Natives, South American

Natives, South American,

aboriginal peoples of South America. In the land mass extending from the Isthmus of Panama to Tierra del Fuego, Native American civilizations developed long before the coming of the European. It is estimated that about 30 million Native Americans lived in South America at the time Europeans arrived. Today the Native Americans of South America remain a major determinant in the social, political, economic, and cultural life of the various nations.

Early Cultures

Archaeological studies have shed light on the early cultures of the rugged Andean region. Extensive remains have established the existence of developed cultures at Chavín de HuántarChavín de Huántar
, archaeological site in the northeastern highlands of Peru, near the headwaters of the Marañon River. It flourished between c.900 B.C. and 200 B.C.
..... Click the link for more information.
 and the ParacasParacas
, Native American culture of ancient Peru. Named after the Paracas peninsula on the south coast, where their remains were first found, the Paracas produced resin-painted pottery and textiles, but little is known of their way of life.
..... Click the link for more information.
 peninsula in Peru. The MocheMoche
or Mochica
, ancient Native American civilization on the coast of N Peru. Previously called Early Chimu (see Chimu), the Moche were warriors with a highly developed social and political organization.
..... Click the link for more information.
, the ChimuChimu
, ancient civilization on the desert coast of N Peru. It is believed to have begun c.1200. The Moche, an earlier civilization, was previously known as early Chimu or proto-Chimu. After the decline of the Moche (c.
..... Click the link for more information.
, and the NazcaNazca
or Nasca
, ancient culture of the Nazca, Pisco, and Ica river valleys on the desert coast of S Peru. Flourishing during the first millennium A.D., the Nazca culture seems to have developed out of the Paracas culture, and after 900 it was apparently under
..... Click the link for more information.
 were three other major early Peruvian cultures. In Bolivia the impressive ruins at TiahuanacoTiahuanaco
, ancient native ruin, W Bolivia, 34 mi (55 km) S of Lake Titicaca on the Tiahuanaco R. in the S central Andes, near the Peruvian border; also called Tiwanaku or Tiahuanacu.
..... Click the link for more information.
 bear witness to yet another early civilization. The ChibchaChibcha
, indigenous people of the eastern cordillera of the Andes of Colombia. Although trade with neighboring tribes was common, the Chibcha seem to have evolved their culture in comparative isolation.
..... Click the link for more information.
 of the N Andes, the AymaraAymara
, Native South Americans inhabiting the Lake Titicaca basin in Peru and Bolivia. The originators of the great culture represented by the ruins of Tiahuanaco were very likely Aymara speakers. Although subjugated by the Inca in the 15th cent.
..... Click the link for more information.
 of the central Andes, and the AraucaniansAraucanians
, South American people, occupying most of S central Chile at the time of the Spanish conquest (1540). The Araucanians were an agricultural people living in small settlements.
..... Click the link for more information.
 of Chile are considered to have produced some of the socially complex pre-Columbian cultures (see pre-Columbian art and architecturepre-Columbian art and architecture,
works of art and structures created in Central and South America before the arrival of Europeans in the Western Hemisphere. For many years the regions that are now Mexico and Guatemala and the Andean region of South America had been the cradle
..... Click the link for more information.
) of the Andes, but the most impressive civilization, both from the point of view of technical achievement and of political structure, was unquestionably the empire of the IncaInca
, pre-Columbian empire, W South America. The name Inca may specifically refer to the emperor, but is generally used to mean the empire or the people. Extent and Organization of the Empire
..... Click the link for more information.
. The modern descendants of these Native Americans form an integral part of the populations of Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia and to a lesser extent of NW Argentina and Chile. QuechuaQuechua,
 Kechua
, or Quichua
, linguistic family belonging to the Andean branch of the Andean-Equatorial stock of Native American languages (mainly in South America).
..... Click the link for more information.
, the Inca language, is the most widespread linguistic stock, but Aymara is also important (see Native American languagesNative American languages,
languages of the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere and their descendants. A number of the Native American languages that were spoken at the time of the European arrival in the New World in the late 15th cent.
..... Click the link for more information.
).

Exploitation

Since colonial days Native Americans have been used extensively as agricultural and industrial laborers, mostly without adequate remuneration or political representation; often they have been brutally exploited. These conditions of semiservitude are still prevalent in some areas, although political upheavals, especially in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru, have done much to create an awareness of the need for social and economic reform.

Surviving Groups

The few remaining Native Americans of Venezuela, the Guianas, and Brazil N of the Amazon are mostly descendants of the ArawaksArawak
, linguistic stock of indigenous people who came from South America and, at the time of the Spanish Conquest, occupied the islands of the Greater Antilles, the Bahamas, Trinidad, and other areas of Amazonia.
..... Click the link for more information.
 and the CaribsCaribs
, native people formerly inhabiting the Lesser Antilles, West Indies. They seem to have overrun the Lesser Antilles and to have driven out the Arawak about a century before the arrival of Christopher Columbus.
..... Click the link for more information.
. A considerable number of seminomadic farmers and hunters survive in the hinterlands of the Guianas and in the basins of the upper Rio Branco and Rio Negro. In most of the Amazon basin, including the tropical regions of E Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and NE Argentina, as well as in the basin of the Río de la Plata, the surviving Native Americans are mostly of Tupí-Guaraní stock (see GuaraníGuaraní
, indigenous group living in the eastern lowland area of South America, related to the Tupí of the Rio São Francisco and the Tupinambá on the Atlantic coast.
..... Click the link for more information.
). Belonging to a separate linguistic stock are the Gê-speaking Native Americans of the eastern highlands of Brazil. Although not materially advanced, the Gê are characterized by a highly complex social organization. The Brazilian Tupí-Guaraní practice a rudimentary form of subsistence agriculture and have not developed an extensive material civilization. Today the Native American population of Brazil is relatively small and scattered in isolated clusters. The Guaraní of Paraguay, on the other hand, are fairly numerous, skilled in minor arts, and play a significant role in the national life. Another tropical-forest Native American group is the JívaroJívaro
, linguistic stock of Native South Americans in Ecuador. The peoples, N of the Marañón River and E of the Andes, engage in farming, hunting, fishing, and weaving.
..... Click the link for more information.
, once practitioners of head shrinking. The Colorado of W Ecuador are almost extinct but have often been the object of public attention because of their practice of painting their bodies with bright red paint. They are actually of Chibcha stock. The Motilones, who live along the border of Colombia and Venezuela in the marshes and hills W of Lake Maracaibo, have tenaciously resisted assimilation. The other major Native American groups of South America consisted of the nomadic hunters of PatagoniaPatagonia
, region, c.300,000 sq mi (777,000 sq km), primarily in S Argentina, S of the Río Colorado and E of the Andes, but including extreme SE Chile and N Tierra del Fuego.
..... Click the link for more information.
 and the fishing people of the islands and fjords of S Chile and Argentina. The Puelches and Tehuelches, tall hunters of the Patagonian tableland, were encountered by early Spanish explorers; these people have virtually disappeared. In the rugged and wet region of the southernmost archipelagoes a dwindling number of Native Americans survive. Frequently called the Fuegians, because of their campsites at Tierra del FuegoTierra del Fuego
, [Span.,=land of fire], archipelago, 28,476 sq mi (73,753 sq km), off S South America, separated from the mainland by the Strait of Magellan. It consists of one large island (sometimes called simply Tierra del Fuego), five medium-sized islands, and numerous
..... Click the link for more information.
, the Ona, Yahgan, and Alacaluf survive by hunting and fishing. The canoe is the chief mode of transportation of the Yahgan and the Alacaluf, and their social organizations are not as advanced as those of other Native American groups.

Bibliography

See J. H. Seward, ed., Handbook of South American Indians (7 vol., 1946–59, repr. 1969).