"Colombia's Indigenous Peoples: Organizing for Peace, exploring the effects war has had on native peoples in Colombia" took place on March 21, 2007, at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), Smithsonian Institution.
Featured speakers were Lisardo Domic, General Secretary, National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, and Alcibiades Escue Miscue, Human Rights Coordinator, Association of Indigenous Townships of Northern Cauca. The following was written by the program's organizers.
There are some 90 indigenous peoples in Colombia who speak 64 different languages. Yet these indigenous peoples face a humanitarian crisis. At least 12 indigenous nations are on the brink of extinction due to the ongoing internal armed conflict, which has provoked massive internal displacement and the confinement of rural communities.
The speakers highlighted the unique rights these communities have under Colombian and international law; challenges to the practical application and defense of these rights; and indigenous organizations and their proposals for the protection of rights to autonomy, life, territory, and culture. Since its creation in 1994, Association of Indigenous Townships of Northern Cauca (ACIN) has won multiple awards for its work, including Colombia's National Peace Prize and the United Nations Equatorial Prize for best sustainable development project in the world. This year, the American Friends Service Committee nominated this outstanding organization to the Nobel Peace Prize for its commitment to non-violent methods in the midst of the 50-year-old conflict.
ACIN encompasses 14 Indigenous reserves from the northern state of Cauca. ACIN is also well known for the Indigenous Guard, which has won critical acclaim for its mediation tactics and peaceful approach to the conflict. This year the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) celebrates 25 years representing the different indigenous peoples of Colombia and organizing for the successful defense of their rights to life, territory, and culture based on the principles of unity, land, culture and autonomy.
ONIC has helped to raise the profile of Colombia's vibrant indigenous movement both at the national and international level, most recently by hosting an international verification mission to visit indigenous communities in five regions of the country, by building and liaising with a Support Network in Latin America, Europe and North America, and by carrying out advocacy and awareness-raising tours in those countries.