ColombiaOne.comCultureIndigenous Guard of Colombia, Defenders of Ancestral Lands

Indigenous Guard of Colombia, Defenders of Ancestral Lands


Indigenous Guard, known locally as ‘Guardia Indigena’. Credit: Colombia Presidency

The Nasa Indigenous community’s ancestral lands and cultural legacy are actively protected by the Indigenous Guard, a unique citizen defense group in Colombia, notably in the Cauca area.

The Indigenous Guard’s nonviolent approach to conflict

The Indigenous Guard, known locally as ‘Guardia Indigena’, are recognized by their distinctive blue cotton vests marked with ‘Kiwe Thegnas’ (land defenders) in the Nasayuwe language. Their primary symbol of authority is a wooden staff adorned with red and green ribbons, symbolizing blood and earth. This nonviolent force employs strategies of dialogue and negotiation, a method they refer to as ‘Active Neutrality’, to engage with various armed groups. Their approach has been effective in preventing these groups from taking control of their territories and was recognized with Colombia’s National Peace Prize in 2004.

Adapting to post-peace accord challenges

Following Colombia’s 2016 peace accord, the Indigenous Guard has faced increased violence. The reconfiguration of armed groups in the region has led to heightened targeting of the Guard. These dissident factions, now more fragmented and driven by profit, view the Guard as a significant obstacle to their territorial control.

The Indigenous Guard’s involvement in Colombia’s national strike has brought them into the spotlight, highlighting their long-standing struggle for rights and recognition. This national movement represents a continuation of the indigenous people’s centuries-long fight for autonomy and respect for ancestral lands.

The Guard’s expanding influence and future prospects

The success of the Indigenous Guard’s peaceful methodology has led to its adoption in other regions of Colombia. Now numbering 60,000 active members nationwide, with 13,000 in Cauca, the Guard’s influence extends beyond the Nasa community. They have trained Afro-Colombian and peasant communities to develop their versions of the guard, demonstrating the adaptability and appeal of their approach.

As Colombia continues to navigate its complex social and political challenges, the role of the Indigenous Guard remains crucial. Their commitment to protecting their land, culture, and people, coupled with their unique approach to conflict resolution, positions them as key players in the ongoing efforts to achieve lasting peace and justice in Colombia. Their story is not just one of resistance but also of the enduring power of cultural heritage and community solidarity in the face of adversity.

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