Top 10 Oldest Indigenous Tribes Of The World That Still Exist Today

In a world marked by rapid change and modernization, the enduring presence of ancient indigenous tribes offers a profound glimpse into humanity’s deep-rooted past. These indigenous communities stand resilient, carrying a wealth of wisdom and cultural heritage that has been passed down to them through the ages. Their unique traditions, customs and rituals, forged in harmony with nature, reveal a profound understanding of the world around us. The Top 10s Only team takes a brief look at some of the most awe-inspiring and oldest indigenous tribes in the world that continue to thrive today. 

The Resilience And Rich Diversity Of The World’s Indigenous Tribes

As per United Nations statistics, in about 90 countries, there are around 476 million indigenous people in the world. That accounts for less than 5% of the entire world’s population. They speak as many as 7,000 languages and are part of 5,000 varied cultures. These people have unique cultures and inherited practises and ways of relating to the environment. They are unlike the societies we live in and have distinct economic, cultural, social, and political characteristics. These indigenous tribes are vulnerable groups, as their rights have been violated throughout history. Top 10s Only, in an effort to raise awareness of these tribes, has compiled a list of the Top 10 Oldest Indigenous Tribes Of The World That Still Exist Today. 

Who Are The Oldest Tribes In The World?

They are from the darkest and deepest places on Earth and have lived in vast, remote areas. These are people who live in tiny pockets as a closed group and follow traditions, customs, and dress that have been retained from the earliest period. They are people who continue to live the way the first humans lived. Read below about the top ten oldest indigenous tribes in the world that contribute to cultural diversity. 

List Of Top 10 Oldest Indigenous Tribes Of The World

1. Sentinelese

The Sentinelese are an indigenous Indian tribe that lives in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India, on the North Sentinel Island. These are mysterious people who have very limited interaction with outsiders. Hence, their language and culture remain unknown. They have maintained a distance from the modern world, have a history of isolation, and choose to remain so. They are one of the uncontacted tribes that are a great reminder to people about the diversity in terms of lifestyles and cultures that are present in the world. They are also one of the top 10 most dangerous tribes in the world, and the modern world needs to respect their right to privacy and protect their identities as well as their land. 

  • Language

Not Known

  • Regions

They reside on the North Sentinel Island of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal. 

  • Origin

Based on genetic and linguistic studies, they are descendants of Africa and came to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands many thousands of years ago. The first record of the visit was in 1867, when a colonial officer recorded seeing islanders catching fish. 

  • Modern Life Challenges
    • Susceptibility to diseases
    • Climate and environmental changes
    • Natural disasters
    • Cultural identity preservation
    • Inaccessibility to healthcare
  • Did You Know
    • They are known for their extreme renaissance and isolation from outsiders. They have a reputation for hostility towards intruders. The Sentinelese were brought into the limelight when they were reported to have killed a foreign national who had intruded on their island.
    • They are hunters and gatherers.
    • They have a population between 100 and 150
    • The Indian government has designated the area where they reside as an exclusion zone, with no outsiders permitted to enter.

2. Hadza (Hadzabe)

The Hadza are one of the indigenous tribes in the world who are the last of the hunter-gather people in the world. They are known for their unique lifestyle and rely on gathering wild foods and hunting, and they do not indulge in agriculture. The Hazda are one of the oldest living tribes in the world. They are nomadic and move in search of food, and that mobility helps them adapt to many environments. They live in camps or small bands, and they live in a highly cooperative environment of give and take. The gender role is well defined, with the men engaging in hunting and the women gathering wild plants. They have a rich cultural heritage and use music and storytelling to pass down their knowledge, history, and cultural practises to the next generation. 

  • Language


  • Regions

They are a protected indigenous group in the Arusha Region, Karatu District of Tanzania. They live around the basin of Lake Eysi and Serengeti Plateau.

  • Origin

Archaeological evidence suggests that the ancestors of Hadza lived in the place where they are currently living for thousands of years. It also says that hunters and gatherers like Hadza have occupied this territory since the Later Stone Age, which is 50,000 years ago. 

  • Modern Life Challenges
    • Encroachment of land that traditionally belongs to them
    • Due to their land encroachment, there is a lack of food security
    • Cultural practices that are tied to their land are also dwindling
    • Exposure to modern influences has impacted social dynamics and has led to many changes in social structure and values.
    • Health issues and limited health access.
    • Their native language is endangered.
  • Did You Know
    • They rely on hunting for food and subsistence.
    • The language has phonetic sounds that are unique and has complicated click sounds.
    • They follow a unique fire-making technique called fire ploughing where a wooden stick is rubbed against a wooden base to make fire. 
    • They have different sleep habits and they change their sleep patterns as per needs.
    • They have successfully maintained their lifestyle and culture despite encroachment. 

3. Arapaho

The Arapaho are the oldest Native American tribe in the world and historically have lived in the Great Plains. As per historical evidence, they were divided into Nothern and Southern Arapaho and now have been recognized as different tribes. They are semi-nomadic and follow a cycle of gathering, hunting and limited agriculture. The tribes have their own government and the tribal councils address the needs of the community. They have a cultural legacy that is rich and maintain their traditions even in the modern world. They are very spiritually inclined and this is centered around animals and other natural elements. 

  • Language


  • Regions

This tribe historically have lived on the Wyoming and Colorado plains. After the division into two tribes, the Northern Arapaho have lived in Wyoming on the Eastern Shoshone and the Southern Arapaho live in Okhlama with Southern Cheyenne. 

  • Origin

As per historical evidence, Arapaho ancestors came to the Great Plains before 1700. According to their early history, they lived from Western South Dakota to Wyoming, to South of Canada to Montana.  

  • Modern Life Challenges
    • Pressure of assimilation and modernization pose a threat to cultural preservation. 
    • High poverty and social and economic disparities
    • Inequalities in healthcare, education, etc.
    • Resource management and conservation of the environment
    • Inability to balance the tribal governance with federal to implement policies.
  • Did You Know
    • They are skilled warriors and offer stiff resistance to encroachment. 
    • They were part of the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 and various other such conflicts.
    • They believe in spirits and perform ceremonies and rituals to maintain balance with the world. 
    • They are known for their hide painting, beadwork, quillwork, etc.
    • Buffalo hunting is their main activity for survival. 
    • Due to their nomadic living they follow Teepee architecture which is making a hut with animal hides and wooden poles for easy transportation and assembly. 

5. Berbers – North Africa

They are an indigenous group that are residents of North Africa. They have an ancient and rich heritage that dates back many thousands of years. The Berbers are said to be one of the earliest tribes in the world and in Africa. Even though they have a distinct language there are many variations in it along with different cultural identities, music, art, costumes, etc across Berber communities. They are one of those tribes that have maintained their language and cultural identity despite many modern influences. They are a highly adaptable tribe with extensive knowledge of how to live in different environments. They are the most famous tribes in the world, as well as among the oldest with an in-depth knowledge of the local ecosystem and follow traditional practices in animal husbandry, water management, agriculture and more.  

  • Language


  • Regions

They are aboriginals of North Africa’s Maghreb region. They are a scattered community that lives in parts of Libya, Morocco, and to some extent in Northern Niger, Northern Mali, Tunisia and Mauritania. 

  • Origin

The origin of the Berbers are not clear and the available evidence states that they descend from Canaan and that they are from a brave, formidable and powerful group like the Romans, Greek and Arabs. 

  • Modern Life Challenges
    • They face discrimination and marginalisation and have less access to education.
    • Their language is endangered
    • They have distinct customs and practices and are striving to preserve it from modern influences.
    • Encroachment of their land and inability to preserve the environment.
    • Their voices are unheard and getting their needs addressed is a big challenge.
  • Did You Know
    • Tamazignth, the Berber language, is not one language but a group of dialects and languages that are closely related.
    • Some Berber communities follow Matrilineal traditions, where family ties, descent and inheritance are through the females. 
    • Tattooing is a practice that many women follow.
    • Berber community has immense knowledge of traditional medicine that has been passed down. 

6. Maasai 

The Massai are an ethnic group that is indigenous to the Nile valley. They are a semi-nomadic tribe that is best known internationally as they live close to game parks in African Great Lakes. The Massai have unique traditions and a distinct culture and have managed to retain their traditional living despite modern influences. They have a warrior culture and warriors command a high respect. They rely on cattle herding for their food, and cattle play an important role in their social status and wealth. Apart from being among the oldest, Massai is also one of the top 10 strongest tribes in the world with a strong cultural identity and manages to retain a deep connection to their lands. 

  • Language
    • Maa 
    • Swahili
    • English
  • Regions

They reside in Northern Tanzania and Southern, Central and Northern Kenya.

  • Origin

Historical evidence suggests that the Massai people migrated from the Nile Valley of North Africa and displaced or assimilated other communities and gradually settled in present Tanzania and Kenya. There are also some theories which state that they migrated from Sudan in the 15th century and came in search of land for their grazing their cattle. 

  • Modern Life Challenges
    • Land ownership disputes 
    • Encroachment of their ancestral lands
    • Environmental changes have affected their traditional livelihoods
    • Loss of identity
    • Limited access to healthcare and education.
  • Did You Know
    • The Maa language is distinct and is known for the click sounds
    • They have a distinctive attire where both women and men wear bright and patterned robes called Shukas.
    • They follow an age set system where people born in specific time frame are grouped and as they age are given specific roles and rights in the community. 
    • They have a strong spiritual belief and consider certain places and trees sacred.

7. Jarawas

The Jarawas are among the earliest indigenous tribes of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. They are people who do not prefer to interact with outsiders due to which they are not clearly understood. They limit their interactions to trade and getting medical treatment. The Jarawas are one of the few remaining tribes that are hunter-gatherers in this region. They rely on fishing, hunting and gathering for their livelihood. They have in-depth knowledge of the deep forests and have sustained the resources for generations. The Jarawas have their oral traditions, rituals and customs and have a unique cultural identity. 


  • Jarawa
  • Regions

Middle Andamans and Western part of South Andaman, India

  • Origin

They are said to be the Jangil tribe descendants. As per estimates, the Jarawas are residing in Andaman for more than two millennia. There is evidence to show that they moved through Southern Asia and are said to be the first tribe to successfully move out of Africa which is indicated through phenotypic similarities.

  • Modern Life Challenges
    • Impact of tourism 
    • Outbreak of diseases due to mingling with outsiders
    • Encroachment of land
    • Commercial exploitation of the lands and poaching
    • Challenges in preserving their cultural identity
    • Environmental and climate changes impact on the sea, forest and other natural resources.
  • Did You Know
    •  They are one of the most indigenous tribes that have lived for thousands of years and maintained their way of living.
    • They maintain limited contact and like to stay isolated.
    • The Jarawa language is part of the family of the Great Andamanese Language and is not related to any other languages spoken in this area.
    • Body tattooing using flowers and leaves during ceremonies and festive occasions is a way of artistic expression for them.
    • They have great knowledge of the medicinal plants in forests and follow traditional healing practices.

8. San People (Bushmen)

The San People are also called Bushmen and are one of the hunter-gatherer tribes of Southern Africa. The San People have one of the oldest lineages and are the oldest tribes in the world that still exist, whose ancestors go back over l lakh years. This makes them one of the oldest indigenous populations known to the world. They rely on hunting wild animals and collecting edible plants for food and have deep knowledge of the environment and the surroundings. They have shown great adaptability and yet have managed to maintain their cultural identity and way of life.


  • Languages of the Tuu, Khoe and Kxa
  • English
  • Portuguese
  • Regions

Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia

  • Origin

The San are one of the oldest cultures in the world and are said to have descended from the first residents of current South Africa and Botswana. There is historical evidence of the San People’s presence in Tsodilo Hills in North Botswana. They were semi-nomadic and moved to defined areas depending on the availability of food and water resources. 

  • Modern Life Challenges
    • Encroachment of land by other outsiders
    • Marginalization, social exclusion and discrimination
    • Higher poverty rates
    • Impact of climate and environmental changes
    • Exposure to modern influences has resulted in the loss of traditional knowledge.
    • Stereotyping, cultural misrepresentation and stigma by outsiders
  • Did You Know
    • They have a unique language that is complex and is characterized by click sounds.
    • Their spiritual and cultural practices revolve around plants, animals and land and emphasize harmony.
    • They have an egalitarian society with no emphasis on individual achievements. Decision making too is on consensus.
    • They have a long history of knowledge of traditional healing practices
    • Music, dance and storytelling are used to pass on history and tradition to the new generation.

9. Hopi 

The Hopi are the oldest indigenous tribe in America that reside on on Hopi Mesas which are hills that are flat-topped are are found in Arizona. These Mesas are the home to many of the communities and villages of Hopi. They have a rich history and heritage that dates back to thousands of years age. The Hopi are considered one of the oldest tribes to continuously inhabit in North America.They are a tribe that have been practicing dry land farming for many centuries. This tribe is a significant and unique ethnic group becasue of their artisitci traditions, history and their ancient heritage.   


  • Hopi
  • English
  • Regions
    • Arizona
  • Origin

The Hopi are said to be descendants of the Ancestral Puebloans who built large complexes and had a culture that was advanced and spanned the current United States four corner regions comprising South Western Colorado, NorthWestern New Mexico, NorthEastern Arizona and SouthEastern Utah. As per historical evidence, the Ancient Puebloans lived from the 12th to 14th century and disappeared but contributed to the current Hopi community. 

  • Modern Life Challenges
    • Maintaining cultural identity due to modernization and globalization,
    • They have high rates of poverty and unemployment.
    • There are disputes in land ownership, encroachment and resource extraction on their ancestral lands.
    • They have limited access to healthcare and education
    • Due to arid conditions they face water scarcity and have challenges in food security.
    • Impacts of climate and environmental changes.
  • Did You Know
    •  The Hopi are known for their multistoried complexes that have a unique architecture.
    • The Hopi people are known for their practices around Katisnam (ancestral spirits).
    • They have a rich heritage that dates back to 2000 years ago. 
    • The Hopi Prophecy called the Prophecy Rock is the most famous which predicts the journey and foretells the future.
    • Their pottery is famous for its symbolism and craftsmanship.

10. Mbuti (Bambuti)

The Mbuti, also known as the Bambuti, are one among the many indigenous pygmy groups that are a hunter-gatherers community. They rely on hunting animals and gathering edible plants for their food and thrive in challenging environments due to their in-depth knowledge of the forest. They are typically short and that is an adjustment to the rainforest. They are nomadic and live in temporary shelters made of leaves and other natural materials. The Mbuti people are egalitarian and believe in consensus for decision-making. They are among the  oldest indigenous tribes on the world list and have a vibrant dance and music tradition. The distinct way of life, rich heritage and knowledge of the forest contribute to the diversity of the world. 


  • Kango
  • Efe
  • Asua
  • Regions
    • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Origin

There is no precise information on the origin of Mbutu and they have a long history in the rainforests of Congo and surrounding regions. They are said to be the oldest living indigenous groups with roots that go back thousands of years. 

  • Modern Life Challenges
    • The Mbuti people have been forced to resettle as they are displaced due to conservation efforts.
    • They have limited access to education and healthcare facilities,
    • They face social exclusion and discrimination
    • They are in poverty due to limited economic opportunities
    • They are more vulnerable to diseases
    • Globalization and modernization have resulted in the loss of traditional knowledge. 
    • Impact of climate change, deforestation, etc pose a threat as they rely on the rainforest. 
  • Did You Know
    • The average Mbuti is around 4 to 5 feet tall and is adapted to the rainforest environment.
    • They have deep spiritual beliefs and believe in forest spirits.
    • They have gender equality with both men and women contributing equally
    • They have a rich ans strong oral tradition with myths, history, and wisdom passed through oral narratives.
    • They are skilled in making resourceful use of the rainforest for their needs.
    • They have a nuanced knowledge of the fauna and flora and use it for food as well as medicinal purposes.

10. Mentawai  

They are a native of the Mentawai and are known as Mentwai and Mentawei. They are a semi-nomadic tribe that is hunter-gatherers and one of the oldest Indonesian tribes. The Mentawai has an indigenous culture that has deep-rooted connections with nature. This tribe which is one of the 10 oldest indigenous groups in the world that still exist today follows a belief system that has been passed down through generations. As part of their deep connection with their ecosystem, they follow sustainable hunting and gathering. The Mentawai have a great understanding of the flora and fauna and use resources that respect the balance and harmony of their environment. Their unique traditions, their art, costumes and practices make for a fascinating read into the diversity of the world.  


  • Mentawai
  • Indonesian
  • Regions
    • Mentawai Islands which are South and North Pagai, Siberut and Sipura.
  • Origin

They are believed to have migrated to the region between 2000 BCE and 500 BCE from Nilas an island in the North to Mentwai islands. They are said to have lived an isolated life until the Dutch came in 1621. 

  • Modern Life Challenges
    • Encroachment of land and deforestation have led to displacement.
    • Globalization and modernization are a threat to cultural practices and traditions.
    • They lack access to health, education and have inadequate infrastructure.
    • They have been relocated to government settlement so there is loss of ancestral lands.
    • Impact of climate and environment changes
  • Did You Know
    • The spiritual leaders are called Sikerei and are said to be healers who can guide and protect and also communicate with spirits.
    • They have intricate tattoo art. The tattoos hold great significance and represent personal identity, social status and connections with spirits.
    • They live in houses called Uma which are complexes that are made from wood and thatch. 
    • The Mentawai people are skilled artisans and produce beautiful jewellery, carvings and weavings. 


The above are some of the oldest native tribes in the world. With more development, encroachment of traditions and lands has increased and it goes beyond land rights for the natives. As the tribes vanish, the indigenous knowledge too disappears when they are encroached upon. Preserving tribal wisdom is the need of the hour so as to value their wisdom, honour their contribution to the development of communities and have a more inclusive and sustainable environment for all. 

Frequently Asked Questions About the World’s Oldest Indigenous Tribes

1. What is an indigenous tribe?

An indigenous tribe are the people who are the earliest occupants and descendants of an area or region.

2. What is an example of indigenous tribes?

Some examples of indigenous tribes are Arapaho, Sentinelese, Hadza, Jarawas, Mbuti, etc. 

3. What are the oldest indigenous tribes in the world?

The San People in Southern Africa are among the oldest indigenous tribes in the world.

4. What is the oldest tribe in the world that still exists?

The San People in Southern Africa are the oldest tribe in the world that still exists and their presence is evident in the Tsodilo Hill region of Northern Botswana.

5. What is the world’s most isolated tribe?

The Sentinels are the most isolated tribe in the world.