Indigenous groups



Indigenous: Is connected to the ethnic or racial background a person has. Indigenous also means “native to the area”. Considering that our diversity is so broad, no single definition of indigenous people can fully capture this diversity. Indigenous people themselves do not believe a definition is necessary, and fear this may cause exclusion of some groups.

Specific groups this Activity Box applies to

The framework of the United Nations is helpful to see the different groups this Activity Box applies to.

  • They live within or maintain close attachments to geographically distinct ancestral territories.
  • They maintain distinct social, economic, and political institutions within their territories.
  • They aspire to remain distinct culturally, geographically and institutionally rather than assimilate fully into national society.
  • They self-identify as indigenous or tribal.


  • August 9: International Day of the World’s Indigenous People.
  • +400.000 indigenous people in Europe. The vast majority in the Arctic region: Samits, Inuits, among others (50).

Why is it so important


  • Sport activities with focus on traditional skills and culturally based principles play an important role in Aboriginal cultures and have a very positive influence on the community.
  • The capacity to integrate indigenous groups with other communities.

International endorsement:

International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 169
Self-identification as indigenous or tribal is recognized as fundamental, often combined with other variables such as “language spoken,” and “geographic location or concentration.” This concept is increasingly accepted as fundamental. (49).

UNESCO international charter of physical education, physical activity and Sport
All forms of physical education, physical activity and Sport must be protected from abuse. This means limiting potential harm to the more vulnerable groups in society, one of them indigenous people.

Barriers to sport that should be overcome

  • Lack of adequate Sport equipment and facilities, e.g. hockey.
  • Lack of special training programmes and installed capacities for coaches.
  • Distance to and availability of services, transport, road and other vehicle access.
  • Cultural appropriateness (community control, gender of staff, services offered, language)
  • Disappearance of Traditional Sport and Games

Tips and key success factors

Tailored programmes with a local approach and with the involvement of community leaders

  • Involve actively local people since the early stage of planning.
  • Speak with Elders or Traditional Knowledge Keepers and learn the community’s protocol and traditions.
  • Go slow, adapting yourself to the community and not the other way around.
  • Ask always participants: evaluate the needs and aims when establishing framework and goals.
  • It’s convenient to work with closed groups defined by culture, tribe, language or geographic location. At a proper later stage, integration with non-indigenous playing together should be encouraged.
  • Different tribes and languages have to be considered.
  • Do not use acronyms.
  • Do not use acronyms and ask how Indigenous people would prefer to be addressed. Some words should be avoided: first contact, contact, colonial, institutional, white paper. Never refer to “First Nations” or “First World” as stakeholders.
  • Developing trusting relationships with Indigenous participants or parents/guardians takes time and effort.
  • Remember that not all members of a community practice or know of indigenous culture.
  • Be prepared to work in and experience highly emotional environments when working with Indigenous people.
  • Understand if there are other relationships or stakeholders which can support the Sport intervention.

Understand and respect traditions and principles of the indigenous cosmovision.

  • Distinct and unique view of the world, needs and aspirations.
  • Approach to development is based on the principles of respect for and preservation of land, natural resources and all elements of the natural environment.
  • Own means for collecting resources or materials. They work altogether and produce excellent collaborative work.
  • Consensus in decision-making, mutual respect for people’s values and ideology are determinants of them.
  • Do not pretend to understand what their culture or situation is. Be open to learning and appreciate this diversity.
  • Finding ways to communicate messages via stories will help with understanding. Indigenous people share experiences through stories, and it is a key method of learning for them

Ideas for events

  • Consider introducing ceremonies, song, and dance as a way of celebrating an achievement or honouring guests. Ask Indigenous partners when and how this can be an appropriate and respectful way of including their traditions.
  •  Combine or adapt traditional ancestral games with new forms of Sport.
  • Community programmes are a good option to start. Perhaps participating in the regular league.
  • An alternative to the lack of equipment is to work with the community using a collaborative work approach.
  • Many communities have ancestral Games heritage. Sport for All interventions should not disregard these manifestations.

Other tips

  • Create opportunities for cultural exchanges. Indigenous youths visiting other places and also other ”urban” youths visiting indigenous communities. Remember that youths from communities aspire to migrate to big cities in search of opportunities. Sport should not be an excuse to dismember a community.
  • Empower coaches to install local capacities in local communities.
  • Do not judge or recriminate certain types of behaviours, such as the hegemonistic role of males common to be seen in indigenous communities. Sport can be an excellent vehicle to challenge this, but you should go in a very smooth way.

Available resources

  •  Indigenous long–term participant development pathway Click Here
  •  Sport Organisation Guide: Engaging Indigenous Participants Click Here
  • 21 outstanding indigenous athletes Click Here
  •  North American Indigenous Games Click Here to read stories of change
  • TAFISA World Sport for All Games Click Here

Sample case

Indigenous Community Engagement

(World Dodgeball Federation)


  •  The goal is to create a sustainable, enduring community in the Sport that becomes part of the greater national community.
  • WDBF is working with Dodgeball Canada (DC) and the Indigenous Sport Council of Alberta (ISCA) to deliver programming to women in Indigenous communities that will not only increase the participation of women in the Sport.
  • It will enhance the community capacity to develop and deliver the Sport through the provision of training and certification in coaching, officiating and governance.


More information:

Programmes offered Indigenous Council of Alberta. Click Here