What Is An Ethnocide? (examples)

An ethnocide is a process of destruction of an ethnic group or its cultural wealth through which the right to promote, enjoy and encourage traditions, as well as to develop the art, roots and even the native language of a people is denied.This concept was established by Robert Jaulin in 1968, who denounced such actions against indigenous cultures.

Ethnocide is a process in which the culture of an ethnic group radically disappears, replacing its religious beliefs and practices, as well as eating habits, clothing, symbolism and economy.

This cultural liquidation is caused by the oppression of a dominant axis with the objective of forcibly changing indigenous customs, implanting a new social model.

In an ethnocide, different types of violence occur, such as the dispossession of land, verbal and physical attacks, the extermination of ethnic groups, the prohibition of native languages ​​in daily life and imposed jobs.

The first cases of ethnocide occurred with the arrival of the Spanish conquerors to America. They appropriated the discovered lands, stripped the tribes of their wealth and enslaved them with forced labor; they sought to change their culture and impose the lifestyle of civilized society.

Most prominent examples of ethnocide

Ethnocide occurred in various regions of the planet, mainly due to land conquest and radical ideologies. Some of the most important ethnocides will be described below:

1- Ethnocide in Argentina

In Spain feudalism predominated and at that time the country did not possess great wealth, which made it difficult to increase its social level. Hoping to achieve a better financial degree, they decided to explore America in search of land, fortune and recognition.

Since the Spanish arrived from Mendoza to Mar del Plata, they implemented hostile actions against the indigenous people, expropriated lands and dominated the inhabitants with firearms under a political and military power that generated the creation of border lines.

The whites considered the natives for savages, they considered them barbarians who had to civilize or exterminate.In 1810 Colonel García presented a report in which he declared that a part of the natives should be reduced — that is, eliminated — and the rest trained.

Many tribes perished because of the repression since the arrival of the Spanish and also because of the diseases that came with them, which were unknown by the ethnic groups.

2- Ethnocide in El Salvador

In 1932, the largest massacre ever occurred in Central America in the 20th century. El Salvador’s ethnic groups were subjected to violence, persecuted and cruelly exterminated by civilian military led by racist and authoritarian landowners.

In this ethnocide, between 10,000 and 30,000 people lost their lives, with the support of the Civic Guard. The army exterminated thousands of people, mostly indigenous and peasants, on suspicion of sympathizing with the government.

Among the acts of cruelty that occurred, it stands out that they forced the children to witness the murder of their relatives.

These acts were aimed at obtaining land, seizing their assets and exploiting the natural resources of El Salvador, to promote large projects with the crops acquired, as well as the production and export of biofuels.

3- Ethnocide in Colombia

Between 1895 and 1945 there was a “war for the rubber plant” in the south of the Colombian Amazon region, at a historical moment of boom and rubber production.

The exploitation of rubber was directed by Peruvian companies in Colombian territory, taking advantage of their economic and political power to enslave, mistreat and kill the Okaina, Miraña, Huitoto and Bora ethnic groups.

The center of the Colombian-Peruvian conflict was to take over the entire Amazon, due to the great demand for rubber manufactured in Putumayo due to automotive growth.

The companies involved imposed a model of indebtedness with the rubber workers, according to which taxes were charged for selling the rubber, monopolizing their trade.

They also enslaved the natives; it is estimated that more than 800,000 Colombians were killed, burned and displaced.

4- Ethnocide in Africa

In 1880 the battle for the dominion of the African lands of the European powers began Great Britain, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany and Belgium.

They undertook journeys to conquer the African continent with the aim of dominating and obtaining the best lands, rich in gold and diamonds.

In 1885 the German Chancellor Bismarck called an international conference in which the plans to expand the European colonies in Africa were defined. In addition, the order of occupation of the discovered African territories was given.

Upon reaching the continent, the kingdoms of Europe drew lines on their maps without regard for indigenous tribes. The native Africans were taken from their territory and distributed to the Europeans as slaves.

A bloodbath filled all of Africa, and anyone who opposed giving up the land and its resources was executed.

In this way, the Africans spent thirty years under the rule of the European colonies, which imposed by force the customs of the West without respecting any African tradition.

The African man did not have any power in the continent, except for Ethiopia that managed to achieve its independence.

5- Ethnocide in Canada

In 1876 the churches proposed a new system that promulgates a decree against the natives. The intention was to separate Aboriginal children from the children of those who belonged to the United Churches of Canada in boarding schools.

In addition there was the decree of Gradual Civilization, which forced the natives to speak only English or French.

This system forbade them to speak their mother tongues and perform their religious rites; They also isolated them from their roots, since they were in boarding schools.

They were physically and sexually abused, maintaining slogans such as: “civilize the savage”, “save souls” or “kill the Indian inside the child”, imposing their laws, values, culture and language.

In this ethnocide it is estimated that at least 3,000 Aboriginal children died during the academic period in boarding schools, and the greatest cause of death was from unknown diseases.


  1. Neyooxet Greymorning. Understanding Culture and Language Ethnocide. (2014). Source: culturalsurvival.org
  2. Sita Venkateswar. Development and Ethnocide Colonial Practices. (2004). Recovered from: books.google.com
  3. Daniel Feierstein. Political violence in Argentina and its genocidal characteristics. (2006). Source: iheal.univ-paris3.fr
  4. Sandra Pruim. Ethnocide and Indigenous Peoples. (2014). Recovered from: adelaide.edu.au
  5. Tristan Plait. Liberalism and Ethnocide in the Southern Andes. Recovered from: st-andrews.ac.uk

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