We examined mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplogroup and haplotype diversity in 188 individuals from three Chibchan (Kogi, Arsario, and Ijka) populations and one Arawak (Wayuú) group from northeast Colombia to determine the biological relationship between lower Central American and northern South American Chibchan speakers. mtDNA haplogroups were obtained for all individuals and mtDNA HVS-I sequence data were obtained for 110 samples. Resulting sequence data were compared to 16 other Caribbean, South, and Central American populations using diversity measures, neutrality test statistics, sudden and spatial mismatch models, intermatch distributions, phylogenetic networks, and a multidimensional scaling plot. Our results demonstrate the existence of a shared maternal genetic structure between Central American Chibchan, Mayan populations and northern South American Chibchan-speakers. Additionally, these results suggest an expansion of Chibchan-speakers into South America associated with a shift in subsistence strategies because of changing ecological conditions that occurred in the region between 10,000–14,000 years before present. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.