The Colombian indigenous movement recommends voting yes to end 52 years of a civil war that has cost more than 250.000 lives and displaced around 6,5 million people out of a 49 million population.
Indigenous peoples in Colombia
The indigenous population in Colombia is estimated at 1,500,000 inhabitants, or 3.4 per cent of the total population. Along with many campesinos and Afro-Colombian, many indigenous peoples in the country continue to struggle with forced displacement and landlessness as a result of the long term armed conflict in Colombia.
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted
In 2009, Colombia supported the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The Political Constitution of 1991 recognised the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples, and ratified ILO Convention 169, an international legal instrument dealing specifically with the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples.
At the national level, indigenous peoples are represented by two main organizations: the Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia (ONIC) and Autoridades Indígenas de Colombia (AICO).
President Santos signed a decree in 2014, which created a special regime to put into operation the administration of indigenous peoples' own systems in their territories, until Congress issues the Organic Law of Territorial Management that will define the relations and coordination between the Indigenous Territorial Entities and the Municipalities and Departments.
Indigenous peoples in Colombia
According to official data, indigenous peoples’ population in Colombia is currently estimated at 1,500,000 inhabitants, or 3.4 per cent of the total population.
80 per cent of the indigenous peoples in Colombia are concentrated in the Andean area and la Guajira, to the North East of the country.
The majority, 70 per cent, of indigenous peoples live in regions like the Amazon and the Orinoco with a very low population density, several of them with serious survival problems.
Almost a third of the national territory is indigenous reserves, and most of them have environmental conflicts due to extractive activities in the zone.
65 Amerindian languages are spoken
There are 65 Amerindian languages spoken in the country. Of these five have no capacity for revitalization and another 19 are in serious danger of disappearing.
Main challenges for Colombia’s indigenous peoples
Along with many campesinos and Afro-Colombian, many indigenous peoples continue to be displaced and landless as a result of the long term armed conflict in Colombia.
Data from the Victims Unit show that 192,638 indigenous people and 794,703 Afro-Colombians were affected by the war experienced in recent years.
The guerrilla made life impossible for several indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombians, and massacres such as that of the Awá in Nariño and Afro-Colombians in Bojayá, mined collective territories, communities stripped of their territories and young people and children recruited are some examples of the FARC's violent acts carried out against ethnic peoples.
The largest indigenous population in Colombia, the Wayúu, are starving and thirsty because the sole water source in the region, the Ranchería River, has been privatised and dammed. Instead of sustaining the Wayuú, it now serves the agricultural industry and one of the world’s largest coalmines.
The situation of the Wayuú was reported worldwide thanks to the documentary, El rio que nos robaron (The stolen river), made by Colombian journalist Gonzalo Guillén. The film illustrates the harrowing living conditions that currently plague the Wayúu, and will be used as evidence when their situation is discussed in the Organization of American States (OAS).
On June 2, 2011, people in Colombia and other parts of the world will join to mark the 10th anniversary of the forced disappearance of Colombian Indigenous leader Kimy Pernia Domico, and draw attention to ongoing threats and attacks against Indigenous peoples in Colombia. The Jenzerá Collective – a Colombian organization that Kimy helped form and that is comprised of his closest collaborators – together with other organizations in Colombia are planning a week of diverse activities to honour Kimy’s memory, raise awareness and press for State accountability.
On February 23, Andrés Fernando Muelas, program coordinator for education of youth and adults in the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca – ACIN was shot dead on the road to his house by men in military clothing. It is not known which of the armed groups active in the area is responsible for the shooting. However, this is just another incident in a wave of violence against indigenous peoples sweeping accross the country.