A first approximation to indigenous peoples of Colombia

On my first mission on the field with Alianza por la Solidaridad we could briefly visit the Eperara Siapidara indigenous community that lives in “vereda” of Naya River, nice people and wonderful countryside. Eperara Siapidara is one of the 102 indigenous peoples in Colombia.

For indigenous peoples the territory is the source of life, the mother earth that is connected with their worldview. It is also the root of its history, culture, ancestry, autonomy and freedom.

The indigenous peoples of Colombia live in such contrasting ecosystems, all of them have different traditions, culture and social organization. So, it is impossible to describe indigenous peoples in Colombia only with few lines because it is too diverse and complex.

After being in the field, I became interested in reading further about the problems that these communities are facing. Some of indigenous peoples in Colombian are on the verge of extinction. According to the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia -ONIC at least 65 of the 102 indigenous peoples of Colombia face cultural or natural “extinction”.

On the other hand, the report “Sus armas no lograrán extinguir nuestra palabra” from Observatorio por la Autonomía y los Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas de Colombia– ADPI talks about three risks that can provoke the extinction of Colombian indigenous peoples, those risks are interrelated, but not all the communities are affected by the three of them or in the same way.

Risk of extinction of indigenous peoples, according to ADPI:

>> 1 –   Armed conflict
The Colombian armed conflict develops from the sixties. The report explains that some of the indigenous communities have suffered serious effects on their daily life because of the conflict’s effects.

>> 2 –    Mining infrastructure megaprojects and agribusiness

The last decade the country has promoted the extraction of non-renewable natural resources as a means of economic growth often without respecting the right to prior consultation of indigenous peoples. Nowadays the transnational companies are interested in exploiting some of the areas inhabited by indigenous peoples because they contain natural, mineral or hydrocarbon resources.

The report also highlights the proliferation of agrofuels crops (with consequent logging) and monocultures that are displacing traditional and familiar crops that were contributing to ensure the food security of indigenous communities.

>> 3 –   Cultural Threats
Indigenous peoples in Colombia are settled along the entire geography of the country, it means that cultural threats can be very different. According to the report, the monetization of daily life is one of the shocks for some indigenous communities facing forced displacement because in rural areas the daily needs are less mediated by money.

ADPI also highlights the incorporation of polluting materials in the territories, as packaged food, garbage or fumigation. Other issues are the threats to the indigenous people’s traditions, the shock between state policies and indigenous legislation or the impact of some state programs because they generate demographic pressure.

After my first mission on the field and the reading of the report “Sus armas no lograrán extinguir nuestra palabra” I started to get a rough overview of what is the reality of indigenous peoples in Colombia, but I still have a lot to learn. I would like to continue reading and discovering in order to understand the complexity of their daily life and struggles. I have few months ahead!

Written by Laura Sancho Torné