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Indigenous Peoples of Colombia

    November 08, 2012

    Threats and violence against Indigenous Peoples are intensifying amidst Colombia's ongoing armed conflict.

    Guerrilla groups, state security forces and paramilitaries are responsible for killings, enforced disappearances and kidnappings, sexual abuse of women and recruitment of child soldiers. Thousands of Indigenous people have been forced from their land because they live in areas of intense military conflict and that are valued for their natural resources. Indigenous leaders and communities that try to defend their land rights commonly experience threats, killings and mass displacement.

    The vast majority of these crimes have not been investigated. Lack of justice fuels further abuse.

    The situation is nothing less than a human rights emergency.

    According to the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) and Colombia's Constitutional Court, more than a third of 102 distinct Indigenous nations in Colombia face the risk of being wiped out as a result of the armed conflict, the impacts of large-scale economic projects and lack of state support.

    August 08, 2012

    When the El Cercado dam opened in November 2010, its Colombian project managers trumpeted it as an engineering triumph built entirely with national know-how.

    Moreover, the project was touted as a way to help combat the effects of recurrent droughts in La Guajira, a north-eastern region.

    But for the Wiwa Indigenous Peoples native to the area’s Sierra de Santa Marta mountains, the dam’s arrival signalled a devastating change in their way of life accompanied by a series of serious human rights abuses.

    From 2002 onwards, Wiwa communities living in and near the planned construction area suffered a consistent pattern of intimidation, destruction of homes, attacks against places of cultural significance and threats and killings of their spiritual and community leaders, carried out by the security forces operating in alliance with paramilitary forces. Guerrilla groups operating in the region were also responsible for killings and threats against members of the Wiwa population.

    By the time construction on the dam began in 2006, many members of Wiwa Indigenous communities were forcibly displaced from their homes.

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    Did you know that more than a third of Indigenous peoples in the South American country of Colombia are threatened with extermination, amidst a lethal mix of armed conflict and the rush to exploit natural resources in ares inhabited by Indigenous communities?

    That’s why the Kankuamo Indigenous woman at right agreed to be photographed with her handwritten message to Canadians: “We want to live in peace on our land.”

    Canadians have a vital role to play in creating pressure to defend the survival of the Kankuamo and other endangered Indigenous peoples, particularly given the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement and Canadian resource extraction projects in Colombia.

    Watch Slideshow

    “This is what we want to tell you!” is an online version of a powerful photo exhibit that has been displayed by Amnesty International in over 35 locations across Canada.

    << Please contact us if you would like to host this photo exhibit in your community:


    The Story Behind the Slideshow

    The slideshow and photo exhibit tell the urgent story of Indigenous peoples in Colombia who face being wiped out amidst ongoing armed conflict and the imposition of development projects on their resource-rich territories.

    Take Action

    “Your letters, petitions and post cards show the Colombian government that the international community knows what is happening to us and cares. But more than that, your action gives enormous hope to Indigenous Peoples here, and new strength to carry on amidst so many obstacles and dangers. Please tell your activists in Canada that we thank you so much for continuing to stand with us.”
    - Dora Tavera, a leader of the Pijao Indigenous People

    Get Creative

    “THIS IS WHAT WE DEMAND!” is a creative advocacy campaign that responds to the photo messages sent to us by endangered Indigenous peoples in Colombia, amidst a grave, yet hidden human rights emergency. Our goal is to make visible a groundswell of concern. With your help, we aim to create an eye-catching quilt of individual or group calls for action that is impossible to ignore.

    Catch the attention of decision makers by creating a personal message of support for the rights and survival of Indigenous peoples in Colombia, using photography or other creative means.

    Canadians from coast-to-coast are taking part and sharing their creations on social media to encourage others to join in.

    View their messages, videos, images and artwork presented here, then > Add your voice (scroll down for instructions)

    Click on a photo to view full size.


    Colombia has one of the world’s most diverse Indigenous heritages, encompassing a great variety of cultures, languages, social structures and ways of life. There are 104 nations making up 1.4 million people, around 3.4 per cent of the total population. At least 34 of these nations are at risk of being wiped out. This is the story of three of those nations.

    The Kankuamo

    The Kankuamo People live in northeastern Colombia on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

    Beginning in the 1980s, insurgent groups moved into the territory, followed by army-backed paramilitary groups. The Kankuamo were literally caught in the crossfire, viewed as military targets by both sides. The Kankuamo have endured the burning of their homes, massacres, and hundreds of assassinations.

    Militarization of the territory has coincided with reports of grave human rights abuses by army personnel, including torture, extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances and sexual violence against Indigenous women.

    Resources PHOTO EXHIBIT

    Messages from Indigenous peoples threatened with annihilation in Colombia

    Three formats:

    Eleven stunning framed prints (28" wide x 40 " long) - with accompanying title, captions and background information on mountable foamcore cards. The prints can be displayed on easels (not provided) or mounted on walls.
      Ten easy-to-hang beautiful banners (27" wide x 33" long) - includes a Title and Take Action banner. Each banner has caption information printed below each photo. Comes with stick-on plastic hooks for mounting on walls or windows.
      Powerpoint for computer projection, along with a discussion guide for classroom use.

    The photo exhibit comes with supporting materials: sample press release, speaker notes, discussion guide. It also comes with action materials: postcards and a petition.

    Contact Us

    For more information about our Campaign for the Rights and Survival of Indigenous Peoples in Colombia:
    Contact Kathy Price
    416.363.9933 ext 322

    To get information about or reserve our photo exhibit for display in your community:
    Contact Nancy Cameron
    416.363.9933 ext 328

    For more information about how to take part in “THIS IS WHAT WE DEMAND!” A creative response project
    Contact: Elena Dumitru
    416.363.9933 ext 333

    To obtain petitions and post cards:
    Contact Nancy Cameron
    416.363.9933 ext 328


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