Protect One of Colombia’s Last Indigenous Groups from Mining Development

Just days after the Kankuamo tribe canceled meetings with the Colombian government regarding 400 mining and energy project consultations in their territory, there were twin arson attacks on separate Kankuamo religious temples. Coincidence? Probably not. In an interview with Telesur, Jaime Arias, a Kankuamo tribal leader and a leader of the Sierra Nevada’s Indigenous council, is speaking out against these abuses.

Who Are the Kankuamo?

According to IC Magazine, the Kankuamo are one of four indigenous groups in the Sierra Nevada region of Santa Marta, Colombia with approximately 15,000 members. The Kankuamo are unique in they’ve historically had almost no contact with outsiders. Their traditional “survival strategy” is based on isolation.

But that survival strategy has been replaced with cultural assimilation. If this trend continues, then they could “become extinct as a people,” says IC Magazine. But the Kankuamo continue to fight to preserve their identity. Their spiritual beliefs — which are rooted in a deep respect for nature — play an important role in the fight to preserve their indigenous identity. So, you can imagine why attacks on their religious temples can be so damaging.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) also recognizes the importance of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park for its rich biodiversity and archaeological significance. The Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta “is the highest coastal mountain range in the world,” and the region “contains samples of all existing biomes in Colombia,” says UNESCO. There are also 300 archaeological settlements on record that date as far back as V and IX centuries A.D., and some of these sites belong to the Kankuamo’s ancestors.

“Obstacles” Interrupting Development Projects

But government condoned mining activities are jeopardizing the flora, fauna, archaeological sites and the Kankuamo’s cultural and spiritual survival. And that’s why tribal leader, Arias, is speaking out now. As reported in Telesur, Arias is demanding that Colombian authorities open an official investigation into the fire attacks. Leaders from the region’s four indigenous groups also requesting to meet with Interior Minister, Aurelio Iragorri Valencia, to dispute the Colombian government’s current mining policies in their territory.

The timing of the fire attacks makes the Kankuamo leader suspicious. As Arias tells Telesur, “We were very surprised these acts occurred at a moment when we’re confronting the government and the companies that have many interests in the Sierra Nevada … against the cultural unity of the communities.” At least one state official had the gall to say the arson attacks were the result of internal power struggles between the indigenous groups.

Leaders like Arias are also speaking out because their basic survival is being threatened by the widespread mining projects. For instance, a recent severe drought prompted many indigenous communities to accuse mining companies (like Ruta del Sol, Yuma S.A. and Puerto Brisa) of wasting their water resources, threatening their biodiversity and violating their “sacred land,” explains Telesur.

The prevalence of attacks against the four indigenous groups in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta and the lack of punishment and justice on their behalf boil down to one disturbing reason: the government perceives these indigenous groups as “obstacles” to their development projects.

Take Action!

Sign and share this petition
urging the Colombian government to investigate these twin arson attacks on Kankuamo religious temples and to have Interior Minister Aurelio Iragorri Valencia meet with indigenous leaders to discuss the current mining policies in their territory. It would be a crime to have mining operations destroy such diverse flora and fauna, archaeological treasures and the cultural and spiritual identities of one of Colombia’s last indigenous groups.

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/473/900/210/protect-one-of-colombias-last-indigenous-groups-from-mining-development/#sign

192 comments

Jack Y
Jack Y7 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y7 months ago

thanks

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John J
John J7 months ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John J7 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Angela K.
Angela K2 years ago

petition signed & shared

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Christine J.
Christine J2 years ago

It seems to me that a thorough investigation would be a good place to start.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Valerie A.
Valerie A3 years ago

thanks

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Debbie Hartman
DEBORAH Hartman3 years ago

Informative. Signed

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Marina Polazzo
Marina P3 years ago

Petition signed

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