Difference Between Aboriginal and Indigenous

Main Difference – Aboriginal vs Indigenous

Aboriginal and Indigenous people are the original inhabitants of a particular place. They are historically, culturally and linguistically distinctive from other populations and are often protected by international or national legislatures.  Aboriginal, original, native, and indigenous are some of the names used to refer to these particular groups of people. This article attempts to explore the difference between aboriginal and indigenous and their appropriateness. The main difference between aboriginal and indigenous is that aboriginal is mostly used to refer to the indigenous people of Australia.Difference Between Aboriginal and Indigenous - infographic

Aboriginal – Definition, Meaning and Usage

Aboriginal refers to a group of people who first inhabited the land. The American Heritage Dictionary defines aboriginal as “having existed in a region from the beginning” and Oxford Dictionary defines it as “inhabiting or existing in a land from the earliest times or from before the arrival of colonists”.  Both these definitions emphasize the order of inhabitance; it is the aboriginals who inhabited the land first.

The term aboriginal is usually used in reference to native people of Australia. Aboriginal is also used to refer to indigenous people of Canada. For example, consider names like Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and Aboriginal Peoples Television.

Difference Between Aboriginal and Indigenous

Aborginal Dancers

However, some indigenous groups of people do not like to be called by the name aboriginal, because the term is attached with negative and derogatory associations.

Indigenous – Definition, Meaning and Usage

Indigenous refers to a group of people who are native to a particular place. The American Heritage Dictionary defines indigenous as “being a member of the original inhabitants of a particular place” and Oxford Dictionary defines it as “originating or occurring naturally in a particular place”.  These definitions stress the aspect of geography; indigenous people are specific to a particular place or region.

While the term indigenous is commonly used as a synonym for aboriginal and native, it mostly refers to the native people of America. Indigenous is the most accepted, commonly used and politically correct term out of the two – aboriginal and original. Organizations like United Nations as well as government institutions generally use the term indigenous.

Finding out the name preferred by the particular group of people you are referring to and using that name instead of using general terms like aboriginal and indigenous is always a better and respectful way to address this issue.

Main Difference - Aboriginal vs Indigenous

Leaders of the indigenous Kayapo tribe, Mato Grosso, Brazil

Difference Between Aboriginal and Indigenous

Meaning

Aboriginal refers to a group of people who first inhabited the land.

Indigenous refers to the original inhabitants of a particular place.

Usage

Aboriginal is mainly used to refer to indigenous people of Australia and Canada.

Indigenous is mainly used to refer to indigenous people of other countries.

Acceptance

Aboriginal may have negative associations.

Indigenous is the more accepted, politically correct term.

Image Courtesy:

“Aboriginal dancers” – The original uploader was at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by ., (CC BY-SA 3.0) via

“Kaiapos” By Valter Campanato, Agência Brasil (ABr),  via

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.


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