U’wa – guardians of their sacred ancestral homeland

“If to defend life we have to give our own, we will do it.”
In late November of 2016, on the eve of the signing of the peace agreement in Colombia aimed at ending the five-decade civil war, I had the honor of visiting the U’wa people, a deeply spiritual indigenous nation in Northeastern Colombia near the border with Venezuela.It was the first time in the nearly 20 years since Amazon Watch began working with the U’wa that we were able to travel to their territory. The ongoing armed conflict in the region had made it impossible to travel there safely, until now.

The U’wa consider themselves the guardians of their sacred ancestral homeland. In accordance with their natural laws, for centuries they have successfully defended their territory high in the Andean cloud forests. The U’wa have resisted conquistadors, missionaries, colonists, and, more recently, the oil industry, guerrillas, the military and paramilitary groups active in the region. A testament to the strength of their traditional leaders, the U’wa have survived these aggressions with their language, culture and a large area of their ancestral territories still intact.