Colombian National Land Agency formalizes fourth expansion of the Kogui-Malayo-Arhuaco Indigenous Reserve 

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Dibulla, June 8, 2022 / @AgenciaTierras @AmazonTeamOrg 

The ceremonial act was held at the Jaba Tañiwashkaka sacred site, with the indigenous people and representatives of the Colombian National Land Agency (ANT) and the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT). The ANT and ACT work teams joined forces within the framework of an agreement that, with the support of the Andes Amazon Fund and other funders, enabled the ratification of Resolution 194, through which the updating of the area and its boundaries was made official, and the Kogui Malayo Arhuaco Indigenous Reserve (KMA) was expanded for the fourth time in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. 

The KMA reserve is inhabited by three of the four peoples of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta: the Wiwa people (Malayo or Arzario), Kággaba (Kogui) and Ikᵾ (Arhuaco), with jurisdiction in the departments of Magdalena, Cesar and La Guajira. 3,575 indigenous families benefit from the 213 new hectares, which are allocated to cultural and environmental protection and recovery between the upper and lower areas of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, increasing the area of ​​the reserve to just over 407,839 hectares. 

The expansion included the area of ​​the Jaba Tañiwashkaka sacred site, located in the La Puntica sector of the municipality of Dibulla (La Guajira), declared in 2012 by the Ministry of Culture as a Site of National Cultural Interest due to its historical, cultural and symbolic value for Colombia. In addition, it is among the sacred sites of the Linea Negra (Black Line), the delimitation of the ancestral territory of the Sierra Nevada, established in 1973, in which the indigenous peoples of the Sierra and the national government demarcated 348 sacred sites in the departments of Magdalena, Cesar and La Guajira. 

The inclusion of this sacred site in the Kogui-Malayo-Arhuaco reserve had the objective of recovering and strengthening the cultural legacy of the Kogui people, which will be transmitted to future generations, since Jaba Tañiwashkaka is key in the work of the Kogui spiritual leaders to restore the spiritual and material connections between the upper and lower regions of the Sierra. This expansion, moreover, is a recognition of the work of this people on their path to recovery of their sacred sites and in defense of their ancestral territory, which for the Sierra’s indigenous peoples represents the heart of the world. 

In 2014, through Ruling T-849, the Colombian Constitutional Court reiterated that the concept of indigenous territory is broad and entails special protection with respect to sacred sites and areas of special cultural importance for communities. It also emphasized that indigenous peoples are essential to the protection of the Sierra Nevada, mandating the safeguarding and recognition of the material and cultural relationship that indigenous communities have with this territory. 

The National Land Agency fulfilled the commitment made by its Board of Directors on November 11, 2021 at the third session of the National Commission on Indigenous Territories (CNTI), culminating the formalization procedure of the Kogui-Malayo-Arhuaco reserve and ensuring the legal security of the indigenous territories of Colombia. 

For Carolina Gil, Director of ACT’s Northwest Amazon program, this achievement is a demonstration that management of the territory by indigenous peoples is the best conservation strategy. In this regard, she stated:

When the properties that make up this sacred site were acquired, the territory was in a situation of worrying environmental degradation. But from the declaration of Jaba Tañiwashkaka as a sacred site by the Ministry of Culture to the present, a pilot cultural restoration process has been achieved for other areas, which demonstrates the capacity of this community to recover the complex of marshes, wetlands and dry forest that comprise this area.”  

Carolina Gil, Director of ACT’s Northwest Amazon program

For ACT, formalizing the tenure of collective property is the best way to ensure the physical and cultural existence of indigenous peoples. It safeguards their cultural and traditional systems, as well as the reciprocal relationship that these peoples have with the territory. Integrating Jaba Tañiwashkaka with the KMA reserve strengthens the management capacity of the Kogui people and ensures the cultural, spiritual and material connectivity of the sea with the higher elevation areas of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. 

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