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South American Native Tribes

Native Indigenous of the Americas

Native American Ethnicity

North and South America were the last inhabited continents to be populated by humans. No more than 20,000 years ago, thanks to low sea levels, the first “immigrants” to the Americas were able to cross a land bridge from northern Asia into what is now Alaska and Canada via the Bering Strait. Much of the native population remained nomadic hunter-gatherers, but a number of more advanced cultures developed as well. Many places had rich soils, warm temperatures and plenty of rain. The Mississippian culture, centered in the region later named for it, farmed maize and had a complex, stratified society. The Mayans of Central America were highly advanced, known for their writing, astronomy, art, mathematics and highly developed

religious institutions that built enormous stone pyramids.

The first contact with Europeans likely came when Leif Erickson and his Icelandic Vikings established a temporary settlement in Canada. But it wasn’t until Christopher Columbus arrived 500 years later that European colonists began exploring and settling the region in earnest. Early Spanish explorers like Hernando Cortes, Juan Ponce de Leon and Hernando de Soto brought things the indigenous population had never seen before, such as horses, guns and smallpox. With no natural immunity to European diseases and no way to compete with the newcomers’ superior firepower, many Native Americans died or were pushed out of their ancestral lands.

Later, the United States government adopted a policy of “civilizing” native tribes, encouraging indigenous people to give up many of their traditional ways so members could be assimilated into American society. As settlers continued moving westward, many tribes were relocated. However, there are still many Native American groups throughout North America that retain their indigenous languages and traditions, particularly in northern Canada and in Mexico. A few, like the Pima, who live along the Gila and Salt Rivers in modern-day Arizona,

were able to keep at least parts of their traditional territory.

In South America there are some indigenous peoples in the Amazon area who have had little or no contact with people outside their tribes. However, most of South America’s indigenous populations were deeply affected by European occupation. New diseases and weapons took their toll there as well, and local populations and cultures often waned or disappeared as European colonization spread. Today some of those same cultures, and the indigenous people who did survive, are recognized for contributions to fields as varied as art, agriculture and medicine.

North and South America were settled by at least three waves of migrants from Asia, who occupied the Americas from Canada to the southern tip of Chile. North America was initially occupied by people who came from Siberia and coastal North Asia. Probably fewer than 1,000 individuals crossed the Bering land bridge; they were likely tracking animal herds and discovered an expansive new territory. Native Americans appear to derive from this initial wave of migration. Mounting evidence suggests they dispersed rapidly along the western coast of the Americas, perhaps by sea, within a period of only about a thousand years. Not long after humans first appeared in today’s Alaska and the western United States, they had already settled as far south as the tip of modern-day Chile. Then they migrated inland. These settlers were dramatically successful. In only a few thousand years they had occupied the entire landmass.

Current research has shown that there were also two other migrations. Members of one of those groups, the Eskimo-Aleut speakers, derive 50% of their DNA from the initial natives and are located in Alaska. The second group, the Chipewyan, speak a Na-Dene language and derive 90% of their DNA from the initial natives. The Chipewyan live in Canada.

The native people of the Americas are divided into several cultural regions. Cultures developed opportunistically as the first migration moved quickly down the Pacific coastline of the Americas and then inland. While these breakdowns vary, the North American regions typically include the Arctic, Subarctic, Northeast Woodlands, Southeast, Plains, Great Basin, Plateau, Northwest Coast, California and Southwest. Central and South American regions can be broken out into the cultural areas of Mesoamerica, Caribbean, Andean, Amazonian and Southern Cone or Cono.

Native American Languages and Cultures

Arctic       Subarctic       Northeast       Southeast

Great Plains       Great Basin       Plateau       Northwest

California       Southwest       Mesoamerican       Caribbean       Andean        Amazonian       Cono / Southern

Click on Country for Native Tribes living there

This is an index to the Native American language and cultural information pertaining to South American tribes. Some pages contain more information than others. If you belong to an indigenous tribe of South America that is not currently listed on this page and you would like to see it here, please contact us about contributing information.

Abipon      Achagua      Achuar-Shiwiar      Aguaruna      Akawaio      Akuriyo      Amahuaca      Amarakaeri      Amarizana      Amuesha      Andoa      Apalai      Apinaye      Arabela      Arara do Para      Arawak      Arawete      Aruan      Ashaninka      Atruahi      Atsahuaca      Awa      Aymara      Ayoreo      Bakairi      Baniva      Baniwa      Barasana      Bare      Bari      Baure      Bora      Bororo      Cabiyari      Cacua      Cahuarana      Canela      Canichana      Capanahua      Cara      Carapana      Carib      Carijona      Carutana      Cashibo      Cashinahua      Catio      Chachi      Chacobo      Chamacoco      Chamicuro      Chayahuita      Chibcha      Chimila      Chipaya      Chiquitano      Chitonahua      Chorote      Chulupi      Cocama      Coconuco      Cofan      Colorado      Coreguaje      Cubeo      Cuiba      Culina      Culino      Curripaco      Damana      Desano      Duit      Embera      Guahibo      Guajajara      Guajiro      Guambiano      Guanano      Guarani      Guarayu      Guayabero      Guarequena      Guinao      Hixkaryana      Huachipaeri      Huambisa      Huarayo      Ika      Iquito      Irantxe      Isconahua      Japreria      Jebero      Kadiweu      Kaingang      Kaiwa      Kamayura      Kamsa      Kandoshi      Kankuamo      Karaja      Kariri      Karipuna      Katukina      Kaweskar      Kaxarari      Kaxuiana      Kayabi      Kayapo      Kogui      Kuikuro      Lengua      Machiguenga      Maca      Macuna      Maipure      Manao      Mandawaka      Mapuche      Maquiritari      Marawa      Mariate      Marubo      Mastanahua      Mataco      Matipuhy      Matis      Mawakwa      Maxakali      Mayoruna      Meinaku      Mocovi      Moronahua      Muinane      Muniche       Nambikwara      Nocaman      Nukini      Nutabe      Ocaina      Omagua      Ona      Opon-Carare       Orejon      Pacahuara      Paez      Palikur      Panobo      Paraujano      Paresi      Pasto      Patamona      Paumari      Pemon      Piapoco      Piaroa      Pijao      Pilaga      Piraha      Piratapuyo      Pisabo      Poyanawa      Puelche      Puinave      Quechua/Inca      Remo      Resigaro      Retuara      Saluma      Sabane      Sape      Secoya      Sensi      Shanenawa      Sharanahua      Shipibo      Shuar      Sikiana      Siona      Siriano      Siriono      Tacana      Tariano      Tatuyo      Tehuelche      Telembi      Tembe      Tikuna      Toba      Totoro      Tubarão      Tucano      Tuxinawa      Tuyuca      Txikao      Urarina      U'wa      Vilela      Waiwai      Waorani      Wapishana      Waraiku      Warao      Waura      Wayampi      Wayana      Wirina      Witoto     Wounaan      Xavante      Xipaya      Xiriana      Xokleng      Yabaana      Yabarana       Yagua      Yahgan      Yaminawa      Yaruma      Yawalpiti       Yawanawa      Yora      Yucuna      Yukpa      Yurumangui       Zamuco     Zaparo

South American Native history, culture and society.  

The Indigenous Languages of Latin America - Mexico, Central & S American languages.

Indian Cultures from Mexico and South America - Mexican and South American tribes.

Indigenous South Americans - South American native history, tribal information.

Indigenous Peoples of South America - Links related to Native S Americans.

South American Indian languages - Indigenous languages of South America.

Native Tribes of North America

Native Tribes of Central America

Native Tribes of Mexico

Mayan Empire