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COLOMBIA
Assassination challenges harmony of indigenous reservation
4/25/2013
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Armed group murders leader of the Nasa people who possessed ancestral knowledge of Good Living.

Suspected guerrilla members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) shot Benancio Taquinás dead on Apr. 18. Taquinás was a traditional healer and spiritual leader of the indigenous Nasa resguardo o reservation of Jambaló, located in the southwestern department of Cauca.

Taquinás, 49 years old and father of seven children, was Kiwe Thegna, or guardian of his territory, since 2001. He proudly carried his staff of command.

“The Jambaló territory became inharmonious because of the assassination of Benancio Taquinás, Thê’wala [leader of the Nasa or Paez people], traditional doctor and Kiwe Thegna of this indigenous reservation,” pointed out the Association of Indigenous Councils of the Northern Cauca (ACIN). “The armed agents who ended the life of Benancio Taquinás are seen as cowardly by the indigenous people, they are killing those who hold the ancestral knowledge, the Thê’wala. Traditional doctors have a direct communication with the spirits of Mother Earth. They work to maintain the equilibrium and harmony of the community.”

“The female and male elders carry that ancestral knowledge of knowing how to utilize medicinal plants. They teach how to interpret dreams, know how to listen to the singing of the birds, what the sound of the river and candlelight mean, and teach how to be in constant relationship with Mother Earth. The conscienceless people who load arms, who threaten, point, and assassinate the people are armed agents fearful of seeing the communities defending the whole of life,” adds the organization.

According to the Colombian constitution, the indigenous resguardos are a legal and sociopolitical institution of colonial origin belonging to the communities and have an inalienable and imprescriptible character and are not subject to seizures. They are made up of one or more indigenous communities that, with a community property title, possess a territory for their management, and they govern themselves with their own norms and cultural traditions. Jambaló is one of the 642 indigenous reservations that exist in the country.

In a statement, the Traditional Nejwesx Authority of Jambaló blamed the FARC, which “with these actions seek to debilitate our organizational process,” for Taquinás’s death. Since January of this year, eight Jambaló community members have been assassinated.

“The legal and illegal armed groups are causing harm to the indigenous communities amidst the peace talks [between the Colombian government and the FARC] that are happening in Havana, Cuba,” said the ACIN. “What peace are [we] talking about, why, when here they continue killing the wise elders of the communities, do they continue talking of peace? Our Thê’walas are the harmonizers of the territories for the well-being of an entire community.”
—Latinamerica Press.


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