In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Indigenous Populations of North America, Australasia, and Circumpolar North

  • Introduction
  • Government Documents
  • Bibliographies
  • Books and Review Articles
  • Health Care Policies and Services
  • Traditional Medicine and Healing

Public Health Indigenous Populations of North America, Australasia, and Circumpolar North
Kue Young
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 August 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 August 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0039


It is estimated that worldwide there are some 370 million indigenous people in ninety countries. There is considerable variation in terminology, although “indigenous” appears to be the most accepted internationally and will be used in this bibliography. In specific contexts and some regions, other terms, such as “Aboriginal,” “Native,” or “tribal,” are also used and accepted. An all-encompassing definition of indigenous people that is applicable globally is elusive. A definition is conspicuously absent from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the General Assembly on 13 September 2007, or in the International Labour Office’s Convention Number 169, the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention of 1989 (both cited under Government Documents). Various “operational” criteria have been used by different governmental and nongovernmental organizations and researchers to define indigenous peoples: (1) they usually live within (or maintain attachments to) geographically distinct ancestral territories; (2) they tend to maintain distinct social, economic, and political institutions within their territories; (3) they typically aspire to remain distinct culturally, geographically, and institutionally rather than assimilate fully into a national society dominated by a majority group; and (4) they self-identify as indigenous or tribal. A major problem with studying the health of indigenous peoples is the absence of health data specific to these populations, as few countries provide consistent health data on their indigenous populations. Many are incapable or unwilling to disaggregate health data according to ethnicity or indigenous status. For those jurisdictions that do provide data, there are many methodological problems relating to validity and completeness of coverage. This bibliography does not aim to be exhaustive or comprehensive in its coverage of the health of indigenous people. Geographically, it focuses on North America, Australasia, and the circumpolar North. Other countries are discussed when they are included as part of international or global reviews or studies. Key references, especially those that are “classic” or historically important, are cited, but these are not necessarily the most recent. Reviews are preferred over original scientific studies. As public health is multidisciplinary, both the biomedical and the social science literatures are accessed.

Government Documents

A variety of reports are available from government agencies responsible for the health care of indigenous people. Key documents are also available from the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. United Nations 2009 is a particularly important report, as it traces the evolution of international concern over the rights of indigenous peoples and discusses in some detail the issue of definition. It is a valuable introduction to the key issues, especially from a global perspective. For statistical reviews of the health of indigenous people in the United States, Canada, and Australia, see US Indian Health Service 2009, Health Canada 2011, Australia Institute of Health and Welfare 2011, respectively.

  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2011. The health and welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: An overview 2011. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

    This is a summary report on demographic characteristics, determinants of health and welfare, health and functioning, mortality and life expectancy, health across the life stages, health care and other support services, and health and welfare expenditure.

  • Health Canada. 2011. A statistical profile on the health of First Nations in Canada. Ottawa: Health Canada.

    The First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of Health Canada produces a statistical compendium on First Nations health on an irregular basis. It is clear that data on many key health indicators are not available for all regions.

  • United Nations. 2009. State of the world’s indigenous peoples. Publication ST/ESA/328. New York: United Nations Secretariat, Department of Social and Economic Affairs.

    This document contains separate chapters on social and economic conditions, the environment, human rights, and also health. The health chapter covers topics such as traditional concepts of health and disease, some comparative statistics on health disparities between indigenous and nonindigenous populations, and health care delivery. However, this is not a comprehensive comparative review, and it provides only case studies and snippets of data on selected countries and disease conditions.

  • US Indian Health Service. 2009–. Trends in Indian Health. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services.

    Published annually, the Trends report provides statistical data on health conditions and health care utilization among American Indians and Alaska Natives nationally and in different Indian Health Service administrative regions. The 2002–2003 edition is available online.

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