Colombian Indians preserve cultural roots

Several Indian communities in the southern Colombian province of Guaviare are working with international assistance to document and preserve traditions threatened by half a century of armed conflict and forced displacement.

Nearly 6,000 people live in 33 communities representing 14 ethnic groups in Guaviare, a lush green region.

The Nukak, Jiw and Tukano are three communities that have mobilized to preserve their cultural roots.

Each group has its own priorities. For the Nukak, it is important to preserve the hunting and fishing skills passed down from generation to generation that they have continued to use on the flat land they have inhabited since armed groups expelled them from their ancestral territory more than 15 years ago.

The Nukak are nomads and the ability to obtain food wherever they go, something that a fixed camp could make them forget, is crucial.

Adults fight the loss of communal memory by teaching the community's younger members to use blowguns and how to make artistic bracelets, a passing down of knowledge that has been supported since September 2014 by Hilfswerk Austria, a non-governmental organization, with funds from the European Union.

The project, which runs until September, has a budget of 1.7 million euros ($1.9 million).

With these resources, the Nukak now have a crafts school and the Austrian organization has become a valuable facilitator communicating with peasants in the region and helping improve mutual understanding.

"We help them so that they don't lose their traditions. Displacement made them lose everyday things," Jose Luis Bociga Sandoval, technical coordinator of Hilfswerk Austria, told EFE.


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