Via a statement issued by the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) Feb. 19, traditional indigenous authorities in southern Colombia and Ecuador made an “ultimatum” to the FARC guerillas to return the bodies of slain members of the Awá ethnicity by Monday Feb. 23 so that they can buried according to ancient custom. The statement warns that if the bodies are not returned, indigenous communities in the region will organize a “Humanitarian Minga” to enter the conflicted territory and recover the bodies themselves. The statement called on “All armed actors, legal and illegal, to immediately withdraw from Awá territory” and allow an international team into the region to clear landmines. The statement emphasized that the Humanitarian Minga will not accept accompaniment from the Colombian army.
The statement was signed by the Unidad Indígena del Pueblo Awá (UNIPA), the Federación de Centros Awá del Ecuador (FCAE), the Organización de Pueblos Indígenas de la Amazonía Colombiana (OPIAC), the Autoridades Indígenas de Colombia (AICO), the Confederación Indígena Tayrona (CIT), and the Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca (CRIC). (ONIC statement, Feb. 20 via Colombia Indymedia)
“Minga” is a traditional word among the Andean indigenous peoples meaning communal work or effort. A national “Minga of Social and Community Resistance” was called last year, when indigenous communities, mostly from Colombia’s south, marched on Bogotá to demand land and cultural rights. Traditional indigenous authorities have mobilized recently to confront the FARC in Cauca, one department to the north of Nariño, where the guerillas apparently attacked the Awá.