According to the UN, there are an estimated 476 million indigenous people around the world. They call 90 countries home and represent around 5,000 different cultures.
An analysis of the 59 countries and territories featured in the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs’ publication, The Indigenous World 2022, shows that out of all the countries and territories featured, Samoa, Greenland and French Polynesia were the places with the most indigenous people as a share of the total population. 96 percent of Samoans are Polynesians, while almost 89 percent of the population in Greenland are Greenlandic Inuit who call themselves Kalaallit and their homeland Kalaallit Nunaát. French Polynesia is one more territory with a large Polynesian population, while the share of native Melanesians in another French overseas collectivity, New Caledonia, stands at around 41 percent.
While the Arctic Circle and the Pacific are strongholds of indigenous life, 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 make 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.
While Polynesian Samoans make up the majority of people in the tiny island nation, this only amounts to 190,000 people in total. Indigenous populations in Asia are much larger by comparison. China is the country with the biggest indigenous population in absolute terms. More than 125 million indigenous people – Tibetans, Uyghurs, Zhuang and 52 other recognized groups – still make up only 8.9 percent of the Chinese population. India has 104 million indigenous people (8.6 percent of the population), while around 15 million live in the Philippines (15 percent), 14 million in Vietnam (15 percent), 13 million in Kenya (25 percent) and almost 12 million in Mexico (10 percent).
By comparison, the U.S. indigenous population, which is between 4 million and 7 million people strong, makes up 1.2 percent to 2.1 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 6 percent of the world population, they also account for 19 percent of the extreme poor.