Gran Chaco people
Area of the Gran Chaco
Total population
300,000 (est. 2010)
Regions with significant populations
Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay
See text
traditional tribal religion, Catholicism, Protestantism, atheism

The indigenous Gran Chaco people consist of approximately thirty-five tribal groups in the Gran Chaco of South America. Because, like the Great Plains of North America, the terrain lent itself to a nomadic lifestyle, there is little to no archaeological evidence of their prehistoric occupation. Contributing to this near-absence of archaeological data is the lack of suitable raw material for stone tools or permanent construction and soil conditions that are not conducive to the preservation of organic material.[1][2]


The actual cultural area of the Gran Chaco peoples differs from that of the geographic Gran Chaco. The northwestern boundary of the cultural area is the Parapetí River and the marshes of the Bañados de Izozog depression, beyond which were the lands of the cultural unrelated Chané and Chiriguano. The cultural boundaries have not been static, even during historical times. In the late 17th century the area expanded to the east across the Paraguay River, when the Mbayá invaded the lands between the Apa River and the Miranda River in Mato Grosso do Sul province in Brazil.[3]


See also: Chaco linguistic area

The tribal groups of the Gran Chaco fall into six language families:[4]

  1. Matacoan languages or Mataco-maká (Wichí languages, Chorote languages, Nivaclé languages and the Maká language)
  2. Guaicuruan languages
  3. Lule–Vilela languages
  4. Mascoian languages
  5. Zamucoan languages
  6. Tupi–Guarani languages

Many of the languages are part of a Chaco linguistic area. Common Chaco areal features include SVO word order and active-stative verb alignment.[5] (See also Mataco–Guaicuru languages.)

See also


  1. ^ Combes, Villar & Lowrey 2009, p. 71
  2. ^ Calandra, Horacio Adolfo; Salceda, Susana Alicia (2008). "Cambio y continuidad en el Gran Chaco: De las historias étnicas a la prehistoria". In Braunstein, José; Meichtry, Norma C. (eds.). Liderazgo, representatividad y control social en el Gran Chaco. Corrientes, Argentina: Universidad Nacional del Nordeste. pp. 31–38 [32–33]. ISBN 978-950-656-116-1.
  3. ^ Métraux 1946, p. 197
  4. ^ Combes, Villar & Lowrey 2009, p. 69
  5. ^ Campbell, Lyle; Grondona, Verónica (2012). "Languages of the Chaco and Southern Cone". In Grondona, Verónica; Campbell, Lyle (eds.). The Indigenous Languages of South America. The World of Linguistics. Vol. 2. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. pp. 625–668. ISBN 9783110255133.


Further reading