The Amerindians of South America

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For over 20,000 years a wealth of many cultures flourished in South America, both in the high Andean mountains and the lowland jungles and savannas. But the coming of European invaders from the 15th century onwards, with their relentless colonization, destroyed many indigenous peoples. Indigenous nations lost as many as 90% of their populations within the first 50 years of European contact.

Today the deaths and damage continue. Land, the basis of Amerindian life, is continually being taken by governments, multi-national companies and ‘development’ projects. Amerindian language and culture are under attack, sometimes from unscrupulous forms of fundamentalist Christianity.

The Amerindians of South America, Minority Rights Group’s new report No. 15, outlines the threats facing Amerindian peoples today and shows how they are resisting ruthless attempts to exterminate them. Written by Andrew Gray, of the International Working Group on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), based in Copenhagen, this completely new text draws extensively on information largely from indigenous peoples themselves. With sections on Amerindians and colonial history, Amerindian societies and organizations and detailed country profiles, it is supplemented by a map and a list of some of the many indigenous nations. It ends with a vigorous reaffirmation of continuing Amerindian identity in the face of ethnocidal pressures.

A radical reappraisal of Amerindian history, The Amerindians of South America reflects the spirit of resistance to colonization and their quest for self-determination. It is essential reading, not only for anthropologists, development agencies, governments and the media but also for all those who are concerned for indigenous peoples and their continuing survival.

Please note that the terminology in the fields of minority rights and indigenous peoples’ rights has changed over time. MRG strives to reflect these changes as well as respect the right to self-identification on the part of minorities and indigenous peoples. At the same time, after over 50 years’ work, we know that our archive is of considerable interest to activists and researchers. Therefore, we make available as much of our back catalogue as possible, while being aware that the language used may not reflect current thinking on these issues.

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