Genocide of indigenous peoples

Other Names:
Massacres of minority tribes

The genocide of indigenous peoples, colonial genocide, or settler genocide is the elimination of entire communities of indigenous peoples as a part of the process of colonialism. Genocide of the native population is especially likely in cases of settler colonialism, with some scholars arguing that settler colonialism is inherently genocidal.

While the concept of genocide was formulated by Raphael Lemkin in the mid-20th century, the expansion of various European colonial powers such as the British and Spanish empires and the subsequent establishment of colonies on indigenous territories frequently involved acts of genocidal violence against indigenous groups in the Americas, Australia, Africa, and Asia. According to Lemkin, colonization was in itself "intrinsically genocidal". He saw this genocide as a two-stage process, the first being the destruction of the indigenous population's way of life. In the second stage, the newcomers impose their way of life on the indigenous group. According to David Maybury-Lewis, imperial and colonial forms of genocide are enacted in two main ways, either through the deliberate clearing of territories of their original inhabitants in order to make them exploitable for purposes of resource extraction or colonial settlements, or through enlisting indigenous peoples as forced laborers in colonial or imperialist projects of resource extraction. The designation of specific events as genocidal is often controversial.

Some scholars, among them Lemkin, have argued that cultural genocide, sometimes called ethnocide, should also be recognized. A people group may continue to exist, but if it is prevented from perpetuating its group identity by prohibitions of its cultural and religious practices, practices which are the basis of its group identity, this may also be considered a form of genocide. Examples that can be considered this form of genocide include the treatment of Tibetans and Uyghurs by the Government of China, the treatment of Native Americans by citizens of the United States and/or agents of the United States government, and the treatment of First Nations peoples by the Canadian government.


40 million indigenous Americans died within a century of contact with Europeans. Out of a total population of 145 million Brazilians, indigenous Indians now only number less than one quarter of a million and claim only 10% of the country's area. In Brazil, one tribe a year has been wiped out.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST