Overview of the State of Indigenous Peoples in Asia
Two-thirds of the approximate 370 million self-identified indigenous peoples are in Asia, enriching the region’s enormous cultural and linguistic diversity. They have strong cultural attachment to and livelihood dependence on land, forests and waters, and the natural resources therein. They have unique collective historical connections with, and ownership of their territories that have continuously been developed and maintained through complex and diverse customary land and resource use management systems that are repositories of tangible and intangible wealth.
There are different names, that governments and others use to refer to indigenous peoples collectively – like “ethnic minorities”, “hill tribes”, “tribal people”, “highland people”, “aboriginal people”, “native people”. Some of these terms are not appreciated by many indigenous peoples, since they often imply notions of cultural inferiority, “primitiveness” or “backwardness”.
In Asia “indigenous peoples” as a term is contentious. The fact remains, however, that the individual and collective rights of peoples who self-identify as indigenous peoples are being violated on a daily basis. All too often, their territories are sacrificed and expropriated for state-sponsored development and corporate projects that lead to gross and wide-scale violations of their collective rights, especially regarding their lands, territories, and resources.