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Indigenous peoples of Oceania

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The indigenous peoples of Oceania are Polynesians, Melanesians (including Torres Strait Islanders), Micronesians, Papuans, and Aboriginal Australians. With the notable exceptions of Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, New Caledonia and Guam, indigenous peoples make up the majority of the populations of Oceania.

The term "Pacific Islanders" excludes Australian Aboriginal peoples in Australia, and may be understood to include non-indigenous populations of the Pacific Islands.


Both Australia and the islands of the Pacific Ocean were colonized in waves of migrations from Southeast Asia spanning many centuries. European and Japanese colonial expansion brought most of the region under foreign administration, in some cases as settler colonies which displaced or marginalized the original populations. During the 20th century several of these former colonies gained independence and nation-states were formed under local control. However, various peoples have put forward claims for indigenous recognition where their islands are still under external administration; examples include the Chamorros of Guam and the Northern Marianas, and the Marshallese of the Marshall Islands and the Native Hawaiians of Hawaii.

In New Zealand, Māori (see also Iwi) constitute nearly 15% of the total population. Most of those people who define themselves as Māori are also of European and to a much lesser extent Asian descent.

The indigenous peoples of Australia are the Indigenous Australians, who account for 2.5% of the total population (2011 census figures). The term 'Indigenous Australians' refers to both the Aboriginal peoples of mainland Australia and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Of the total 'Indigenous Australian' population, 90% identified as Aboriginal only, 6% identified as Torres Strait Islander and the remaining 4% identified as being of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin.[1]

The independent state of Papua New Guinea (PNG) has a majority population of indigenous societies, with some 700+ different tribal groups recognised out of a total population of just over 5 million. The PNG Constitution and other Acts identify traditional or custom-based practices and land tenure, and explicitly sets out to promote the viability of these traditional societies within the modern state. However, several conflicts and disputes concerning land use and resource rights continue to be observed between indigenous groups, the government and corporate entities.

See also[edit]

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  • List of indigenous peoples#Oceania
  • Pacific Islander
  • Taiwanese indigenous peoples


  1. 2011 CENSUS COUNTS — ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER PEOPLES, Australian Bureau of Statistics website, http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/lookup/2075.0main+features32011

Further reading[edit]

  • Clarke, Anne (2003-09-02). The Archaeology of Difference: Negotiating Cross-Cultural Engagements in Oceania. Routledge. doi:10.4324/9780203298817. ISBN 978-0-203-29881-7. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  • Gagné, Natacha; Salaün, Marie (July 2012). "Appeals to indigeneity: insights from Oceania". Social Identities. 18 (4): 381–398. doi:10.1080/13504630.2012.673868. ISSN 1350-4630. Unknown parameter |s2cid= ignored (help)
  • Harrison, Rodney (2011), Byrne, Sarah; Clarke, Anne; Harrison, Rodney; Torrence, Robin, eds., "Consuming Colonialism: Curio Dealers' Catalogues, Souvenir Objects and Indigenous Agency in Oceania", Unpacking the Collection, New York: Springer Science+Business Media, pp. 55–82, doi:10.1007/978-1-4419-8222-3_3, ISBN 978-1-4419-8221-6
  • Weil, E. Jennifer; Nelson, Robert G. (2006). "Kidney disease among the indigenous peoples of Oceania". Ethnicity & Disease. 16 (2 Suppl 2): S2–24–30. ISSN 1049-510X. PMID 16774006.

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