Add and Remove Policy

What This Policy Addresses

This document outlines the policy regarding adding and removing people groups from the Joshua Project list. Joshua Project is committed to a policy of “easy to add, difficult to remove”. This is in keeping with the desire to paint a worst-case scenario to ensure that no people group is overlooked. Onsite ministry may determine that the Joshua Project peoples list is too granular, but that is preferred over missing distinct people groups and inadvertently minimizing the task of making disciples of all ethnē.

Joshua Project is committed to a policy of “easy to add, difficult to remove”.


  • Joshua Project is not primarily a research organization, but rather a data aggregating initiative. We must rely on the best sources we have access to. At times sources can be quite limited for small, remote or sensitive people groups. Joshua Project seeks to present the best possible global people group picture based on available information.
  • Joshua Project is not developing an anthropological peoples list. Rather the focus is a comprehensive church-planting people group list. Boundaries of people groups on the Joshua Project list are determined by the barriers of understanding and acceptance to the spread of the Gospel which may or may not result in the same people group distinctions developed by anthropologists.
  • The sum of people group populations for a given country must total within 1 to 2% of the current UN population for that country. While an individual may self-identify with more than one culture, for simplicity and clarity, Joshua Project considers an individual to have only one ethnicity and belongs to only one people group. Joshua Project seeks to avoid overlapping groups and double counting individuals. This practice is an important ‘reality check’ for comparing people group population summations against country populations.


  • When considering adding a new people group to the list, the default it to add.
  • When considering removing a people group from the list, the default is to retain it on the list unless a reasonably conclusive case can be made for removal and archiving.

Joshua Project is not primarily a research organization, but rather a data aggregating initiative.

General Process

Each add or delete is considered on a case-by-case basis. There is no formula applied to all people groups. Adding and, particularly, removing people groups is a complex task and at times requires judgement calls. Several factors are considered such as credibility of sources, type and number of sources, agreement across sources and correlation with existing data.

Joshua Project seeks to gather input from as many sources as possible, particularly when considering removing a group from the active list. Adds or removals are not considered permanent. Archived groups may be added back in at a later date based on new or better information etc.


  1. SIL Ethnologue
  2. International Mission Board CPPI
  3. World Christian Database
  4. Various field research publications such as Operation China, Peoples of the Buddhist World, Peoples of Indonesia, Caucasus peoples, MANI EIS system, COMIMEX peoples database, etc.
  5. Reputable field researchers, workers and indigenous sources
  6. Credible online data sources such as encyclopedias, census data, secular anthropological research, etc.
  7. General articles found on the internet – usually for corroboration rather than as primary evidence

Each add or delete is considered on a case-by-case basis.

Adds - Guidelines:

  • If a new language is identified or an existing language is split by the SIL Ethnologue, Joshua Project defaults to creating a new distinct people group speaking that language using the number of speakers as an estimate of the population of the people group.
  • If the Omid database identifies a new South Asia people group larger than 100 in population, Joshua Project adds the group without extensive outside corroboration. Omid must first add the new people group to his South Asia dataset. He is unable to add a people group unless that people group is in census data, since only census provides district-level data. If Omid adds the new people group data to his dataset, it will be automatically added to Joshua Project list if larger than 100 in population.
  • If trusted field workers or partner suggests a distinct people group or a critical division of an existing people group, Joshua Project first checks if it is possibly an alternate name for an existing group. If not, we then seek to understand what makes this group distinct. If language, religion or significant cultural barriers exist the new group is generally added to the list. Joshua Project does not consider occupational, economic or political factors when defining people groups.
  • To add a new group, Joshua Project needs the following essential information:
  • Not essential, but helpful information:

Removal - Guidelines:

  • If a language is no longer considered viable or living by the SIL Ethnologue, Joshua Project will evaluate groups speaking that language to determine if an ethnicity connected to that language still exists. If it can be demonstrated that the group has merged into or been fully subsumed into a different group, the people group is removed from the active list and archived.
  • Requests for deletions of South Asia people groups are passed to Omid. If Omid removes a people group from his database, it will be removed from Joshua Project at a later date.
  • If a field worker recommends a people group be removed or merged, we will seek definite corroboration / verification against the sources listed above before removal.
  • If the original source that caused the group to initially be added requests the group be removed and it does not conflict with other sources, the people group is removed from the active list and archived.
  • Obvious duplicates are merged and one PeopleID3 is retained as active and the other archived.
  • We also remove a people group if the Joshua Project Small Group policy so indicates, placing that group in the Other Minor Peoples table. The Joshua Project Small Group policy only involves tiny, diaspora people groups in a specific country (PGICs). Very small distinct ethnicities (PGACs) such as an isolated Amazon basin tribal group are never removed by the Small Group policy.

Joshua Project maintains an archival table of changes to the peoples list.

Removal Examples

  1. Merging of Aimaq groups into one – Joshua Project originally had several distinct Aimaq people groups. The Ethnologue lists only one Aimaq language, all Aimaq groups practiced the same religion, the WCD and CPPI only listed one Aimaq group, input from field workers suggested there was no animosity or cultural barrier to the flow of the Gospel between Aimaq tribes and input from an Aimaq believer suggested that only one Aimaq church planting effort was needed. Therefore, the decision was made to consolidate the Aimaq into one people group. Joshua Project recognizes that there are numerous Aimaq tribes and clans, possibly up to 200. Future onsite workers may determine that some of these require distinct church planting efforts and Joshua Project will gladly add additional Aimaq groups. At present we are presenting the best available Aimaq information.
  2. Removal of various South Asia groups. As South Asia research is continually refined, groups are occasionally moved off the active list due better research, assimilation, changing to subgroups or being extremely small and nearly impossible to discover amid South Asia’s massive population.
  3. Merging of Akha groups – The original breakdown of Akha people groups came from Asia Harvest who obtained it from a field person interested in the Akha. Asia Harvest later determined that this research was inaccurate and there was only one distinct Akha people group. Asia Harvest requested that the Akha be merged into one group. Based on the credibility, commitment to including every people group and the attention to detail of Asia Harvest, Joshua Project merged the Akha into one people group and archived the remaining PeopleID3 information.
  4. Merging groups at the borders of South Asia – groups sometimes need to be merged at the borders of South Asia. Having different sources identify people groups in bordering countries occasionally leads to duplication. For example, Omid identifies a group in Nepal along the China border and Asia Harvest identifies a group in China along the Nepal border. Each was initially given a unique PeopleID3. However, upon investigation the two are found to actually be the same group just in different countries and provided by different sources. The two are merged and one of the PeopleID3 values is archived.


Joshua Project maintains an archival table of merged or removed people groups from the active list. This includes the PeopleID3, People name, date of removal, and reason for removal. This list is available upon request.

Population: 1,288,000
Language: Urdu
Religion: Islam
Status: Unreached 
View profile

PDF version

Joshua Project logo    Joshua Project    Terms of Use    Privacy Policy    Copyright © 2024