Kamentsa rights violated

(Translated by Steve Cagan, CSN Volunteer Translator)




The celebration of the klestriye, or Great Day of the indigenous community of Kamentsa Biya is appreciated for how colorful it is and for the beauty of its cultural expressions. This is a culture that has been in its ancestral territory of Carlos Tamoabioy in the Municipality of Sibundoy, in Putumayo, Colombia, for thousands of years. It is a festival that is generally celebrated on the Monday before Ash Wednesday. While we are preparing for the great festival, it is painful and insulting, and we repudiate and denounce the fact that the ecclesiastical authorities of the Mocoa Sibundoy Diocese and the administrative authorities of the previous local government, led by Mr. Mauricio Guerrero, the ex-mayor of Sibundoy, should be negotiating the last plots of lands, called “Mission Land, Kamentsa Lands.” This negotiation is being carried out behind the backs of the indigenous population, ignoring the just claims that this population has made to the Mocoa Sibundoy Diocese, where there are documents that are publicly known and that are being violated with these acts.

In these plots of land, archeological remains have been found that are very important for the Kamentsa indigenous people and for the culture of this Sibundoy Valley (they are currently in the cultural center of the Municipality of Sibundoy); this is the overwhelming proof that this is a sacred area for the Kamentsa people. It is the only one that still remains to be cared for and preserved, but the goal of the negotiation is to build modern cement housing developments and a transportation terminal. This is a development that would make this sacred area—which the Mocoa Sibundoy Diocese does not want to return to the indigenous Kamentsa people—disappear totally. This is a sacred ground where the remains of our ancestors rest; where there have been archeological finds that proved that these grounds must not be sullied; where they want to bury so much history, destroying the memory of our aboriginal forefathers.

We denounce this business and every kind of violation of our rights and we ask that it be undone immediately. It is insulting that the ecclesiastical hierarchy that was put in control in 2015, before the arrival of the new bishop, should be involved in this and influence the new bishop so that in his lack of knowledge this situation should continue as if nothing had happened.

The ecclesiastical hierarchy and the past and present administrative hierarchy of the Municipality of Sibundoy, led by their mayors and municipal councils, cannot continue with their incoherent discourses of supposed respect during these significant festivals while they behave contrarily behind the backs of the Kamentsa people. They are treading on all their collective rights as a people within their ancestral territory, children of a creator who demands respect and justice for our indigenous peoples. With these recent events the opposite is happening, just like in the epoch of the Spanish, the false “evangelization.”

We call on the controlling bodies at the local, national and international levels, both in the area of administration and in the area of human rights and canonical rights, that there be a deep investigation of the previous administration, headed by the previous mayor, Mauricio Guerrero, of the administration in charge of the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the Mocoa Sibundoy Diocese in the year 2015, headed by Archbishop Ivan Antonio Marín López, the Chancellor Priest Oscar Claros, and the economist Omar Parra.

We are asking the new bishop of the Mocoa Sibundoy Diocese and the new mayor of the Municipality of Sibundoy that they immediately act with respect for the Acts in favor of the indigenous population in this area, that they undo the aforementioned agreement, and that they return these lands to the Kamentsa indigenous population as a gesture of respect, peace and reparation of the historic debt to this people who after thousands of years here are at the edge of disappearing (Decision 004 of 2009 by the Constitutional Court of Colombia), as a gesture of real respect and courage in this festival of the Klestrinye, the Great Day for the Kamentsa people.

Under these conditions we know that we will “dance with great strength” to repudiate the sale of our territories and the expropriation of what remains there of our ancestors. This situation touches on the most profound of our cultural, human and collective values.

Copies to:

Municipal Personaría (a Colombian institution, charged with representing the interests of the population and watching over the functioning of the municipal authorities)

Municipal Council

Local, regional, national organs of control

Defensoría del Pueblo (the public human rights office)

National and international human rights organizations

National and international canon law control organizations

Pope Francis, the Vatican

To be communicated, published and carried out
Signed by leaders and authorities of the Kamentsa people.


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