How long do people have to be somewhere before they’re considered indigenous?

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This question sounds weird when I try to put it into the title but I don’t understand the concept of indigenous people or colonization vs settling now that I think about it.

But I was thinking about how the ‘indigenous’ people of a lot of places have been there 1000 years or less. Like I was thinking about polynesian people – they seem to have come from asia about 1000 years ago and colonized areas of New Zealand and islands around America. Hawaii wasn’t settled by polynesian people until ‘1000-1200 CE’ apparently. But they’re now considered the indigenous people. Maori people didn’t get to New Zeland until like 1300CE but .

When I look at the definition of indigenous one of the definitions is ‘(of people) inhabiting or existing in a land from the earliest times or from before the arrival of colonists.’ but then weren’t the polynesian people colonists? What IS the difference between colonist and settler?

is it really just a matter of time? Like….in a couple hundred years will the white people of America who are descendents of immigrants from the 1600’s etc be considered indigenous?

If people descended from those who arrived in a place like 800 years ago are considered indigenous – then will the white americans soon be considered indigenous americans as their ancestors arrived in the US like 400 years ago?

How does this work?

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3 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

Indigenous isn’t a matter of time. It’s a people that lived somewhere that didn’t have a nationstate but considered themselves a people, and then a nationstate came along and went:
“this is our land now”
“But we were here first!”
“But do you have a flag?”

Anonymous 0 Comments

It’s not about time, so much as it’s about “was there anyone else here when you got here?”

If you are the first people to ever live somewhere, then you’re indigenous to that place. This is how people like the Māori can be indigenous to New Zealand. Even though they can explain exactly when and how they arrived – being able to trace your lineage is very important in Māori culture, it’s a source of deep comfort and pride to know this about yourself – they still get to be indigenous because the first inhabitants of the place were either them or giant killer birds.

If you were the first people here, you’re indigenous. If you’re **not** the first people, and you arrived to find someone already waiting for you…then you’re not.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Time is not a good metric because it’s entirely arbitrary. You need a good definition first that actually takes into account some facts about the people themselves rather than just a temporal angle. For example, I would consider a people to be indigenous to a region/location if they have physical adaptations to it. So if you’re a white person in a location with abundant strong sunlight then you’re not indigenous even if you’ve been there for a thousand years. You’re indigenous to whatever location caused you to develop white skin until such a point in the future that your descendants develop naturally pigmented (from birth) skin corresponding to the solar radiation encountered where you currently reside.