Identification. The Ache are a South American native population of hunter-gatherers that has lived in eastern Paraguay since at least the first Jesuit missionary reports in the 1600s.


Identification. Afro-Bolivians typically refer to themselves as "Negros" (Blacks).



Afro-Hispanic Pacific Lowlanders of Ecuador and Colombia

Afro-South Americans



The 25,000 to 30,000 Aguaruna Indians live in dispersed settlements along the Marañón, Nieve, Potro, Mayo, Cahuapanas, Cenepa, and Santiago rivers and their tributaries, at an elevations of 200 to 1,000 meters, in Peru. Early in the twentieth century, they were found on the right bank of the Río Marañón between the Nieve and Apaga rivers (5° S, 78° W).




Identification. The name "Amuesha" is derived perhaps from aamo (capybara) and -esha' (classificatory).


Identification. In the Tupí-Guaraní language, the word "Anambé" is applied to various species of birds.


The 2,400 Angaité Indians live in the Gran Chaco area of Paraguay, especially between the Trans-Chaco Highway and the Río Paraguay, and between the Montelindo and San Carlos rivers in the department of Boquerón. Specifically, they live in the towns of Puerto Casado, San Carlos, Colonia 3, Juan de Salazar, Makthlawaiya-Anglican Mission, and the estancias (cattle ranches) of Guajó, Cerrito, San Pedro, and Tuparandá.


Identification. The term "Apalai" is of Tupían origin and means "small bow." This designation is found in sources dating from the eighteenth century and is the self-name of the modern group.


Identification. The Apiaká are an indigenous group living in the northern part of Mato Grosso, Brazil.


Identification. The name "Araucanian" is of Spanish origin.


Identification. The Araweté are an Indian group in northern Brazil.

Asians in South America


All the Asurini do Tocantins at present live on a reservation on the lower Tocantins river near the town of Tucurui in Pará State, Brazil. When they came into contact with Brazil-nut collectors in the early twentieth century, the Asurini do Tocantins lived in the region between the Tocantins and the Rio Pacajá, a tributary of the Xingu.

Awá Kwaiker

Identification The name "Kwaiker" was imposed by Spanish conquistadors and missionaries, who named the group for the river where they were discovered. They call themselves "Awá," which means "people." They may further identify themselves as "Inkal," which means "mountain" or "jungle" (i.e., "mountain people"), thus differentiating themselves from the Blacks of the coast, "Ijakta Awá," and Whites, "Wisha Awá." Since the name "Awá" has only recently been introduced, both names are used to avoid confusion.


Identification. The name "Aymara" is of unknown origin.


Identification. The Ayoreo call themselves "Ayoreóde," which is the plural form of ayoréi (person); the feminine form is ayoré.


Identification. The Bakairi are a group of Brazilian Indians who speak a Carib language.


Identification. The name "Baniwa" is a lingua geral (the old trade language of Jesuit missionaries spoken throughout the northwestern Amazon) term used since early colonial times to refer to the Arawak speakers of the Rio Içana and its tributaries in northwestern Amazon, Brazil "Curripaco" refers to one of five dialect groups (which include the Baniwa of Brazil) inhabiting the upper Içana and Guainía rivers of Brazil, Venezuela, and Colombia.

Barama River Carib

Identification. The Barama River Carib bear the name of a waterway in Guyana's North West District.


Identification. The Barí are a group of South American tropical-forest slash-and-burn cultivators inhabiting the southwesternmost lobe of the Maracaibo Basin (Colombia-Venezuela).


Approximately 5,000 to 7,000 people call themselves Baure, but only 300 or so can presently speak the Baure language. Most live in the Bolivian departments of Beni and Santa Cruz in the areas of the Machupo, Baures, and upper Mamoré rivers.


The approximately 700 (1987) Bororo speak a Gê language and live in central Mato Grosso, Brazil, in three clusters of nine villages. Bororo culture is in a state of considerable flux, with frequent population movements, abandonment of villages and establishment of new ones, and integration into the regional economy.


Identification. The name "Callahuaya" derives from an Inca province of the same name.




Canelos Quichua


The Cariña of eastern Venezuela treated here are a population of 7,000 Indians. The majority of them live on the plains and mesas of northeastern Venezuela, specifically in the central and southern parts of the state of Anzoátegui and in the northern part of the state of Bolívar, as well as in the states of Monagas and Sucre, near the mouth of the Río Orinoco.



Identification. The name "Chácobo" is of foreign origin.





The Chimila today occupy only marginal areas of what was once a vast territory, hardly explored until the eighteenth century, when government expeditions were sent to put down native uprisings. At present the lands where the Chimila live are occupied by large cattle ranches and oil wells, since in the 1950s the region was found to be rich in petroleum.


Identification. The Chipaya speak Chipaya and live on the high plains of Bolivia.



Identification. The name "Chiriguano" is of foreign origin, most commonly believed to be of Quechuan derivation.


ETHNONYMS: For the Catio: Embena, Epera, Eyabida, Katio. For the Northern Emberá: Atrato, Bedea, Cholo, Darién, Dariena, Ebera, Eberá, Emberá, Emberak, Empera, Panama Emberá.


Identification. The name "Chorote" or "Choroti" is probably of Chiriguano-Guaraní origin and is used in the Argentinian and Bolivian-Paraguayan Chaco.

Cinta Larga

Identification. "Cinta Larga" is a name coined by non-Indian local people; it refers to the long bast ribbons members of this group wear around their waists.


Most of the 15,000 to 18,000 Cocama live in Peru, in the Lagunas and Ucayali River areas as well as in the drainages of the Marañón, Pastaza, Nucuray, and Urituyacu rivers. A mere 20 Cocama live in Colombia, and 411 in Brazil The Cocama have survived centuries of colonial rule, slave raiding, and epidemics better than almost any other native group, and now have a growing population.


The 1,025 to 1,800 Colorado Indians live in the western lowlands of Ecuador, chiefly in Pichincha Province and especially in Santo Domingo de los Colorados. They speak a language belonging to the Chibchan Family.

Cotopaxi Quichua

Identification. Under the generic name "Cotopaxi Quichua" are subsumed the two parishes of Zumbagua and Guangaje, located at the heart of this large, ethnically distinct indigenous area of the Ecuadorian highlands.


Identification. The Craho are Timbira speakers who live in the north of the state of Tocantins in Brazil.


Identification. The Cubeo are an ethnic group of the Colombian Amazon.


Identification. Although meaningless to the people to whom it refers, the name "Cuiva" is often found in the literature on the area and is commonly used in Colombia and Venezuela to designate some six groups of traditionally nomadic hunters and gatherers living near the border between the two countries.


Identification. The origin of the name "Culina" is unknown; it was already in use in the 1860s when William Chandless became the first English explorer to penetrate their region.


Identification. The Cuna call themselves "Tule" (real people), but they regard the name "Cuna" as reflecting their origin from the cultural hero Ibeorkuna.



Identification. The Emberá are a South American Indian group located in Panama, Colombia, and Ecuador.


The 100 or so remaining Emerillon live in settlements in French Guiana on the Camopi, a tributary of the Oiapoque River, and on the Tampok, a tributary of the Maroni (near Brazil and Suriname respectively), and speak a language belonging to the Tupí-Guaraní Family.

Europeans in South America

Peoples of European ancestry are unevenly distributed across South America. A majority of the population in some countries, a minority in others, they wield considerable economic and political power throughout South America.


Most of the 2,000 Fulniô—90 percent of whom live in the Dantas Barreto Indian Park, immediately outside the town of Aguas Belas, in the state of Pernambuco in Brazil—still speak a language isolate (Itaê) that belongs to the Macro-Gê Phylum, although many also speak Portuguese.


The Gorotire are a branch of the Northern Kayapó and are speakers of a northern Gê language. Around 3,500 Gorotire, including a number of subgroups, live in thirteen villages, most of them on reservations, scattered over a large area in the south of the Brazilian state of Pará, from the vicinity of the Rio Fresco, an eastern tributary of the Xingu, to the upper Rio Iriri.


ETHNONYMS: Generic for the linguistic family: Goajivo, Guahibo, Guayba, Jiwi, Uajibo, Uwaiwa, Waiwa. Specific ethnic groups: 1) Jiwi, Sikuani; 2) Cuiba, Chiricoa, Jiwi; 3) Hitnu, Macaguane; 4) Cunimia, Guayabero.


The 7,000 to 10,000 Guajajára speak a language belonging to the Tupí Family and live between the Pindaré and Mearim rivers in the Brazilian state of Maranhão. In 1830 they numbered in excess of 12,000 people and lived in Pará as well as Maranhão.


Identification. The Guajiro are an Indian group living in Colombia and Venezuela.


Identification. The Guambiano, a South American Indian group in Colombia, call themselves "Wampimisamera" or "people of Guambia." The mestizos of the area frequently call them "Silveños," referring to the people in the environs of Silvia, a small town in the heart of Guambian territory.



The approximately 300 to 400 Hoti inhabit parts of the nortwestern Guiana highlands from 5°20/N to 6°25/N and 65°10′ W to 65°40′ W. Their language is an isolate, although it may be related to Piaroan or Yanomaman.



The Itonama live primarily on the Río Iténez and Iténez Lake, but also on the Baures and San Simón rivers, all of which are in the department of Beni in Bolivia. Itonama may also be found in the towns of Magdalena, San Ramón, and Huacaraje.



The Jebero Indians formerly lived between the Marañon and Huallaga rivers in Peru but left that area to live in Catholic missions. Today, the 2,300 to 3,000 Jebero live along the Río Platanayacu and on the Papayucu Lagoon (on the Río Marañon) in the district of Jeberos, in Peru.

Jews of South America

Jews in South America are a small, though distinct, ethnic and religious minority. The Jewish population in the ten South American countries where they live was as follows in the late 1980s: Argentina, 228,000; Bolivia, 6,000; Brazil, 150,000; Chile, 17,000; Colombia, 7,000; Paraguay, 900; Peru, 5,000; Suriname, 350; Uruguay, 44,000; and Venezuela, 20,000.




Identification. The Kagwahiv, known in Brazilian literature as "Parintintin," are a small, once warlike, Tupíspeaking tribe, who during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries terrorized rubber gatherers along 400 kilometers of the Rio Madeira, driven there from the Rio Tapajós in the mid-nineteenth century.



The Kalapalo, who numbered 110 in 1968 and perhaps more than 200 in the early 1990s, speak a Carib language and live in the village of Aifa (meaning "finished") in the upper Xingu Basin of Mato Grosso, Brazil. Their village is located within the Indian reservation known as Xingu National Park.


Identification. The Karajá are an Indian group of Brazil.



Identification. The Kashinawa are an indigenous people of Amazonia who share a common identity and language.


Identification. The listed ethnonyms are generalized names given the Ka'wiari by Whites.




Identification. The Kuikuru, who comprise a single village, refer to themselves and other groups of the upper Xingu as "Ukuge" ("my people") and to all other Indians as "Ngikogo" ("Wild Indian").


The 10,000 Lengua Indians live in the Gran Chaco area of Paraguay (23° S and 58° W) and constitute the largest Indian group in that region. They speak a language belonging to the Maskoyan Family.


Identification. The name "Macuna" is of foreign, probably Geral, origin.


ETHNONYMS: Cochaboth; Enimacá; Enimagá; Etaboslé; Imacas; Inimacá; Lengua (ancient); Macca; Maká (in Spanish and Guaraní); Mak'á; Makká; Namaká (in Mataco); Ñimaqá, Njimaqá, Njomaqá (in Toba and Pilagá); TawaLáj Lawós (in Chulupí [Nivaklé]); TowoLi (in Lengua). The pronoun jekheweliL of the first person plural exclusive is the most appropriate alternative to ethnic auto-designation.


Identification. The Makushi speak the Carib language, live in the northeast of the Brazilian state of Roraima and in the Socialist Republic of Guyana, on the frontier of Brazil, and are predominantly of the Christian faith.


The approximately 150 Marinawa ("Agouti people") live in the region of the upper reaches of the Río Purús (11° S, 72° W), primarily in Peru, and possibly in adjacent regions of Brazil. Their language belongs to the South-Eastern Branch of the Panoan Family and is intelligible to Sharanahua speakers; indeed, many authorities consider the Marinahua a subgroup of the Sharanahua who speak a dialect of the Sharanahua language.

Maroni Carib

The Maroni Carib are Carib speakers who live near the mouth of the Maroni River, which separates Suriname from French Guiana. They live in several villages (5° to 6° N, 54° W) on both sides of the river, and their population totals approximately 2,400.


Identification. The Marubo live in the southwest of the state of Amazonas in Brazil.


Identification. The name "Mashco" is of unknown origin, and in the Peruvian departments of Cuzco—in the tropical zone toward the northeast—and Madre de Dios, the word has been synonymous with "assassin" or "criminal." The various Mashco factions identify themselves as "Xarangbütn" (human beings), but they also call themselves by some toponym, which refers generally to a river on which they live.





The Mayoruna live in widely scattered groups along the Rio Javari, which over much of its course marks the boundary between Brazil and Peru. On the Brazilian side there are several small settlements with a total population of about 250 on the upper Javari.


Identification. The Mehinaku village is located approximately four-fifths of a kilometer east of the Rio Kulesau (one of the major tributaries of the Rio Xingu) in the Xingu National Park in central Brazil.


Mennonites are a German-speaking people distinguished by their life-style and religious beliefs, which derive from the Anabaptist movement of the 1520s and 1530s. There are about 80,000 Mennonites in Latin America, with the largest numbers in South America in Paraguay (15,000), Bolivia (8,000), and Brazil (6,000) and smaller numbers in Uruguay and Argentina.


An estimated 3,500 Mocoví live in the departments of O'Higgins, Chacabuco, Fontana, and San Lorenzo in the southern part of the province of Chaco, and in the departments of Garay, Obligado, San Javier, San Justo, and Vera in the northeastern part of the province of Santa Fe, in Argentina. Linguistically they belong to the Guiacuruan Family.


The 17,000 Mojo Indians live throughout the lowlands of south-central Beni, a department of Bolivia. Concentrations may be found in the towns of Trinidad, San Ignacio, San Lorenzo, and San Loreto.


The 100 to 150 Moré live at the juncture of Mamoré and Iténez rivers in the north-central area of the department of Beni in Bolivia. In the early part of the twentieth century, many crossed the Itenéz into Brazil (where it is called the Río Guaporé), so that in the 1940s there were more of the then 3,000 to 5,000 Moré in Brazil than in Bolivia; some, at least, joined the Chácobo and Sinabo tribes.


The Movima Indians live close to Santa Ana on the Río Yacuma, as well as on the lower Río Rapula, and on the Matos and Apere rivers in the central part of the department of Beni in Bolivia. Estimates of their population range from 1,000 to 2,000.


Identification and Location. The Mundurucu live just south of the equator in the Brazilian states of Para and Amazonas.


Identification. The name "Nambicuara" was given to this group of Brazilian Indians by neighboring Indian groups.


ETHNONYMS: Ethnonyms in the earliest sources that possibly refer to the prehistoric Nivaclé are Guentusé, Mathlelá, and Lateshelechí-Maiceros. Other ethnic groups refer to them as Ashlushlai, Suhín, Sotirgaik, and Wentusij.


The Noanamá are a constituent group of the Chocó people. They originally inhabited the lower Río San Juan Basin and the upper Cauca Valley in Colombia, but in recent years many have left to live in Darién Province in Panama; presently, 2,000 of the 3,000 to 4,000 Noanamá live in Panama.



Identification. The Páez live in southwestern highland Colombia and speak the Páez language.




Identification. "E'ñepa" is the self-designation, but "Panare" is the most common name in the literature and probably derives from the word for "friend" or "ally" in the languages of neighboring Indian groups in Venezuela.



Approximately 640 Paresi live on several reservations in the southern part of the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil, between the Parecí and Juruena rivers, tributaries of the Tapajós. The Serra dos Parecis, named for the tribe, border their territory on the west.



Identification. "Pemon" is a self-name meaning "people." "Arekuna" is used by Pemon and others to refer to neighboring groups of Pemon speakers, particularly those in the northern part of their territory.




Identification. The Piro refer to themselves as "Yine" (people) or "Wumolene" (our kinfolk).



Identification. The Pume live in southwestern Venezuela and call themselves "Pume" (people).


Quechua designates the language that the Inca, in the course of their military expansion, disseminated across wide expanses of the Andean highlands. Many of the groups they conquered learned Quechua as a second language or adopted it in lieu of their own tongues.


Identification. The name by which these Brazilian Indians refer to themselves is "Rikbaktsa," meaning "human beings." They are called "Canoeiro" by the local non-Indian population because of their custom of using canoes.


Identification. "Salasaca," the name of an ethnic group of Ecuador, is derived either from the name of the zone to which they were sent as mitimaes (settlers) from Bolivia, or from two common surnames, "Sala" (a Panzaleo name found in eastern Ecuador) and "Saca" (a Puruhayes name found in the west of the country).


The 2,000 Saliva people today live primarily in the department of Meta and in the territories of Vichada, Guianía and Vaupés in Colombia; a small population also lives in southwestern Venezuela, near the Colombian border. Many of those living in Colombia are on government reservations.


Identification. The name "Saraguro" is Quichua for "Land of Corn," reflecting both its traditional role as a food-exporting region of the Inca Empire and the present close bond between the land, the people, and their agriculturai livelihood.


Identification, The Saramaka are one of six Maroon (or "Bush Negro") groups in Suriname.


The Sharanahua ("Good people") Indians live in the area of the upper reaches of the Río Purus, primarily in Peru, but there are some in Brazil as well. In addition to Sharanahua Indians themselves (who numbered only ninety in 1973), the Sharanahua tribe includes the remaining populations of Mastanawa, Chandinahua, and perhaps some Jamináwa people.



Approximately 850 Sherente live on two reservations located on the east bank of the Rio Tocantins in the Brazilian state of Tocantins. Until around 1812 the Sherente were not clearly distinguished from the Shavante, whom they closely resemble in language and customs.




Identification. The name "Sirionó" is of foreign origin and comes from síri, tucum palm—hence designating these Indians as "Tucum-palm people." The Sirionó refer to themselves as "Miá," which may be translated as "the people." Besides using this name to identify themselves, the various bands of the society received their names from their respective chiefs or from the places they frequented most.


Identification. The Suruí of Rondônia call themselves "Paiter," meaning "people," "ourselves." "Suruí" is the name given to them by non-Indians before contact with Brazilian society in 1969.



The 5,000 Tacana Indians live primarily along the Beni, Tahuamanù, Abuná, Acre, and Madre de Dios rivers in the department of La Paz, Bolivia (12° to 15° S, 67° to 68° 35′ W). Many may be found in or near the towns of Ixiamas, Tumupasa, and San Buenaventura in that department.



The approximately 200 Tapirapé live in a single village at the mouth of the Tapirapé and Araguaia rivers in north-eastern Mato Grosso, Brazil. They speak a language that belongs to the Tupí-Guaraní Family.




Identification. The name "Ticuna" is apparently of foreign origin; perhaps it comes from the Tupí, "Taco-una," which means "men painted black" or "black skins." This name was given them by their neighbors because formerly the Ticuna often painted their bodies black with genipapo (Genipa americana) juice.




The approximately 2,700 Tunebo live in the forests of the eastern slopes and plains of the Andes in northeastern Colombia (7° N, 72° W). Their various regional groups speak dialects of a common Chibchan language (Uw'aka; lit., "people's soul") and refer to themselves as U'wa, "people." In addition to a small group of some 60 individuals on the Angostura reservation there exist three regional groups of Tunebo.


The Tupari inhabit the headwater region of the Rio Branco, a right tributary of the Rio Guaporé in the state of Rondônia, Brazil. They speak a language of Tupían affiliation and refer to themselves as "Haarat." Their population prior to the invasion of their territory by rubber collectors in 1920 is estimated to have been 2,000.



Identification. The name "Wáiwai," meaning "Tapioca people," originated with their northern neighbors, the Wapisiana, who were impressed with the enormous quantities of tapioca the Wáiwai consumed.


Identification. The Wanano constitute one of the fifteen to twenty named, linguistically distinct, exogamous groups that form an integrated, intermarrying system in the Brazilian and Colombian northwest Amazon.



Location. Many Wapisiana believe that they came from the upper Rio Negro and occupied an area extending north from the Rio Branco Basin into areas now occupied by the Makushi, who drove them south under pressure from European colonizers on the Caribbean coast.


Identification. The Warao Indians, fishermen and incipient agriculturists, inhabit the labyrinthine arms of the Orinoco Delta of northeastern Venezuela and adjacent areas.


The approximately 170 Waurá live in several small villages in the Indian reservation of Xingu Indian Park in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Historically, they lived in that same area on both sides of the Rio Batoví (12° 30′ S, 54° W).



The Witotoan groups, now composed of around 8,500 individuals, live along the middle courses of the Caquetá and the Putumayo rivers, in the Amazon region of Colombia. There are also some in adjoining areas of Peru and Brazil.


Identification. In the oldest literature, these Indians are referred to as "Diore," "Chicri," or "Purukarôt." Their self-denomination, however, is "Putkarôt." "Xikrin" was a name given them by Whites, but nowadays they rarely identify themselves as such.






Approximately 3,100 Yekuana inhabit a region of the Guiana highlands north of the upper Orinoco in Venezuela. Their territory is crossed by five major tributaries of the Orinoco—the Cunucunuma, Iguapo, Padamo, upper Ventuari, and upper Caura—and the area is mostly covered by tropical-forest growth with intermittent savannas.


Identification. The autodenomination "Yukpa" (or, depending on dialect, "Yupa" or "Yu'pa") means "tame people," which contrasts with "Yuko" (enemy or wild person), the name used by Yukpa in Venezuela for their culturally and linguistically related neighbors in Colombia.


Identification. The name "Yukuna" does not correspond to indigenous self-identity.


Identification. Until they were contacted in the late 1960s, the Yuqui were thought to be a disjunct group of Siriono, a lowland Bolivian indigenous people with whom they share many cultural traits.


The Yuracaré Indians live in the region of the Sucre, Ichilo, and Chaparé rivers in the Beni and Cochabamba departments of Bolivia. Estimates of their population vary from 1,500 to 2,500.