Let’s Save the Heart of the Earth: Stand in solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia this World Indigenous Day
To commemorate World Indigenous Day, we ask you to join a week of solidarity (2-9th August 2020) with the indigenous peoples of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia.
Who are the Indigenous Peoples of the Sierra Nevada and what are they fighting for?
“Everything in the world has life. Every living thing that exists on mother earth has a function. If nature dies, there is a natural imbalance and a human imbalance. Nature must be cared for, protected and preserved”.
Alejandro, Wiwa indigenous people.
The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is a mountain range on the Caribbean coast in northern Colombia. For the Indigenous peoples who have lived there for centuries, this natural ecosystem is sacred and represents the Heart of the Earth.
As a result of mining and other large-scale extraction projects, the Heart of the Earth and its guardians – the Arhuaco, Wiwa, Kankuamo and Kogui Peoples – are at risk of being physically and culturally destroyed. Indigenous communities have been forced to abandon their homes due to these projects and the armed conflict and now live in the most challenging parts of the hills. Despite being displaced and facing threats, the indigenous communities are determined to protect their sacred ancestral land. Their ancestral territory recognised as a sacred site in the The Línea Negra decree is currently at risk from a lawsuit that has been filed against the decree, meaning indigenous communities may lose their ancestral territories permanently.
As well as the threats their land, these communities have also been struggling with droughts and forest fires in the area which have made it very difficult to grow enough crops to feed their families. The strict coronavirus quarantine has also meant that communities have been unable to go out to sell their handicrafts, coffee and other agricultural products to earn an income.The continued illegal extraction of gold and other materials during the pandemic puts indigenous communities at great risk of contracting the virus. Food and water supplies are now dangerously low, and people are facing a crisis point.
 The Línea Negra crosses three Colombian departments La Guajira, Magdalena and Cesar and borders the Caribbean Sea in northern Colombia. The Black Line consists of 348 sacred sites and is officially recognized by Decree 1500 (2018) issued by former Colombian President Santos.
Protecting Our Common Home
The Arhuaco, Wiwa, Kankuamo and Kogui believe that all the beings of this unique ecosystem are interconnected: land, sea, plants, animals, rocks, water, wind, fire, stones, minerals and that these must be protected to maintain balance and preserve our Common Home.
Through their ancestral wisdom, indigenous communities have looked after the unique and complex ecosystem of the Sierra Nevada which is recognised by UNESCO as vital for the life of our entire planet. Ecosystems like these are fundamental to balance the effects of climate change.
Their asks to the Colombian government:
- Respect the protection of the Heart of the Earth and the Línea Negra and implement the decree that recognises it.
- Stop any new applications for mining and other extractive activities that are destroying their ancestral territory, and withdraw all existing titles.
3.Put in place measures for healing and restoration of harmony in their territory.
World Indigenous Day
On 9 August we commemorate the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Article 8 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states:1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture. 2. States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for: (a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities; (b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources; (c) Any form of forced population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights; (d) Any form of forced assimilation or integration; (e) Any form of propaganda designed to promote or incite racial or ethnic discrimination directed against them.
Join our week of solidarity with the indigenous people of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Salvemos el Corazón del Mundo- Let’s save the Heart of the Earth!