South America Indigenous Peoples
South America has an area of 17,840,000 square kilometers (6,890,000 sq mi) and a population as of 2005 of more than 371,090,000. South America ranks fourth in total area and fifth in world population. It includes twelve independent countries—Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela—as well as French Guiana, which is an overseas region of France and the Falkland Islands of the UK. Indigenous people have inhabited parts of South America for at least 12,000 years, and prior to European colonization was home to several highly sophisticated civilizations. Today, there are hundreds of indigenous groups struggling for survival in South America, from the Yanomami of Venezuela and Brazil to the Mapuche of Chile and Argentina to the Achuar of Ecuador and Peru. Combined, it is estimated that there are over 21 million indigenous people from over 400 broadly defined indigenous groups. Like their indigenous brothers and sisters, they face a number of common struggles: sovereignty, the right to self-determination, preservation of language and heritage, rights to land and natural resources, impacts from climate change and environmental damage, and recognition within local, federal, and international governments and laws.