I recently came across the Kalash people of Pakistan and Afghanistan (thanks to this amazing music, if anyone's interested). As far as I can tell, studies seem to suggest the Kalash are indigenous to the areas they migrated to in those respective countries, from Central Asia. I then looked at the definition of indigenous people, which says they are:

...ethnic groups who are the original inhabitants of a given region, in contrast to groups that have settled, occupied or colonized the area more recently.

This made me wonder; if historians/anthropologists define an indigenous population as the first peoples or original people of a given area, such as a country, then can said country have only one such indigenous population - the one that got there first?

In the case of the Kalash of Chitral, Pakistan - who are Pakistan's smallest ethnoreligious community at a relatively decimated population of just 3000, and one of its most remote in the mountainous valleys of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa - if we assume they migrated to Pakistan before any other ethnic group, would this make them Pakistan's only indigenous population? How are these things actually defined?

  • Ignoring tribal/clan groupings, possibly New Zealand with the Maori, Australia with its indigenous people, the island nations of the Pacific Ocean, the Scandinavian countries with the Sami, France & Spain with the Basque – Fred Nov 10 '18 at 14:03

Yes, different indigenous people is no problem at all. Many countries have several indigenous people. In The Netherlands we have the Dutch, of course, but also the Frisians. A Frisian will say he is a Dutchman, but not a Hollander. They have their own official language, Frisian. It doesn't stop there. Limburgians have a different dialect, almost a different language. There are even more ethnic groups.

The Dutch are often called Hollanders, but Hollanders are indigenous of the provinces of North and South Holland, strictly speaking. Frisians live in the area of Friesland, Groningen and Northern Germany bordering the Netherlands. Frisians lived there before the Romans discovered Germania.

In Belgium you have 3 groups: the Flemish, Dutch speakers, the Walloon, French speakers and a German community (courtesy of WW1). The Dutch and French speakers are often at odds regarding the language. They were 'first' in their respective areas.

Plenty of countries have more variety. Switzerland for example. They have 4 different ethnic groups: French, German, Italian and a small other indigenous group: the Romansh. Each with their own language and customs. Schweizerdeutsch is somewhat different from Hochdeutsch. 4 different languages doesn't seem so much of a problem here as 3 in Belgium.

It is impossible to say who was the first. They probably all were, in their respective areas. It can but doesn't have to be a problem.

  • Indigenous is not the same as native ethnic. Switzerland for example is the result of several invasions by different ethnic groups creating the main groups today. The indigenous population of Switzerland would be the Celts as they are the first known culture. Problem is is that the Celts don't exist anymore. You can claim that the people are indigenous if they descend from those Celts, but what about the ones who descend from the Romans and Germans who overran the area in ancient times? – Daniel Nov 10 '18 at 10:07
  • 2
    The Celts probably shouldn't be called indigenous either as they seem to have entered Europe, or at least their ancestors, as part of a big wave of settlement from central asia sometime in the early bronze age. The indigenous population of Europe seems to be people like the Sardinians, Scandinavians and the old megalith builders of western Europe of whom only about 10% of the modern population are descended from. – Daniel Nov 10 '18 at 10:14
  • 2
    @Daniel Yep. That is a problem with this whole "indigenous" concept. Who, apart from Africans, did not invade? That aside, I wish Rumsfeld had read your comment before speaking of "old Europe"… – LаngLаngС Nov 10 '18 at 17:06
  • @LangLangC: Forget the Africans, too, as they spent lots of time invading each other. (And selling the people they conquered to various slave traders.) Indeed, the OP's question asks whether the Kalash are indigenous despite stating that they migrated to their current lands from elsewhere. – jamesqf Nov 10 '18 at 18:14
  • In regards the sub-saharan Africans they conquered the bushmen wherever they found them and the presence of physically distinct groups ruling over others like the Tutsis over the Hutu suggests they were not immune to such behaviour. Lack of ability shouldn't be conflated with lack of will. – Daniel Nov 14 '18 at 19:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.