What’s in a name?
India’s tribal population is as diverse as the country itself. The English word “tribe” appears to be appropriate here. Some of the local Indian terms, on the other hand, may have connotations that are hard to gauge for outsiders (e.g. the political agenda underlying the introduction of “vanavasi” for adivasi). For this reason, we have decided to use the words “tribe” and “tribal cultural heritage” in a respectful manner; and wherever possible, specify the name by which members of any particular community refer to themselves. In this context, it is helpful to take the following discussion into account:
A question of identity
According to the UN the most fruitful approach is to identify, rather than define indigenous peoples. This is based on the fundamental criterion of self-identification as underlined in a number of human rights documents.
- The term “indigenous” has prevailed as a generic term for many years. In some countries, there may be preference for other terms including tribes, first peoples/nations, aboriginals, ethnic groups, adivasi, janajati. Occupational and geographical terms like hunter-gatherers, nomads, peasants, hill people, etc., also exist and for all practical purposes can be used interchangeably with “indigenous peoples”.
- In many cases, the notion of being termed “indigenous” has negative connotations and some people may choose not to reveal or define their origin. Others must respect such choices, while at the same time working against the discrimination of indigenous peoples.
Source: United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Date Visited: 28 March 2011
- Contents on this website by and about Prof. Ganesh Devy
- Figures, census and other statistics
- Names and communities
- Scheduled tribe
- Tribal culture worldwide
- Tribal Politics – adivasi culture, language, and religion in Encyclopedia of India