• 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.

Colombia: Thousands of indigenous Wayúu children dead from malnutrition

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).

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Increase in attacks against indigenous peoples across Colombia

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.

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Colombia: Call to action

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.

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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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