What Are Some Common Characteristics of Indigenous People’s Cultures?

Distinct languages, cultures and beliefs, and strong bonds with their environment and surrounding natural resources are some of the common characteristics of indigenous people. They are also bound by a religious connection to their lands, and they have complex customs for addressing the supernatural and the sacred.

Indigenous people are usually descendants of the first inhabitants of a country or a specific geographical region. The Mayas of Guatemala, the Maoris of New Zealand, and the Inuit of the Arctic are indigenous people who have inhabited their countries for thousands of years. Like other native inhabitants, their histories precede pre-colonization and pre-settler times and continue to this day.

They also form a non-dominant group in society, but they are accepted as a distinct cultural group with their own social, political and economic practices. Native or tribal people are largely dependent on and connected with their environment. Their ancestral land is an invaluable source of livelihood and of physical and spiritual importance to their cultural practices.

Indigenous people have contributed in preserving the natural environment. The native hunter-gatherers in the Amazon, for example, have protected parts of the tropical forest from deforestation. Most natives resist change due to state-driven or sector-financed development projects, causing them to suffer due to pressures from both the state and the private institutions.