Culture and traditions

Indigenous communities of the world: customs and traditions

Today, indigenous populations are considered minorities. According to data collected by the United Nations Organization (UN), it is estimated that there may be around 300 million people in the world who belong to one of the almost 5,000 indigenous communities spread throughout the world.

Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.

Central and South America

It is estimated that the indigenous people of South America, as well as the indigenous people of Central America, also called Native Americans Or simply, Indians, they reach around fifty million people, which represents 10% of the total population.

Thus, there are about 400 native communities throughout the Americas that, mainly, can be found in South America and Central America.

Guatemala, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador (Andean zone), whose aborigines are mainly concentrated in the Amazon Rainforest, are the countries where the greatest number of indigenous inhabitants can be found, with tribes such as Aguarunas, Ashaninkas, Bora, Wampis, the awajunes, the ucayali …

The ashaninkas

BrazilHowever, it is the country with the greatest diversity of indigenous communities, although it does not stand out in terms of number of inhabitants, since it is a small population, such as the Kamayura tribe, located in Mato Grosso, the Guarani, the Quechua or He will love them.

Kamayura tribe in Matto Grosso (Brazil)

On the other hand, in Argentina we can highlight the following native communities: the colla, the calchaquí diaguita, the Guarani ava, the wichí, the pilagá, the tufa, the huarpe, the mapuche, etc.

However, the majority of indigenous Argentines are now extinct and only the customs and traditions left in each area are preserved.

In Chile, the existence of nine Aboriginal populations is currently recognized, including the Mapuches, which are the largest community, followed by the Kolla, the Kawésqar and the Yagan.

Mapuche village in Curarrehue (Chile)

In Colombia, more than 3% of the total population is indigenous. They live on itinerant horticulture, fishing and hunting.

Usually, Colombian indigenous populations are influenced by problems that concern the rest of the country, since they do not have recognition by the State and, therefore, do not have autonomy rights.

Ethnic groups such as Guajira, Emberá, Cauca, Nariño, Sucre and Wayúu stand out, among others.

Their customs are based mainly on word and knowledge, which are expressed through their different languages, and practice sports such as wrestling, archery and horse racing. All these traditions have been reinforced in recent years, as a way to combat the strong influence of modernism.

Emberá (Colombia)

North America

Mexico represents the highest percentage of native communities on the continent, among which we can find the Nahua, the Maya, the Chiapas, the Otomi, the Tzotzil, the Mazahua, the Paipai, and many more.

The indigenous Mexicans are descendants of Mesoamerican societies, characterized by strong and entrenched customs, diversity and language, among which the tradition of growing corn, the absence of metallurgy and the expression of religion through human sacrifice stand out.

Chiapas, indigenous group of Mexico

In the United States you can also find indigenous groups, officially named american indians in the USA, well known, like the Indians Cherokee (in English, Cherokee and, in their native language, ah-ni-yv-wi-ya), which inhabited the states of Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee.

Currently, their descendants have the same traits and continue to practice some of their customs and rituals. They had their own syllabary, which was invented by Sequoyah, one of its most representative historical leaders.

The Government of the United States has recognized the following cheróquis associations: The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, The Eastern Band of Chérokee Indians and The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians.

In addition to the cheróquis, there are other recognized Native American groups, such as the choctaw, the creek, the oyate and the pawnee.

Choctaw natives in Neshoba County (Mississipi)

In Canada, aboriginal nations are officially called today Native Nations of Canada which, in turn, are represented by the Assembly of Original Nations.

Indigenous Canadians or Canadian-natives reject the denomination of nation state and prefer to be considered merely as indigenous peoples. We found groups of native people from Canada throughout the country, spread across different cultural areas. Thus, fishing, especially salmon, predominates in the Pacific Coast, as well as hunting in rivers and oceans.

The native of Canada, in their origins, spoke a great diversity of languages, which varied according to the region where they lived; Currently, three major groups are distinguished: the Eskimo-Aleutian languages, which span the Canadian Arctic, Greenland, Alaska and some areas of Siberia; Algonquin languages, spoken in Alberta (Canada); and the Na-Dené or Atabascan languages.

As for its political organization, today it is widely influenced by European tradition.


Currently, Europe does not have a variety of indigenous populations, since the continent is heavily westernized. However, Sami or Lapon town, who have come to demand that they be considered indigenous and, with it, the corresponding autonomy and rights, as well as their own communal organization.

The Lappon People, Sami or saami It extends between Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Kola Peninsula, which is located northwest of Russia.

Lapps currently comprise a population that reaches approximately 80,000 inhabitants, of which the vast majority are concentrated in Norway and Sweden. Their customs are characterized by a culture based on hunting and fishing.

Around 10% of the Sami population is dedicated to reindeer breeding, a custom that has been preserved since ancient times. They have a traditional music, the so-called Yoik singing. Its language is the lapon, which is divided into three dialects: the central lapon, the eastern lapon and the southern lapon.

The Sami Indians of Europe

Other aboriginal populations in Europe are the Nenets, descendants of the ancient Samoyed, and the Komis. These indigenous minorities inhabit the surroundings of the Ural mountains, specifically the regions of Archangelsk and Komi, and have been considered indigenous by the Russian Federation.


According to data collected by the UN, about two thirds of the Asian population are made up of indigenous people, which can also receive one of the following names: tribal peoples, orang asli, masyarakat adat, adivasis or mountain tribes.

Most of the indigenous peoples of Asia are found in India, where the term is used adivasi which literally translates by native inhabitant.

These groups, although considered minorities, have a very heterogeneous structure and are coordinated by two main organizations: All India Coordinating Forum for Adivasis and Indigenous Peoples (AICFAIP) e Indian Confederation of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples (ICITP).

Indians of India

In the Constitution of India 650 tribal groups are recognized, distributed throughout the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bijar, Gujarat, etc.

These tribal groups face very rapid changes in their societies, which makes them very difficult to maintain economic, political and social stability within their internal social hierarchy and, in turn, leads them to find themselves in a situation of marginalization and poverty.

Most of these communities are located in mountainous areas, divided into small groups.

Adivasis of Orissa, India

Also highlights Bangladesh, where, although most of its inhabitants are Bengali, about three million are considered indigenous.

These tribal groups are especially concentrated in the north of the country and in Chittagong Hills and there they are called jummas, derived from the fact that their agriculture is fundamentally based on crop rotation, a tradition that is considered characteristic of these groups and that in their language is called jum.

In Japan, two main groups stand out: the Ainu and the Okinawan. These ethnic groups are spread throughout the archipelago between the islands of the northern and southern extremes.

Specifically, the Ainu are located in the Sakhalin and Kuril Islands, and the Okinawan, in the Ryūkyū Islands. For these groups, those who follow the Ryukyuan culture, nature plays a fundamental role, so among its ancestral leaders is the Spirit of Nature or Kamui, to which they dedicate a whole series of rituals.

The shisha or sisha They are mythological beings that are used as a cultural manifestation within these ethnic groups and reminiscent of a mixture between a lion, a dragon and a dog.

Sisha, being from Okinawan mythology


In Australia, there are a large number of indigenous communities, such as the Anangu, the Nunga, the Palawah, the Koori, the Murri, the Noongar, the Yamatji, the Wangkai, the Yapa and the Yolngu.

The current Australian aborigines are the descendants of the first inhabitants of the continent, as well as the surrounding islands and the Torres Strait, located between Australia and New Guinea.

These groups currently occupy about 3% of the total Australian population and have their own languages, although many of them have now become extinct.

Among its most entrenched customs is the worship of the land. Each ethnic group is linked to a totem that is usually related to some element of nature that surrounds it.

Rock paintings tribal groups Australia

In New Zealand, the Maori group stands out, whose culture has spread throughout New Zealand and has become a tourist attraction.

The Maori are, in reality, the tangata whenua, that is, the aboriginal people of New Zealand, and represent 14% of the total population of the country. His official language is Reo Māori and, among its cultural manifestations, dances stand out, including the haka, an ancestral war dance. Also the songs and the visual arts are two traditional elements of these communities that draw special attention.

Maori art


There are as many African indigenous communities as colonizers conquered Africa thousands of years ago. This is one of the reasons why some historians refer to the continent as the cradle of humanity.

In this way, today a great diversity of tribes and indigenous groups can be found around Africa, whose culture and customs are considered defining the continent as a whole.

Masai woman

Highlights the pygmy community, considered the first African population in history. They are a group of hunter-gatherers whose habitat is found in the African equatorial forests.

The main characteristic that defines the physique of these indigenous people is their short stature, which does not exceed one and a half meters. Other indigenous groups are: the Bushmen (Botswana), the natives of the Omo Valley (Ethiopia), the Masais (Tanzania) and the Ogieks (Kenya).

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