The Gran Chaco of northwestern Argentina, western Paraguay and southeastern Bolivia is an ecologically diverse semiarid lowland area of savannahs, wetlands, and dry and riverine forests subject to seasonal flooding. It is equally culturally diverse, comprised of peoples speaking languages from a number of families, Guaicuruan being the most extensive, and adapted to nomadic or semi-nomadic hunting, gathering, fishing and seasonal horticulture depending on locale. Groups are organized into lineage-based bands that might coalesce seasonally into villages, with prestige hierarchies and leadership mediating broad networks of group interactions, including episodic territorial conflicts that could lead to larger alliances headed by war chiefs and some dominant groups subjugating others. The introduction of the horse brought fundamental changes, including highly stratified warrior societies that exacted tribute from vassal horticulturalists. Colonial pacification and eventual relocation to Christian missions led to the late twentieth century pattern of subsistence agriculture and foraging, with wage labor on farms and ranches, yet little change to traditional forms of social organization.
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South America --Southern South America
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