Indigenous peoples in Peru

Indigenous peoples in Peru

The Indigenous peoples in Peru ("pueblos indígenas" in Spanish) comprise a large number of distinct ethnic groups who inhabited the country's present territory prior to its discovery by Europeans around 1500. Like Christopher Columbus, who thought he had reached the East Indies, the first Spanish explorers called them "índios" ("Indians"), a name that is still used today in Peru.

At the time of European invasion, the indigenous peoples of the Amazon were mostly semi-nomadic tribes who subsisted on hunting, fishing, gathering, and migrant agriculture. Many of the estimated 2000 nations and tribes which existed in 1500 died out as a consequence of the Spanish conquest, and many were assimilated into the general mixed-race Peruvian population. Most of the surviving tribes have changed their ways of life to some extent, e.g. by using firearms and other manufactured items, trading goods with mainstream society, using doctors and schools, etc. Only a few tribes (such as the Matsés, Matis, and Korubo) live isolated in remote areas of the Amazon Rainforest) and still retain their original culture.

AIDESEP is the premier indigenous rights organization in Peru defending the interests of indigenous peoples in Peru. The president of AIDESEP is Alberto Pizango.


The origins of these indigenous peoples are still a matter of dispute. The traditional view, which traces them to Siberian migration to America at the end of the last ice age, has been increasingly challenged by South American archaeologists.

Anthropological and genetic evidence indicates that most of the original population of the Americas descended from migrants from North Asia (Siberia) who entered America across the Bering Strait in at least three separate waves. Most of those resident in Peru in 1500 are thought to have been descended from the first wave of migrants, who are believed to have crossed the so-called Bering Land Bridge at the end of the last ice age, around 9000 BC.

A migrant wave around 9000 BC would have reached Peru around 6000 BC, probably entering the Amazon River basin from the Northwest. (The second and third migratory waves from Siberia, which are thought to have generated the Athabaskan and Eskimo peoples, apparently did not reach farther than the southern United States and Canada, respectively.)

The three main linguistic groups that dominated, during the pre-Columbian period, the territory now known as Peru were the Quechua, Jivaro and the Pano linguistic families. They possessed different organizational structures and distinct languages and cultures.

After the Spanish conquest

Even before arrival of European soldiers in Peru, [Dobyns, Henry F., "Their Number Become Thinned: Native American Population Dynamics in Eastern North America" (Native American Historic Demography Series), University of Tennessee Press, 1983] local people began dying in enormous numbers from Old World diseases spreading across the New World ahead of the invaders—diseases against which they had no natural immunity. Many more perished from the harsh treatment of the conquerors: killed in battle, forced from their lands, or dying of ill-treatment as forced labor. Many refused to be enslaved, receding into the backlands, or if captured, going so far as to commit suicide to avoid such a fate. The present-day Peruvian population reflects the use of substitute slaves from Africa, whom the Spanish brought over to work the mines. [Mariátegui, José Carlos, Siete ensayos de interpretación de la realidad peruana, Ediciones Era, 1979, p 25.]

Political organization

Individual indigenous groups have a variety of governance structures. MATSES, the Movement in the Amazon for Tribal Subsistence and Economic Sustainability (MATSES), is an indigenous peoples rights organization that is working for the cultural survival of indigenous people in Peru.


Indigenous peoples hold title to substantial portions of Peru, primarily in the form of "communal reserves" ( _es. reservas comunales). The largest indigenous communal reserve in Peru belongs to the Matsés tribe and is located on the Peruvian border with Brazil on the Yavari or Javari river.

Major ethnic groups

* Aymara
* Amahuaca
* Bora
* Cocama
* Cocamilla
* Jivaro
* Cofán/Kofan
* Matsés
* Mayoruna
* Muinane
* Ocaína
* Quechua
* Shipibo
* Ticuna
* Tukano
* Urarina
* Witoto/Huitoto
* Yagua
* Yukuna

ee also

* Indigenous peoples of the Americas
* Indigenous peoples in Brazil


External links

* [ Information on indigenous people in the Peruvian Andes]

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