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Cañari (also Kanari), Indians of the southern Ecuadorian Andean provinces of Canar and Azuay. In the pre-Inca period the Cañari were one of the major groups of advanced sedentary peoples in Ecuador. The Cañari were especially noted for their fine gold working. During the mid-1400s Inca conquest, the Cañari organized a powerful resistance, but they were defeated by the 1470s. The Inca forceably relocated many Cañari to other parts of the empire. Some Cañari served in the elite Inca imperial guard. Inca emperor Tupac Yupanqui (r. c. 1471–1493) married a Cañari princess who bore him a child, Huayna Capac (r. c. 1493–1527). The Inca valued the region, creating a new imperial center at Tomebamba. Inca Quechua language replaced Cañari and closely related Puruha. The Cañari sided with Huascar (r. c. 1527–1532) in the war against his half-brother Atahualpa (r. c. 1532–1533). Victorious Atahualpa cruelly punished the Cañari. The Cañari assisted the conquering Spaniard Sebastián de Belalcázar, beginning in 1534.

As of 2003, the Consejo de Desarrollo de las Nacionalidades y Pueblos de Ecuador (CONDEPE) estimates a Cañari population of 150,000 residing in 387 communities. Most Cañari speak both Kichwa (Quechua) and Castilian, and dedicate themselves to subsistence farming and small-scale animal husbandry. A recent phenomenon is international migration, mostly to the United States and Spain. CONDEPE estimates that at least one person in each family has migrated and that 60 percent of Cañari families are dependent on money sent home from abroad.

See alsoArt: Pre-Columbian Art of South America; Indigenous Peoples.


The standard reference on the Andean Indians is still Julian H. Steward, ed., Handbook of South American Indians, vol. 2, The Andean Civilizations (1946). Information can also be found in Garcilaso De La Vega, Royal Commentaries of the Incas and General History of Peru, translated by Harold V. Livermore (1966).

Burgos Guevara, Hugo. La identidad del pueblo cañari: De-construcción de una nación étnica. Quito: Abya-Yala, 2003.

                                          Ronn F. Pineo