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Native South Americans in Peru and Bolivia

Updated on July 6, 2018
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

A descendant of Mohawk Nation and trained in anthropology, Patty has researched and reported on indigenous peoples for over four decades.


Heritage of the Inca People

The Incas, who spoke/speak Quecha are the major indigenous people that lived in Peru, while Indigenous natives and descendants in South America still speak the language widely. They may be closely linked with the Native Americans and First Nations that immigrated to the Western Hemisphere from the far northeast over the Bering Land Bridge long ago.

Many of these Indigenous Peoples chose a southeastern route in search of new food and living resources and settled at the most southern tip of South America in Argentina. Meanwhile, some historians and archaeologists believe that South Pacific and even New Zealand peoples rowed eastward from their origin lands and joined those in what is now the western boundary of North America.

South Pacific Indigenous Peoples likely migrated by boat to South America and intermixed with the Native Americans to form hybrid-based tribes, but still made up of Indigenous Peoples.

After all of this, some of these original South Americans avoided Spanish and Portuguese conquest to travel northward, likely all the way up into the Ohio River Valley and perhaps beyond. At least, so say some anthropology courses. Eventually, most of the people experienced the unofficial rite of passage that was First Contact with white settlers: the French and British, along with some Germans and formerly the Scandinavians that were the earliest European explorers of the New World before Christopher Columbus.

The Incas, who spoke/speak Quecha are the major indigenous people that lived in Peru.

Map of Peru.
Map of Peru. | Source

Incan land control ranged from the Andes Mountains across Peru, to Ecuador, Bolivia, and scattered thinly elsewhere.

Map of Bolivia.
Map of Bolivia. | Source

The Advanced 13th Century Culture

By AD 1200 the noble and exceedingly strong Incas had already built a lavish capital city of Cuzco, with Machu Picchu in Peru.

The 13th century civilization was complex even more than 570 years before the 13 British colonies became the USA.

Imagine the incredible wealth of culture, arts, religious antiquities, children's toys and games, knotted-string writing, and gold that the Incas possessed.

Christopher Plummer starred as an Inca in a film about their culture called The Royal Hunt for the Sun. He played the god-chief Atahualpa, captured by explorer Pizarro and held ransom for all the gold in town.

The film portrays Pizarro as repentant after he becomes friends with the chief. In real life, the Incas were destroyed in the 16th century by Franco Pizarro and only 180 of the explorer's men. Plummer plays a strong and charismatic role that I have never forgotten.

Inca Trail includes Machu Picchu. Built in 1450, Rediscovered in 1911.
Inca Trail includes Machu Picchu. Built in 1450, Rediscovered in 1911. | Source

A 15th Century Empire

As of the mid-15th century, the Incas had conquered several other Native South American Nations. Their realm of control ranged from the Andes Mountains (see the maps) across Peru, into Ecuador, Bolivia, and scattered thinly elsewhere.

The white llama is a holy animal in the Inca religion, sacrificed to the sun-god. Coca leaves are chewed for religious hallucinations. The llama lungs were read like tea leaves for fortunes.

Children were also sacrificed on the altar, their hearts cut out while still alive. Up to 200 at a time in the event of a war defeat, famine, widespread illness, etc.

Perhaps the Incas became infested with the white-man's diseases and sacrificed the rest, praying for a cure that did not come. Young women were also sacrificed. If they had been honest, good, and industrious, they went to the sun for their afterlife. If they were bad and lazy, they went to a cold earth-world.

The Sapa Inca is the title given to the emperor of the Inca kingdom. In history, there were found fourteen Sapa Incas, but the final one before the fall of the civilization was Atahualpa, the 13th emperor played by Christopher Plummer on film.

Incan Festivals

Taquile is located in the enter of Lake Titicaca and a festival is commemorated by Inca descandants there every year. Th epeople of this island preserve the ancient Inca ways, weaving brilliantly colored cloth, speaking the Inca language, and tending fields and livestock.

On Festival days, the people meet in the plaza and dance to wooden pipes and drums. It is the Feast of St. James today, but used to be the Feast of Illapa the Lightning God.

Taquile Island, Peru

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Maucallacta, 107, Peru

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Site of an Incan Shrine in AD 1500.

Cusco, Peru

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Inca settlements may have been located north of this place around the year AD 1100, but no earlier peoples have been found.

Moche District:
Moche District, Peru

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Inca Moche District Civilization and Pottery

The Moche is an archaeological culture that existed on the north coast of Peru, dating to the Early Intermediate period from about AD 100 to AD 500 (per Quilter, 1990).

"Moche" is also a distinct art style found within the bounds of the same archaeological era. Archaeological digs have discovered among the Inca on the coast of Peru the Moche civilization and their arts, specifically pottery.

The Incan sex pot proliferated the digs and depicted sex in a number of positions, but not the missionary position. A few other pots were found that portrayed single animals and birds.

Another discovery is the number and variety of ritual sacrifices performed regularly. The Incas as a culture are intriguing and to some, frightening.

The Inca Accountant

Inca communities of the past appointed a trusted counter, a man who kept tract of statistics by counting on a series of knotted strings. Several of these string devices have been found by archeologists in the lands once occupied by ancient Incas.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A quipu or knotted-string writing that was used for statisticsA Quipu.
A quipu or knotted-string writing that was used for statistics
A quipu or knotted-string writing that was used for statistics
A Quipu.
A Quipu.

© 2008 Patty Inglish MS


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      12 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      South America has filled in hubs much more than I remembered frm my college notes. It is fascinating. Of course, I've had a few years to connect the migration patterns and such. More to come...

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      This is an amazing series Patty. Keep them coming.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      12 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thank you Zsuzy. I believe there may be more native tribes and bands in South Ameriuca than in North America. I keep finding more connections with teh Zulu nation in Africa as well. Very intersting.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 

      12 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      Very interesting continuation to your article

      Great HUB

      regards Zsuzsy


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