Since indigenous peoples are often faced with threats to their sovereignty, economic well-being and their access to the resources on which their cultures depend, political rights have been set forth in international law by international organizations such as the United Nations, the International Labour Organization and the World Bank. The United Nations has issued a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) to guide member-state national policies to the collective rights of indigenous people, such as culture, identity, language and access to employment, health, education and natural resources. Estimates put the total population of indigenous peoples from 220 million to 350 million.
International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples is celebrated on 9 August each year.
The adjective indigenous was historically used to describe animals and plant origins. During the late twentieth century, the term Indigenous people began to be used to describe a legal category in indigenous law created in international and national legislations; it refers to culturally distinct groups affected by colonization. It is derived from the Latin word indigena, which is based on the root gen- 'to be born' with an archaic form of the prefix in 'in'. Any given people, ethnic group or community may be described as indigenous in reference to some particular region or location that they see as their traditional native land claim. Other terms used to refer to indigenous populations are aboriginal, native, original, or first (as in Canada's First Nations).
The use of the term peoples in association with the indigenous is derived from the 19th century anthropological and ethnographic disciplines that Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines as "a body of persons that are united by a common culture, tradition, or sense of kinship, which typically have common language, institutions, and beliefs, and often constitute a politically organized group".
James Anaya, former Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, has defined indigenous peoples as "living descendants of pre-invasion inhabitants of lands now dominated by others. They are culturally distinct groups that find themselves engulfed by other settler societies born of forces of empire and conquest".