and joik, which is a Sami form of singing and an important part of the culture.  

In India, around 500 ethnic groups are recognized as Scheduled Tribes. These are considered to be India’s indigenous peoples. With an estimated population of 100 million, they comprise 8.5% of the total population.