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Indigenous/First Nations Health Care: Home

There are estimated to be over 70+ million Indigenous people in North, Central, and South America. At least a thousand Indigenous languages are spoken throughout.

(From "Indigenous Peoples of the Americas")

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Central and South American Indigenous Flags

Purépecha Nation Flag


Official design (adopted 1980)

Wiphala recognized by some Andes Indigenous Peoples


Design attributed to the Aymara People, and officially adopted by the country of Bolivia as one of their dual flags. Not all indigenous people in South America accept this design as representative of their culture, but it has been accepted by the Qulla Suyu, Kunti Suyu, Chinchay Suyu, and Anti Suyu regions.

Mayan, Inca, and Aztec Civilizations and their Indigenous Peoples

The Aztec Empire stretched over the Valley of Mexico. The Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, is where Mexico City currently sits. The Aztec and Toltec peoples were all descendants of the Nahua indigenous people, who are the largest indigenous group in Mexico. It is difficult to determine how many people of Nahua descent there are today, but approximately 1.4 million people speak the Nahuatl language.

The Mayan Civilization grew to cover parts of Guatemala, Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador, all within Mesoamerica. "Maya" is actually a current collective term for all the indigenous peoples who lived in this region. Approximately six million Maya still live in this region today - particularly in Guatemala, where about 40% of the population are indigenous peoples of Maya descent.

The Inca Civilization settled in the Valley of Cuzco in the Andes Mountains in central Peru. It became one of the largest empires ever developed and stretched about 2500 miles north to south, at one point comprised of 16 million people (Maya vs Aztec vs Inca). Today, descendants of the Inca civilization make up some of the Quechua people of the Andes, who make up about 45% of the population of Peru. In total, there are at least 10-11 million Quechua people in South America.



Indigenous Peoples

"Indigenous peoples, also known in some regions as First peoples, First Nations, Aboriginal peoples or Native peoples or autochthonous peoples, are ethnic groups who are the original or earliest known inhabitants of an area, in contrast to groups that have settled, occupied or colonized the area more recently. Groups are usually described as indigenous when they maintain traditions or other aspects of an early culture that is associated with a given region. Not all indigenous peoples share this characteristic, as many have adopted substantial elements of a colonizing culture, such as dress, religion or language. Indigenous peoples may be settled in a given region (sedentary) or exhibit a nomadic lifestyle across a large territory, but they are generally historically associated with a specific territory on which they depend. Indigenous societies are found in every inhabited climate zone and continent of the world except Antarctica."

(from Wikipedia, "Indigenous Peoples")

Indigenous Health Care Needs


Indigenous/First Nations Health Care

Excerpt from the United Nations Statement on Health Care Needs for Indigenous Peoples Worldwide:


"Alarming levels of diabetes. Worldwide, over 50 per cent of indigenous adults over age 35 have type 2 diabetes and these numbers are predicted to rise. In some indigenous communities, diabetes has reached epidemic proportions and places the very existence of indigenous communities at risk.

Life expectancy up to 20 years lower. Indigenous peoples suffer from poorer health, are more likely to experience disability and reduced quality of life and ultimately die younger than their non-indigenous counterparts. The gap in life expectancy between indigenous and non-indigenous people in years is: Guatemala 13; Panama 10; Mexico 6; Nepal 20; Australia 20; Canada 17; New Zealand 11.

Poverty, tuberculosis and lack of treatment. Tuberculosis, a disease that primarily affects people living in poverty, affects at least 2 billion people in the world. As a result of poverty, tuberculosis continues to disproportionately affect indigenous peoples around the globe. While programmes have been designed to combat tuberculosis, they often do not reach indigenous peoples because of issues related to poverty, poor housing, a lack of access to medical care and drugs, cultural barriers, language differences and geographic remoteness.

Poor levels of health, acutely felt by indigenous women. Indigenous peoples experience disproportionately high levels of maternal and infant mortality, malnutrition, cardiovascular illnesses, HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis. Indigenous women experience these health problems with particular severity, as they are disproportionately affected by natural disasters and armed conflicts, and are often denied access to education, land, property and other economic resources. And yet they play a primary role in overseeing the health and well-being of their families and communities. In addition, as the incidence of other public health issues such as drug abuse, alcoholism, depression and suicide increases, urgent and concerted efforts are needed to improve the health situation of indigenous peoples.

Poverty and malnutrition. Poor nutrition is one of the health issues that most affects indigenous peoples around the world. In addition to circumstances of extreme poverty, indigenous peoples suffer from malnutrition because of environmental degradation and contamination of the ecosystems in which indigenous communities have traditionally lived, loss of land and territory and a decline in abundance or accessibility of traditional food sources.

Self-determination, collective rights, crucial to indigenous health. To address the root causes of indigenous peoples’ health problems, there must be full recognition and exercise of indigenous peoples’ collective rights to communal assets and self-determination. Many mental health issues such as depression, substance abuse and suicide have been identified as connected to the historical colonization and dispossession of indigenous peoples, which has resulted in the fragmentation of indigenous social, cultural, economic and political institutions.

Health systems appropriate for the indigenous context. Models of health care must take into account the indigenous concept of health and preserve and strengthen indigenous health systems as a strategy to increase access and coverage of health care. This will demand the establishment of clear mechanisms of cooperation among relevant health care personnel, communities, traditional healers, policy makers and government officials."

Uncontacted Peoples

"Uncontacted peoples are communities or groups of Indigenous peoples living without sustained contact to neighboring communities and the world community. In 2013 there were thought to be roughly 100 uncontacted peoples (tribes) worldwide, half of whom live in the Amazon rainforest. Existing knowledge of Indigenous peoples in isolation comes mostly from encounters with neighboring communities like other indigenous peoples, and from aerial footage." (from Wikipedia, "Uncontacted peoples")

Health Concerns of Uncontacted Peoples

Isolated Indigenous Tribes Risk Extinction From Coronavirus, Experts Say

The Isolated Tribes At Risk Of Illness From Amazon Missionaries

Mercury Poisoning Chief Among Health Problems Facing Peru's Uncontacted Tribes

"The Disease Wiped Out My Family"

North American Indigenous Peoples Flags

Cherokee Nation Flag


Designed by Stanley John (1976)

Hawaiian Native Peoples Flag


Designed by Gene Simeona (2001)

Greenland Native Nation Flag


Designed by Thue Christiansen (1989)

Musqueam Nation Flag


Designed by Susan Point (2019)

Nunatsiavut and Labrador Inuit Nation Flags


Unofficial design (adopted 1974)


Official design (adopted 2005)