indigenous peoples in
(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.
The two main linguistic ethnic groups that dominated the territory
now known as Colombia during the pre-Columbian period were the
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
inhabited by the Muisca.
In the modern
area of Colombian
, the Quimbaya civilization
the 10th century A.C. The Muisca based their social organization on
trade. They exchanged salt
and other crops with other Chibchan
tribes such as the Chitareros
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
Indigenous peoples hold title to substantial portions of Colombia,
primarily in the form of reserves
( ). 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.
Major ethnic groups
, an indigenous
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
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
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
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
According the ONIC
, more than 1200 indigenous
have been murdered since 2002, and thousand have been
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
to call for more land and the respect of life rights. Colombian
President Álvaro Uribe
talk to them, accusing FARC
infiltrated the protest.
- 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