Who are the main indigenous peoples of Peru?


The Jivaroan are a very old race of the Amazonian jungle, mostly gathered in communities on the Ecuadorian territory and a little bit in the north Amazonia of Peru. Also called Shuar, they are known for their wild sense of freedom and independence; neither the Inca nor the Spanish, nor the Jesuits could submit them or convert them. One of their tradition transmit this feeling of indomitability: they practiced, until the half 20th century, of reduction’s head, the “tsantzas”. This practice had as purpose to appropriate the force and the spirit of his enemy.


Well described in the book “The story teller” (El hablador), written by Mario Vargas Llosa, the race live in majority in high part of the river Urubamba in Amazonia. The community transmit its knowledge via stories or via oral mode. The communities are strictly out-breeding, the young men have to leave their village to find their future wife in the farthest villages. 


This population who live near to two rivers in the Peruvian Amazonia has been very mixed to other populations during the rubber boom (at the end of the 19th century). New elements, particularly their language, started to delete for the benefit of “national” elements, Spanish and post-colonial: the Christian religion, the “modern” medicine… Nevertheless, their relative geographical isolation allowed to maintain a self-sufficiency and very particular social relations (designation of the future partner, of the leaders of the community, etc…).

Witoto and Bora

Those two peoples, living not so far the one from the other along the shores of Nanay and Amazonia River, have areas of mutual influence non-negligible, especially with their languages. Under other aspects, both peoples maintain their distinctions; the Witoto are exogamous and function with patriarchal lineages and Bora people live in communal houses and have a world view apparently much more in-depth. 


The most distinctive element of this population is the fact that they continue to hunt with blowpipes; this kind of stereotype we can have about Amazonian peoples. Moreover, the men create their own clothes with vegetal fibers and the women paint their face with red clay. The wedding are, like is many Amazonian peoples, in crossover between different clans; the vegetal clan, the one of the terrestrial animals, the one of birds, etc…


This race is famous for its curare fabrication, this deadly poison that they coat their arrows to immediately kill their prey. Organized into different clans, the Ticuna paint their body this vegetal colorants, on one side to better merge into the nature during the hunting and also to avoid insect bites. Their social organization is intimately linked to the relation of the community with the surrounding nature.


The name of this Amazonian community, “mumps”, come from big wooden discs they put inside of their ear lobes. Now, there only are 200 persons in this community installed along the shores of Napo River. 


This is the largest group of the Peruvian Amazonia but it is also the one who knew more violence against his territory requisitioned, force population displacement and who saw his culture humiliated, his work into the mines and other exploitation of rubber. All this difficult story had developed a spirit of demand and non-submission which still very useful in the actual context. The other characteristic that made them famous is their world view with several stages and the function of the Shaman, who travel between those different dimensions thanks to the utilization of plants considerate as sacred like Coca, Ayahuasca and Tobacco, to cure diseases and beat the evil spirits.


The Shipibo people or Shipibo-Conibo is a race of the Peruvian Amazonian, known for his great skills for art of pottery and creation of tissues. His handicraft is characterized by geometrical thin designs that remind fractal figures. During celebration or ceremonies, they draw the same figures on bodies and faces with natural tinctures. Each community have his own Shaman who use medicinal plants and the psycho-active plant Ayahuasca to make spiritual ceremonies. 


The Q’eros people is an ethnic group or Quechua-speaking community living in the region of Cusco, province of Paucartambo, at more than 4500m of altitude. Community studied since 1950, they are also named “the last Incas”. Their social organization and their traditions are indeed very close to the one of the Incas. Most of them practice a religion combining Christianism and Andean religion but their world view is as close as possible to the Inca world view. 


When we talk about Uros people, we allude to people who lived on the famous floating islands made with Titicaca Lake reeds, at 6km from the city of Puno. Their daily was entirely turned to reed to build their island, their houses, fishing, etc… The true last Uros left the floating islands made of reeds during the 1950 and around the 2000, there only was two peoples speaking the Uro language… Now, the islands are inhabited by Aymaras who reproduce the Uros way of life for the greatest pleasure of tourists. 


More than a race, the Quechua is nowadays a language gathering several populations, living for the major part in the Andean mountains. The Quechuas peoples originally come from the region of Cusco and are the forebears of the Inca Empire. Their language is in fact Runa-Simi (Runa = human, Simi = language; the human language). It was in reality the Spanish who gave this name to the language. Regarding the origin, it designed a tribe and an ecological stage in the Andes. 


Aymara is a work that can designate both people and language. Most of people speaking Aymara are in Bolivia (more than 2 millions) and along the shores of Titicaca Lake in Peru. According to the language specialist Rodolfo Cerron-Palomino, the Aymara was the official language of an Inca rival tribe.

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