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Native South American Nations - Indigenous Peoples and Cultures Overview

Updated on March 16, 2016
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.

Interesting people in Bolivia.
Interesting people in Bolivia. | Source

Overview of Native South American Nations

Today's descendants of the pre-Columbian Indigenous Peoples native to South America live in the countries of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, northwestern Argentina, and Chile, all along the northern portion of the continent of South America.

Our Native South Americans are located all along the continent from Panama at the south end of Central America to Tierra del Fuego at the southernmost point on the continent, where you might see some penguins.

An estimated 30 million people were living throughout what is now South America when the Europeans arrived. These particular first contact Europeans were explorers and business adventurers and also Spanish and Portuguese. However, some anthropologists have thought about the possibility of Far East Asians having visited the continent long before the Hispanic explorers appeared here. This is an open question for research.

The nations of the Mochica, Chimu, and Nazca peoples in Peru, the Chibcha and Aymara of the Andes Mountains, and the Araucanos and Mapuche nations of the country of Chile were original pre-Columbian peoples with complex societies. All of them were surpassed by the Inca civilization, however.

Map Related to the Pre-Columbian Peoples Mentioned Above

show route and directions
A markerPeru -
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B markerAndes Mountains -
Cordillera de los Andes
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C markerChile -
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Quecha Language

Quecha is the language that was spoken by the Inca in ancient days, It is still used the most widely of any of the native languages in South America today.

Quecha is as popular as Spanish and Portuguese in South America. Most of the native peoples on the continent live in small groups, similar to the independent bands or communities of Native Americans and First Nations peoples living together in North America. This fracturing of larger groups is often a result of the advent of the Europeans on both continents, driving back the indigenous peoples that were not equipped to deal with them and killing them off with foreign diseases inadvertently, or even purposefully at times.

In North America, the explorers wanted the land and all its resources, while in South America, the Europeans wanted particularly gold and the mythic fountain of youth, about which many books and films have been produced.

Native South Americans remain largely isolated or work as low wage laborers. A few groups related to the Arawaks and Caribs live in Venezuela, the Guianas, and Northern Brazil.

The Guaran' in Brazil are very few, but their language is well spoken in Paraguay. Guaran' is even the official national language of Paraguay.

Other indigenous peoples include the J'varo in the country of Ecuador and the Yanomami in Brazil and Venezuela. The Colorado people live in Western Ecuador and the Puelches and Tehuelches are very few. A tiny number of Fuegians, near Tierra del Fuego, hunt and fish for their living.

South America - Native South Americans


Detail Close-up of the Caribbean Sea

Click to enlarge (public domain).
Click to enlarge (public domain).

Museum of Gold n Bogota

Gold work dated between 1200 and 1500 BC.
Gold work dated between 1200 and 1500 BC. | Source






Native South American Groups

Native South American Groups in VENEZUELA

This include 28 different tribes. A few of them are:


  • Achuar
  • Afroecuatoriano
  • A'I
  • Awa-Kwaiker
  • Chachi
  • Cayambe
  • Cotopaxi
  • Chimborazo
  • Cañar
  • Epera
  • Huaorani
  • Otavalo
  • Salasaca
  • Saraguro
  • Sionas and Secoyas
  • Quichuas
  • Shuar
  • Tsáchila
  • Zápara


  • Arhuaco
  • Awa
  • Bari
  • Catio
  • Garifuna
  • Kogi
  • Kuna
  • Mestizos - Indian and white
  • Nasa
  • Nukak
  • Paez
  • Ticuna
  • U'wa
  • Wiwa
  • Yucuna
  • Zambos - Indian and black
  • and several others

Caribe Languages of Kalihna, Carib, Cariña, Kalinya, and Galibi are used in four countries: Venezuela, Suriname, Guyana, and French Guiana among the bands of native South Americans found in these countries.

Nukak Tribe in Colombia

Colombian Tomb 700 BC

Amerindians In Guyana

French Guiana

GUYANA - Different from French Guiana

  • Amerindian Peoples Association - 200 Charlotte Street, Bourda, Georgetown, Guyana
  • Amerindians of Guyana - Caribbean Amerindian at Centrelink on the web.
  • Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology - 61 Main Street, Georgetown, Guyana


Also at Centrelink on the Internet:

  • Amerindians of Suriname
  • Amerindians of French Guiana

Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana

A markerGuyana -
get directions

© 2008 Patty Inglish

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      alstageorge 6 years ago


    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

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      jerly 8 years ago

      what is the catio tribe i cnt not find it does anyone know where i can find it?