Although in the local imagery the name of Tarija is said to come from a certain Francisco de Tarija or Tarifa, researched information disproves that probability. The valley, of where present-day Tarija is situated, was identified as "Tarija" and shared an articulation similar to its current pronunciation, prior to Spanish expeditions and occupation. In testimonials by members of the first group of Spaniards entering the Valley, the name of Tarija was already mentioned. This group did not include anyone by the name of Francisco de Tarija. One should also note that similar sounding toponyms exist for surrounding places, such as Tariquiaand Taxara. Tarija was claimed by Argentina until 1899, when it renounced its claims in exchange for the Puna de Atacama.
The valley Tarija is situated in was first occupied by Western Hemispheric indigenous groups, such as the Churumatas and theTomatas, among others. Subsequently, the Inca Empire – administered by the Quechua civilization – conquered the land and dispersed the Churumatas and other local groups over wide territories of the Andes. Mitimaes is the Quechuan name that the Incas used for the resisting ethnic groups they uprooted and then dispersed geographically. When the Spanish first arrived to the valley of Tarija they encountered several stone roads, most likely the remnants of pre-Incaic cultures, such as that of the Churumatas. However, during that period, the presence of indigenous peoples remained sparse within the valley. Several of the pre-Incaic roads and trials have been preserved, and currently function as a walking trail for Tarijenos