The Top 15 Indigenous Tribes of Colombia

The Indigenous tribes of Colombia Are those ethnic groups that were present in the territory before the arrival of the Spaniards in century XVI.

Although they comprise only 3.5% of the population, they represent about 1.5 million people distributed in about 87 different tribes.

Indigenous women tribes Colombia

These communities have had a great impact throughout the territory from the Amazon jungle, through the mountains of the Andes To the Caribbean and Pacific lowlands.

Many of these cultures are currently threatened by the pressure of industrial activities and forced displacement caused by the civil war. Below are some of the most important Colombian tribal cultures that still survive.

You may also like This list of American Indian tribes .

1- Arhuacos

The Arhuacos, also known as ika or iku, are an indigenous people of chibcha speech and descendants of the culture Tairona .

They are located in the northern portion of Colombian territory, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in the departments of Magdalena and Cesar.

Its main subsistence activities are agriculture and the exchange of handicrafts. They consider the mountains where they live as the heart of the world and the well-being of the world depends on this place.

2- Guambiano

The Guambianos, also known as Misak , Are a Guambian-speaking indigenous people. They are located in the western portion of the Andes mountain range in the department of Cauca.

Its cultural and political center is located in the municipality of Silvia. Its economy is based on agriculture, mainly in the cultivation of coffee, potatoes, grains and cassava. They are characterized by their ruana dress or blue blouses with hat.

3- Muisca

The Muiscas are a Chibcha-speaking people who once formed the Muisca confederation located in the Andean highlands of the eastern cordillera in Colombia.

Its territory was conformed by the present departments of Cundinamarca, Boyacá, Santander and Tolima. Nowadays, the muisca population has almost been extinguished with some communities of descendants present in some municipalities bordering Bogota.

In its time of greater splendor it became a very powerful culture because of the abundant resources of gold and emeralds that had at its disposal. They were also considered as an agrarian society focused on the production of tubers, fruits, coca and quinoa.

4- Paez

The paez or nasa are an indigenous people living in the highlands of the department of Cauca in the western cordillera of Colombia.

The language they practice within the community is known as Nasa Yuwe. Currently it is estimated that its population consists of about 186,000 people. Its economy is based on agriculture, especially in the cultivation of maize. The minga is the structure under which they value the community effort for their people.

5- Pijao

The pijaos, also known as natagaimas or coyaimas, are an indigenous people living in the Central Cordillera region of Colombia.

Its territory once extended to the present departments of Huila, Quindío and mainly Tolima. The pijao language was officially declared extinct in the middle of the 20th century and there are no good documents on it.

Currently and because of the armed conflict in Colombia, many guards were displaced from their places of origin and are living in isolated regions of the country.

6- U'wa

The U'wa or Tunebos are an indigenous people living in the Sierra Nevada del Cocuy, mainly in the department of Boyacá.

They practice the language of the Chibcha family called u'wajca. Its political distribution is planned based on clans that are distributed by all the mountain range in the border with Venezuela. Currently, their culture is threatened by the oil exploration that wants to enter the area they inhabit.

7- Emberá

The Emberá, also known as Chocó or Katios, are an indigenous people living in the peaceful region between Colombia and Panama in the department of Chocó and the Province of Darién.

They practice the language Emberá that in fact is a composition of several languages ​​spoken by all the region. Their settlements are dispersed throughout the fluvial systems of the zone. Its activities are based on hunting, fishing and gathering. Some of the crops that support agricultural activity are bananas, maize, sugarcane, grains and cassava.

8- Macuna

The Macuna, also known as buhágana, are an indigenous people living in the Amazon region between Colombia and Brazil in the department of Vaupés and the state of Amazonas.

It is estimated that its population is around 600 individuals with the majority of them living in the Colombian portion.

They are located at the confluence of the Paraná and Apaporis rivers. The macunas subsisten on the basis of harvesting, hunting and fishing. Currently they are legally protected by a reserve created for their territory, which gives them some control over it.

9- Motilon

The motilones or baris are an indigenous people living in the Catatumbo river basin in the border region between Colombia and Venezuela in the department of Norte de Santander and the state of Zulia.

The language they practice is the barí, which belongs to the Chibcha family. Its economy is based on agriculture, harvesting, hunting and fishing. Its culture is currently under threat from the exploitation of oil and coal that contaminates the resources of the area.

10- Kogi

The Kogi or Kágaba are an indigenous people living in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in the Colombian Caribbean region. The language they practice, called kogui, is classified within the Chibcha family.

Their belief structure is well known and they regard the earth as the"Great Mother"and man as their"son."

His people represent the"older brothers"and the rest of the civilization are the"younger brothers". The Kogi practice agriculture through artigaje and by placing themselves at different altitudes in the sierra, each community satisfies different food needs. They also practice cattle raising in the higher regions.

11- Nukak

The nukak or nukak-makú are an indigenous town inhabiting the borders of the rivers Guaviare and Inírida in the department of Guaviare in Colombia.

They were considered as a contactless people of the outside world until 1981 and since then have lost the majority of their population mainly due to diseases.

Their subsistence is mainly based on hunting, which they practice by using blowguns with poisoned darts with a mixture of different plants. They also use javelins to get their food.

12- Tikuna

The Tikuna, also known as tucuna, tukuna or magüta, are an indigenous people living in the Amazon basin between the borders of Brazil, Colombia and Peru.

Their language is Ticuna, which is considered as an isolated language thanks to hundreds of years of isolation from other cultures.

Traditionally they practiced shamanism, but due to outside influence, this practice is increasingly rare. Modern tikunas only wear their traditional outfits for special occasions or in performances for tourists. Most of them also make use of Western names.

13- Wayuu

The Wayuu, also known as guajro or wahiro, are an indigenous people living on the peninsula of La Guajira between Colombia and Venezuela in the department of La Guajira and the state of Zulia.

The wayuu language they practice is part of the Maipuran language family. It is estimated that its population in the Colombian territory is about 144,000 people and in Venezuela about 293,700.

They have an irregular distribution throughout the area mainly due to seasonal changes. Each Wayuu family is associated with a specific clan. Their settlements are denominated hamlets or rancherías. Their subsistence is based mainly on the grazing of goats or goats.

14- Witoto

The witoto or huitoto are indigenous people living in the Putumayo and Caquetá river basin on the border between Colombia and Peru, in the departments of Putumayo, Caquetá and Loreto in both countries.

It is estimated that its current population is around 9000 individuals. Their language is part of the large family of languages ​​that make up the bora-witoto complex.

The witoto subsistence is based on the practice of artigas in cassava, cacao, coca, maize and tobacco crops. The hunt is carried out by means of blowguns with poisoned darts.

15- Zenu

The Zeno or Sinu are an indigenous people whose territory covered the valleys of the Sinpu and San Jorge rivers in the departments of Cordoba and Sucre in the Colombian Caribbean.

Currently there is a reserve of about 33,000 inhabitants who still have some practices in the crafts of their ancestors.

In Colombia they are well known for the fiber fabric under which the traditional Vueltiao hat Which is considered as a symbol of the culture of this country.


  1. Survival International. People from the heart of the Earth. [Online] [Quoted on: March 24, 2017.]
  2. Encyclopedia of World Cultures. [Online] 1996. [Quoted on: March 24, 2017.]
  3. Cartwright, Mark.Ancient History Encyclopedia. Muisca Civilization. [Online] July 6, 2015. [Quoted on: March 24, 2017.]
  4. Countries and their Cultures. Paez. [Online] [Quoted on: March 23, 2017.]
  5. Martínez, Helda. Inter Press Service. COLOMBIA: 'We Will Not Leave Our Land' Say Pijao and Paez Indians. [Online] August 2, 2006. [Quoted on: March 23, 2017.]
  6. Amazon Watch. The U'wa People of Colombia's Cloud Forests. [Online] [Quoted on: March 23, 2017.]
  7. Native Planet. The Embera and Waounan. [Online] 2000. [Quoted on: March 23, 2017.]
  8. Encyclopedia of World Cultures. Macuna. [Online] 1996. [Quoted on: March 23, 2017.]
  9. World Rainforest Movement. Colombia: The Motilon Bari Indigenous Peoples rise up for their rights against oil interests. [Online] May 2006. [Quoted on: March 23, 2017.]
  10. Reddy, Jini. The Guardian. What Colombia's Kogi people can teach us about the environment. [Online] October 29, 2013. [Quoted on: March 23, 2017.]
  11. Survival International. The Nukak. [Online] [Quoted on: March 23, 2017.]
  12. Indian Cultures. TICUNA INDIANS. [Online] [Quoted on: March 23, 2017.]
  13. The telegraph. Just Back: the eccentric Wayuu tribe of Colombia. [Online] April 29, 2016. [Quoted on: March 23, 2017.]
  14. Countries and their Cultures. Witoto. [Online] [Quoted on: March 23, 2017.]
  15. Bank of the Republic. Gold Museum. The Zenú Tradition. [Online] [Quoted on: March 23, 2017.]

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