By Louis C. Faron
The customs and social systems of South American peoples are closely and naturally related to the environments in which they live. These environmental relationships are mediated by the systems of technology that the people use to exploit their resources.
Four basic types of social and cultural organization of South American peoples emerge from the archaeological and historical records: (1) central Andean irrigation civilizations, (2) chiefdoms of the northern Andes and the circum-Caribbean, (3) tropical-forest farming villages, and (4) nomadic hunters and gatherers. Each type developed in its own fashion during thousands of years, and since the 16th century each has made a distinctive adjustment to the impact of European civilization.