Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Abipón were a nomadic people occupying the Gran Chaco region of Paraguay and Argentina. Traditionally subsistence was based on hunting, fishing, and gathering, with some very limited farming. After the acquisition of the horse from Spanish or other ethnic groups, they abandoned farming entirely for a life of raiding, and were much feared by their neighbors as well as the Spanish. By the 1770s or early 1800s the Abipón ceased to exist as a viable tribal group as the result of warfare, disease or by assimilation into surrounding ethnic populations.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


South America --Southern South America




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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.  

The SI04 Abipón ethnographic collection is a small collection. The primary work, and the one that provided the major source of data for this summary, is that of the Jesuit, Father Martin Dobrizhoffer, who lived among this group for eighteen years in the mid eighteenth century. Dobrizhoffer was a keen observer of Abipón behavior and customs and the information he recorded forms the basis of what little we know about this now extinct group (Dobrizhoffer, 1822, no. 1). The Dobrizhoffer document deals primarily with various aspects of ethnography, covering such topics as territory occupied, historical origins, physical appearance and characteristics, religion, tribal divisions, leadership (chiefs, captains or caciques),  food, clothing, language, marriage customs, games, diseases, shamans (jugglers), death and mortuary customs, fauna, and warfare.

The study by Metraux (Metraux, 1946, no. 2) is a brief summary of the history of the Abipón, their relations with the Spanish and other aboriginal groups, and of missionary activity among them. This document, abstracted from the Handbook of South American  Indians (Bulletin 143, Vol.1), largely duplicates information already contained in Dobrizhoffer.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

John Beierle

Abipón tribal divisions – Riikahes, Nakaikétergehes, Yaaukanigas - use "TRIBE AND NATION (619)"

Jugglers – shamans - use "SHAMANS AND PSYCHOTHERAPISTS (756)"

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

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