CRIC – Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca
Consejo Regional Indigeno del Cauca

From poster: "Del Silencio a la Palabra" -- From Silence to the Word

CRIC has legal status, so anything said in meeting is public! Main objective of CRIC is to demand the fulfillment of the Colombian Constitution. Some laws violate the spirit of the Constitution, and we push nevertheless for the spirit of the law.

CRIC represents seven ethnic groups. CRIC has eight advisors.
1. Reproduction and Communication
2. History has laid down our path for us.
3. Organized around Four Principles: Unity, Land, Autonomy, and Culture.

As an indigenous organization we have a "platform of struggle" to recover lands that have been taken by landowners. We are cornered by the current situation:
1. war and conflict;
2. land has passed into Spanish descendants;
3. our reservations from the 15th (or 16th?) centuries are being taken;
4. Law 89 has helped, but not enough to reclaim the lands.


Beginning in the '70's and '80's, we began to reclaim our land, and have continued that process. Land is most fundamental to the indigenous people. We are also trying to educate some teachers to become bilingual to help us maintain our culture. We are also trying to maintain our health culture, which historically has kept us in balance with nature. As a result, the Colombian state has declared us revolutionaries and guerrillas.

More than 350 of our people have been killed by the state forces and the paras.

Since '91, history has changed. The rights we had been fighting for were included in the Constitution. We were able to attain political rights; prior to this we were seen as children -- except at election time. Beyond the Constitution, laws will only be fulfilled with our ongoing mobilizing.

Over the last few years, the armed conflict has worsened. Indigenous people are most affected because we are in mountain ranges where conflict rages. The armed actors try to impose their way of thinking; but we don't think like them. We have been murdered in groups and selectively tortured and displaced.

Government policies are designed to try to get rid of us.

Gilberto: Member of CRIC and a member of an indigenous group (called Nasa in the indigenous tongue). On the historical processes: We want to remain diverse and distinct. Our greatest sin in the eyes of the government is our distinctiveness. Primary goal is to reclaim our territory. The land is important for sustaining us with food, and for our spiritual life. The Earth is our Mother.


Our primary strength is the distinctive way of our thinking, and that results from our language. There are other indigenous languages and cultural strengths as well. "We think, we feel, we act differently -- because of our language." Yet we have been categorized as backwards.

There have been some clear advances, including the empowering of people to make clear who they are, who their authorities are, and strengthening their Plans for Life.

"We are a pueblo because we are a community with territorial rights, and because we are a population with laws and culture."

Today we are "under the gun" in this conflict as indigenous peoples. We want to turn our territory into a communal territory -- so that we do not own it, but belong to it. We have been able to achieve some protective laws, e.g., it cannot be sold or rented or given a lien.

We are threatened by their desire for the energy resources on our land. State wants to commercialize oil, coal, water, even the wind ! We are the last to know about these mega-projects.

We feel that there are spirits that counsel and protect us. We believe that everything is living.

Jorge -- runs the Communications Program for CRIC.

There is a process of civil resistance by indigenous people; this is seen as a resistance against the homogenizing effect of the capitalist model. We are against the idea that those who are against the capitalist model have no right to exist. There is a systematic war against the indigenous and Black people.

The process of indigenous resistance in Cauca includes their ability to institute their lifestyles, to guarantee their control of their ancestral lands, their ability to produce food, and their ability to safeguard their seeds.

We believe in democracy on a local level. There are many authorities beyond our chief, including traditional medical authorities, elders, etc. Wherever armed actors carry out actions, they must do them in accordance with local authorities.

We have implemented the Indigenous Guard Corps, which has been coopted and manipulated by the government to make it anti-guerrilla. Our idea is to counter ALL the armed actors, especially when they violate human rights. The Indigenous Guards are not an attitude of rejecting the armed actors, but of demanding that the armed actors act in a way that respects the rights and wishes of the pueblo. The organizational processes of the indigenous people are a form of resistance as well. Cabildos (councils) and other authorities are respected, and model another way of governing, which we call "associations."

Indigenous Territorial Council is looking at the models of indigenous authority throughout the region.

CRIC is non-hierarchical; we have eight advisors who use consensus. We would hope that this model would be used elsewhere and not repressed.

Q. re. their relationship to indigenous people in North America.

There are historical ties to indigenous in US. From '80-'90, those ties concerned the violation of human rights. Subsequent to '90, there have been supportive relations, but no permanent, organizational contact. Gov. Floro Tunubala did try to establish some commercial ties.

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