Kankaumo Indigenous Peoples Sacred Places Burnt

It is powerfully striking that these events were carried out coincidentally just a couple of days after launching our campaign to reject the implementation of various megaprojects in the territory of the Sierra Nevada de (Gonawindua) Santa Marta, including the Los Besotes dam.

The Kankuamo Indigenous People’s Authorities publicly denounce a new attacks against the indigenous authorities and their cultural heritage – the Kankurwas (ceremonial centers) which represent the heart of their culture – along with other violations suffered. Below is the content of this public statement. The English was unofficially translated you can find the original Spanish version of the Public Statement if you click on the PDF button above.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta for the Indigenous Peoples represents the Heart of the Earth (Corazon del Mundo). It is where the Kankuamo, Wiwa, Arhuaco and Kogi tribes live. According to the Statement issued, irreparable and irreversible damage has been done to the life and ethnic integrity of the Kankuamo Peoples and other original peoples of the Sierra Nevada de Gonawindua (Santa Marta).

This is the third time this type of action has been carried out in Minakalwa (La Mina), in Kankuamo Indigenous Territory. At approximately 2:45 a.m on 12 December 2021, two Kankurwas in Minakalwa were totally burned and their meeting house partially incinerated.

Similarly, this attack caused collateral damage to the residence of the Governor and his family, who live just 20 meters from the place.

Analysing the circumstances in which the attack was carried out, we have no doubts that these events were deliberately and maliciously.

Furthermore, these attacks are part of a systematic and recurrent practice of cultural violence against our people, when added to previous events where the Kankurwas were burnt in the communities of Guatapurí, Atánquez, Chemesquemena, Los Laureles, Pontón … and the threats against indigenous leaders and indigenous authorities, disappearances, accusations, stigmatisation, the presence of unknown armed persons in the territory, and other cases of violations of our rights, and in general the context of risks, threats and vulnerabilities that we have been repeatedly denouncing and are included in the Early Warning Alert No. 026-21 by the Ombudsman’s Office.

Despite the repeated complaints made to date the material and intellectual authors have not been identified.

It is also important to note the historical process of victimisation that we have been suffering as a People, as victims of multiple violations of our human rights and infractions of International Humanitarian Law, which has led us to a situation of RISK OF PHYSICAL AND CULTURAL EXTERMINATION; as well as the recognition of our level of EXTRAORDINARY RISK, evidenced precisely by the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Early Warning 026-21.

It is powerfully striking that these events were carried out a couple of days after launching our campaign rejecting the implementation of various mega projects in the territory of the Sierra Nevada de (Gonawindua) Santa Marta, including the Los Besotes dam; a recent workshop on the evaluation of risks and protection measures with the National Protection Unit; a meeting with the Investigation and Accusation Unit of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace; a meeting to agree on the work plan with the Search Unit for Persons deemed Missing in the framework of the armed conflict; and the establishment of a physical structure in the Space for Territorial Regulation and Harmonization in El Encanto.

Therefore, we demand that the Colombian State, through the competent institutions, fulfill its obligation to carry out a serious, prompt and effective investigation into these attacks, as well as prosecute and punish the intellectual and material authors responsible.

In addition to expressing their complete willingness to support these investigations. The Kankaumos also requested the provision of individual and collective protection measure to comprehensively safeguard their constitutional and fundamental rights. Measures that include new protection measures and the strengthening of existing measures as a matter or urgency.

They also called for national and international solidarity and support to help address this very difficult situation.

Finally, we reiterate our firm conviction to continue fulfilling our mission bequeathed from the beginning of time for the protection of life, the care and defence of territory, the consolidation of Autonomy and the strengthening of cultural identity, and a dignified life for our people.

We are Peoples of peace, dialogue and harmony. We absolutely reject any manifestation of violence against our Peoples and our Territory.