The 38 Original Peoples Of Argentina

The members of the original peoples of Argentina constitute, according to the 2010 census, 2.38% of the total population of this country, little or nothing compared to countries such as Bolivia (71%), Peru (47%) or Ecuador (43%), but more than Brazil (0.4%), where they have a greater political and cultural representation.

We call native peoples those who were in America before the arrival of the Spaniards and voluntary or forced migrations from Europe and Africa began to arrive. Currently 38 indigenous peoples survive in Argentina, with about a million inhabitants.

However, in the country itself the image of Argentina persists as a nation of peoples from Europe (“Argentines descend from ships”), of a nation “without Indians”, although in the last two decades it has begun to be revised critically the official history, and the role played by indigenous peoples in the constitution of the Argentine republic.

Meanwhile, these 38 indigenous peoples, of whom we will offer a brief review, continue to struggle to make themselves visible, against poverty, indigence, for access to basic services, education and housing, and against the expansion of the agricultural frontier to account of its traditional spaces, especially because of soy.

Northeast Region 1

This region includes the provinces of Chaco, Formosa, Misiones and Santa Fe, and in it are the Abipones, Charruas, Lule-Vilela, Mbyá Guaraníes, Mocoví, Pilagá, Tapietes, Tobas and Wichís peoples.


Painted Abipones

The Abipones were a people belonging to the Mataco-Guaycurú linguistic group, related to the Mocoví and the Tobas. Although we speak of current descendants in the province of Santa Fe, they are considered extinct since the mid-nineteenth century.


Drawing of Delaunois, by Vaimaca Pirú, charrúa cacique, around 1822

It was an indigenous people that initially occupied the space where Uruguay is today, but later expanded to part of southern Brazil and northern Argentina. In the latter country there are descendants of the Charruas in the provinces of Santa Fe and Entre Ríos.

In the 2010 census, 14,000 people recognized themselves as Charruas throughout the Argentine territory.


They were nomads, hunters and gatherers, who inhabited the Chaco region. They were linked to the Huarpe culture. The language was related to that of the tonocoté.

Mbyá guaraníes

They are part of the western Guarani, present in the province of Misiones, and also in Paraguay, southern Brazil and Uruguay. They are believed to be around 5,000 years old in the region.

In Argentina, its population is estimated at 8,000 members, who usually live in communities of about five families with a leader or pai , which in Argentina is also called mburuvichá (cacique).

Mocoví or moqoít

It is located mainly in the provinces of Chaco and Santa Fe, and currently has about 15,000 members. Until the beginning of the 20th century, they tried to rebel and fight for their autonomy, being massacred by order of the authorities.


Pilagá girl

They are found in the provinces of Formosa, Chaco and Santa Fe, with a population of approximately 5,000 people. They are culturally related to the Toba, and belong to the Mataco-Guaicurú linguistic family. They appear mentioned in chronicles from century XVII.

Tobas or qum

They occupied the Gran Chaco region, although currently members of this town can be found even in the province of Buenos Aires. There are about 130,000, they belong to the Mataco-Guaicurú linguistic family and were originally nomads, and lived by hunting, fishing and gathering.


Wichís population. Source: Mennonite Church USA Archives

They inhabit the Gran Chaco, mainly in Argentina, although there are also settlements in Bolivia. In Argentina there are 50,000 members, and they belong to the Mataco-Guaicurú linguistic family.

Northwest Region 2

It covers the provinces of Catamarca, Jujuy, La Rioja, Salta, San Juan, Santiago del Estero and Tucumán. In addition to other peoples already described, there are the Ava-Guaraníes, Chané, Chichas, Chorote, Chulupí, Comechingones, Diaguita-Calchaquí, Guaicuru, Iogys, Kolla, Kolla Atacameño, Lule, Oloya, Oomaguacas, Quechuas, Sanavirones, Tapietes, Tastil. , tilian, tonocotés and vilelas.


It is a branch of the Tupí-Guaraní family, present in Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina, which was mixed with the Arawak culture. They are also called zimbas and izoceños. In Argentina there are approximately 18,000 inhabitants.


Also known as Izoceños, they are the least “Guaranized” branch of the Ava-Guaraní, an ethnic group of Arawak origin that migrated from the Guianas 2,500 years ago. They are present in Bolivia and Argentina, and there are about 4,000 inhabitants.


The Chichas are an indigenous people that occupied the southwest of Bolivia and the north of Argentina, whose original language was Kunzu, but who suffered a strong influence from Quechua due to the Inca occupation. The current descendants are in the province of Jujuy.


They also call themselves yofuasha and lumnanas, and are found in Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia (where they are almost extinct). They belong to the Mataco-Guaicurú linguistic family and currently around 3,000 people are recognized as Chorotes.


They call themselves chivaclé and there are currently about 18,000 inhabitants distributed between Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina. They belong to the Mataco-Guaicurú linguistic family. In Argentina they live mainly near the Pilcomayo River.


This name refers to two ethnic groups, the Hênîa and the Kâmîare, who, when the Spanish arrived, occupied the Sierras Pampeanas. Currently 17,000 people are recognized as comechingones, half of which are in the province of Córdoba.


In Argentina there are about 32,000 people who recognize themselves as members of this people, invaded and transcultured by the Incas before the arrival of the Spanish. They are considered outstanding potters.


Various towns in the Gran Chaco belong to the Guaicurú culture (a derogatory name given by the Guarani, which could be translated as “barbarians”), a group belonging to the same linguistic family and with other traits in common.

In Argentina there is currently a group that identifies itself with this name in the province of Santiago del Estero.


Also called yojwis or yowis, they are a group belonging to the Wichi ethnolinguistic family, which settled in the province of Salta. They are farmers, ranchers and artisans. They are currently fighting for their cultural and territorial rights.


It is a group of Quechua and Aymara origin, present in the provinces of Jujuy, Tucumán and Salta, with a population close to 70,000 inhabitants. Due to the Inca influence they speak mainly Quechua, and it was one of the groups that made the greatest resistance to the advance of the Argentine state.

Kolla atacameño

It is a Kolla subgroup settled in the province of Catamarca. Although originally they were a nomadic people, today they develop agricultural work in a region rich in archaeological sites.


It is a town linked to the Huarpe and the Tonocotés that originally were in the province of Salta, and whose descendants, about 850, currently live in the provinces of Tucumán and Santiago del Estero.


They are an ancient indigenous people linked to the Atacameños and the Huarpe, whose descendants inhabit the province of Jujuy. There are references to this town from the 16th century, and chronicles that associate it with the omaguacas.

Currently it is difficult to determine their number, since their descendants in several population censuses were identified as kollas. However, since the mid-nineties of the last century, several communities began to identify themselves as part of the Ocloya people.


They are a group of indigenous peoples that mixed and that currently inhabit the Tilcara and Humauaca area, in the province of Jujuy. Although the language and other elements of their culture did not survive, today almost 7,000 people are recognized as omaguacas or humahuacas.


With an antiquity of more than 15,000 years and a population of close to 8 million inhabitants throughout almost the entire Andes mountain range, the Quechua people count in the provinces of Jujuy, Salta and Tucumán, with just over 200,000 members .


Also called salavinones, it was a people that inhabited the central Argentine region, possibly from the group of ancient pampas, with cultural and genetic elements of the Andean and Amazonian peoples. Currently there are about 563 descendants in the provinces of Córdoba and Santiago del Estero.


It is a Guarani-speaking people that inhabit the Gran Chaco (in Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia), with only about 500 members in the province of Salta. Guaraníes, ñanaiga and ava are also called themselves.


It is a town related to the Kolla culture, with about ten rural communities in the province of Salta.


The Tilianes were a group related to the omaguacas and the Kollas, located in the province of Jujuy, where there are still four communities and some 350 people who are recognized as part of this ethnic group.

Tonocotés or tonokotés

There are about 5,000 people in the provinces of Tucumán and Santiago del Estero, where they are also called zuritas. They are grouped in villages, whose highest authority is the kamachej . Their original language was displaced by the Quichua from Santiago, which they currently speak.


They are an original group whose current descendants live in the provinces of Chaco and Santiago del Estero. Their original language was Waqha, but currently they speak Quichua from Santiago. They were originally nomads, hunters and gatherers. Currently there are about 519 descendants.

South Region or Patagonia

The southern region includes the provinces of Neuquén, Río Negro Chubut, Santa Cruz and Tierra de Fuego. The following indigenous peoples are found in it: Mapuches, Onas, Tehuelche, Mapuches-Tehuelches and Yámanas.

Mapuches or Araucanians

Mapuche family at the end of the 19th century

Original town that arrived from Chile to Argentine Patagonia about 250 years ago, and where it currently has about 100,000 inhabitants, the majority in the provinces of Chubut, Neuquén and Río Negro, although there are in other southern regions and the rest of Argentina.

Upon arriving in Patagonia, they merged with other local indigenous peoples, and since then they have offered great resistance to colonization. Currently they continue to fight for their cultural and territorial rights.


Also called selK’nam, they were a nomadic people that inhabited Tierra del Fuego until the beginning of the 20th century. They were linked to the Tehuelches, and although their culture is practically disappeared, some descendants remain mixed with other southern settlers.

Tehuelches or patagones

Indigenous tehuelche

They are the indigenous people that occupied Patagonia and a large part of the Pampean region. There are currently about 13,500 in Patagonia, and 28,000 in all of Argentina.

The language of the Tehuelches, Tshon or Chon, is currently considered in danger of extinction.

Mapuche Tehuelches

They are Tehuelche peoples that were “Araucanized”, adopting the Mapuche language and customs, especially in the provinces of Neuquén and Chubut.


Also known as yaganes, they were nomads who lived in the province of Tierra del Fuego, and whose current descendants live in Ushuaia and Chile. They were hunters of marine mammals and it is believed that they could have an antiquity in the area of ​​at least 4,000 years.

Central region

The Central Region is made up of the provinces of Buenos Aires, La Pampa and Mendoza; The Atacama, Huarpe, Querandí, Ranqueles and Tupí Guaraní are found there.


It is a native people of the Atacama desert (Chile), which spread through Bolivia and Argentina. In Argentina there are estimated 13,000 representatives of this ethnic group, mostly settled in the center of the country, although with a presence in several northern provinces.

There are archaeological sites of this agricultural, pastoral and pottery culture, dating back to 500 BC; however their language, Kunza, became extinct during the 19th century.


Also called warpe, they are an indigenous people whose current descendants live mainly in the province of Mendoza, although they also have a presence in San Luis and San Juan. It currently has about 11,000 members.

They spoke two languages ​​that are now extinct: Allentiac and Millcayac. The current huarpes only speak Spanish.


They were the inhabitants of the territories that the city of Buenos Aires currently occupies. Some historians consider that this group became extinct in the middle of the seventeenth century, however there are currently about 3,600 people who call themselves Querandí.


Also called rankulches, they were part of the so-called ancient pampas, nomadic hunters who, associated with other peoples, participated in the nineteenth-century malones, resisting the advance of the Spanish and Argentines, until they were defeated.

The current descendants, about 15,000, are found mainly in the provinces of La Pampa and Buenos Aires.

Tupí guaraní

A Guaraní shaman today. Source: Roosewelt Pinheiro / ABr, CC BY 3.0 BR <>, via Wikimedia Commons

They are a group of peoples and a linguistic family present in Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina. It is estimated that there are a number of members of this group scattered throughout Argentina, close to 16,000, of which 8,500 live in the city of Buenos Aires.


  1. Trinchero, H. (2010). The original peoples in Argentina. Representations for a problematic characterization. Taken from
  2. Zárate, S. and Llinares, A. (2018). What are the original peoples of Argentina and where do they live? Taken from
  3. The original peoples in Argentina today (2020). Taken from
  4. Native peoples of America (2020). Taken from original
  5. Mapuche and Araucanian culture (2020). Taken from

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