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Indigenous peoples in Colombia: Wikis


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The indigenous peoples in Colombia (pueblos indígenas in Spanish) comprise a large number of distinct ethnic groups who inhabited the country's present territory prior to its discovery by Europeans around 1500.



Golden statuette of a Quimbaya cacique.

The two main linguistic ethnic groups that dominated the territory now known as Colombia during the pre-Columbian period were the Carib and the Chibcha. They possessed different organizational structures and distinct languages and cultures. In upper Magdalene region, from 5th to 8th century, many tumuli with sculptures were raised in San Agustin. The region now occupied by the city of Bogotá was inhabited by the Muisca. In the modern area of Colombian Coffee-Growers Axis, the Quimbaya civilization existed until the 10th century A.C. The Muisca based their social organization on trade. They exchanged salt, emeralds, beans, maize and other crops with other Chibchan tribes such as the Chitareros, Guanes and Laches.

Indigenist Political Organization

Individual indigenous groups have a variety of governance structures. A number of indigenous groups are represented through the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC - Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia). Increasing organization and agitation have sharply broadened the indigenous land base over the past forty years. The government titled more than 200 new reserves from 1960 to 1990, with 334 total operating as autonomous municipalities by 1997 (Brysk 2000:267).


Indigenous peoples hold title to substantial portions of Colombia, primarily in the form of reserves (Spanish: resguardos). The Indigenous Affairs division of the Ministry of Interior has 567 reserves on record, covering approximately 365,004 km² which are home to 800,271 persons in 67,503 families.[1]

Major ethnic groups


Highland peoples

  • Coconuco
  • Guambiano/Misak
  • Inga (people)
  • Kankuamo
  • Kogui/Kággaba
  • Mokaná

Lowland peoples

Since 1990[2]

Quintín Lame, an indigenous guerilla group from Cauca, demobilized in 1990, joined a peaceful political process that lead to a recognition of cultural, social, and economic rights in the 1991 Colombian Constitution. The 1991 Colombian Constitution, International Labor Organization Convention 169, and Colombian national law 21 all protect the cultural and territorial rights of indigenous people.

On December 16, 1991, at least 40 indigenous men, women, and children from the Nasa tribe were massacred in the Huella community in northern Cauca by a bloc of the AUC paramilitary organization. The Fiscalia, Colombia’s version of the Chief Prosecutor, former Colombian President Ernesto Samper, and the Inter-American Court for Human Rights have all denounced state involvement with the atrocities.

3,000 Nasa were displaced from the area by the AUC in 2001.

Since 2005, CRIC and other indigenous communities have engaged in a civil resistance and land recuperation project that they call “Liberar la Madre Tierra”, or “Liberate Mother Earth”, to reclaim and recuperate the traditional lands that have slowly been taken from them ever since the time of the Spanish conquistadores.

An indigenous forum in 2006 was also repressed by state security forces using live ammunition. On November 27, 2007, four indigenous community members were seriously wounded when National Police and other men wearing civilian clothing fired on them with tear gas and pistols.

According the ONIC, more than 1200 indigenous have been murdered since 2002, and thousand have been displaced. [3]

The Permanent People’s Tribunal of Colombia issued a statement in July 2008 warning of “the imminent danger of physical and cultural extinction faced by 28 indigenous groups,” in Colombia. The tribunal charges the Colombian government, armed actors, and transnational corporations with “the deployment of strategies that have the objective of expelling indigenous peoples from areas of economic interest…[and]…to facilitate the exploitation of these areas…by transnational corporations,” charges that the tribunal says amount to genocide.

On October 2008, 12,000 indigenous Colombians marched onto the Pan-American highway in Cauca to call for more land and the respect of life rights. Colombian President Álvaro Uribe refuse to talk to them, accusing FARC of having infiltrated the protest. [4]

See also


  1. ^ "Los resguardos indígenas" (in Spanish). Fundación Hemera. Retrieved 2008-08-01.  
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  • Brysk, Alison. 2000. From tribal village to global village: Indian rights and international relations in Latin America. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  • Gros, Christian. 1991. Colombia indígena--identidad cultural y cambio social. Bogotá, D.E., Colombia.
  • World Council of Churches. 1972. W. Dostal, ed. The situation of the Indian in South America: Contributions to the study of inter-ethnic conflict in the non-Andean regions of South America. Geneva.

External links


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