• Indigenous peoples in Colombia

    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.
  • Peoples

    3.4 per cent of Colombia’s total population are indigenous peoples
  • Rights

    2009: Colombia adopts the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Challenges

    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.

Colombia

Indigenous Peoples in Colombia

According to the 2018 Census, the Colombian Indigenous population numbers some 1,905,617 individuals who, in turn, belong to 115 different native peoples. Approximately 58.3% of this population lives in 717 collectively-owned resguardos (reserves). The same census counted 4,671,160 people (9.34% of the national total) who self-identify as black, Afro-Colombian, Raizal or Palenquero. Around 7.3% of this population lives in 178 collectively-owned territories, organised around Community Councils.

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.

The Government of Colombia adopted the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007. The Political Constitution of 1991 recognised the fundamental rights of Indigenous Peoples and ratified ILO Convention 169.

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 that 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.

There are 65 Amerindian languages spoken in the country. Of this 65, 5 have no capacity for revitalization and another 19 are in serious danger of disappearing.

Main challenges for Colombia’s Indigenous Peoples

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.

Almost a third of the national territory is categorised as indigenous reserves, and most of them have to face serious environmental conflicts and land grabbing due to extractive activities in the zone.

As a result of a resurgence in the internal armed conflict following the 2018 electoral success of President Iván Duque, who is opposed to the Peace Agreement, violence and the armed re- taking of many of the regions inhabited by these peoples intensi- fied during 2020. In this context, as stated by the Ombudsman’s Office, there is a conspicuous delay in implementing the Ethnic Chapter of the Peace Agreement and a clearly deteriorating humanitarian situation which, in 2020 alone, left 112 Indigenous people dead in different regions, not to mention the members of Afro-descendant communities, whose deaths are not fully differentiated in the records.

The end of the illusion for Indigenous Peoples in Colombia

Demonstration of Indigenous Peoples in Colombia. PhotoArchivo Semana

The Peace Agreement signed in 2016 between the Government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) raised hopes among the Indigenous Peoples, Afro-descendant populations and peasant communities that they might henceforward be able to live in peace on their territories. However, Iván Duque’s new government has not fulfilled its side of the agreement and, far from incorporating areas abandoned by the guerrilla into the institutional life of the country, the end result is that these areas have been left to their own devices. Paramilitary groups are now free to compete for control of the territory and to murder social leaders as a way of subjugating rural populations. In addition to anti-personnel mines and forced confinements, massacres became an added mechanism for exerting this pressure in 2020.

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Indigenous World 2019: Colombia

The indigenous population of Colombia, according to official data, is 1,500,000 persons, which represents 3.43% of the national population. 78.6% of the country´s indigenous population is concentrated in rural zones and 21.4% in urban zones. Out of the total indigenous population registered in Colombia in the year 2005, 796,916 inhabited reserves (57.2 % of the indigenous population). Growth in the indigenous population in recent years is notable, since in the year 1993 the indigenous population represented a mere 1.6% of the national total.

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Indigenous World 2020: Colombia

According to the national census conducted in 2018,1 the Indigenous population in Colombia has grown by 36.8% and now accounts for 4.4% of the country’s total population, or 1,905,617 Indigenous individuals across all peoples.

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About IWGIA

IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting, protecting and defending indigenous peoples’ rights. Read more.

Indigenous World

IWGIA's global report, the Indigenous World, provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide. Read The Indigenous World.

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