Aliwa

Colombia

65
Languages spoken
102
Different Etnias
2 nd
Country with most biodiversity
6845
Different Species

Aliwa Cupepe

Aliwa Cupepe is an ancestral land located in the municipality of Cumaribo, Vichada.

Standing in the middle of the savannas of Altillanura and the jungles of the Amazon, this territory is home to the sacred forest of Aliwa and its incredible biodiversity.

According to Sikuani cosmovision, this forest was born out of the roots of a tree called Kaliewirnae, where are buried the gods Tsamani, Matsuludani, Iwarruaba and Kuwei.

This tree represents a source of life which preserves the fertility and bravery of the Sikuani people.

"They are the protectors of the forests.
They are spirits, spirits of the earth, spirits of the jungle."

Cacique, Comunidad Dejawa, Pueblo Sikuani

The Sikuanis

The Sikuanis are one of Colombia’s nearly 100 officially recognized indigenous peoples.

Natives of the Guaviare region – a gateway to the Amazon jungle – they continue to suffer some of the worst consequences of Colombia’s ongoing 53 years old conflict.

Traditionally a semi-nomadic society, many Sikuani clans have been violently displaced far from their ancestral lands.

Forced to abandon their territories, they now seek refuge wherever they are tolerated – usually unclaimed land with little to no access to basic services.

“Ancestrally this place was full of Indigenous people who had never seen a plane, never heard a car.

So when they saw these things for the first time they got frightened and ran away.

This is when the settlers came in to claim the lands.”

Capitán Olaya, comunidad de Tomarococo, Pueblo Sikuani

The Case of Aliwa

In 1975, the Sikuani people living in Aliwa Cupepe were forcibly displaced from their lands.

Many Indigenous leaders were kidnapped, arbitrarily detained, threatened, tortured and killed.

Meanwhile, drug traffickers and armed groups settled in the area, planting coca fields, building laboratories and landing strips.

“They arrived in front of me, the whites, the thugs. 

And took ownership of these mountains.” 

Shaman, Comunidad de Arizona, Pueblo Sikuani

In 1998, the communities of Aliwa Cupepe first sought protection from the Colombian government by putting forth their collective property rights.

In 2013, the Colombian Constitutional Court in its sentence T-009/13 ordered the constitution of the indigenous reserve within a delay of 6 months.

However, despite this judgement the government has failed to effectively constitute the reserve without any explanations for the delay. 

In doing so, the government hinders the fundamental rights of the communities living in Aliwa Cupepe to enjoy collective ownership over their land. 

Moreover, recent events illustrate the harmful consequences of the delay for the communities.

"You would be furious too
if they poisoned
your son.

Every single
one of us, even a dog,
a mosquito or a monkey,
loves his children."

Edilberto, capitán de Dejawa, Pueblo Sikuani

The case of Aliwa Cupepe is representative of a global pattern of human rights violations and environmental destruction.

Around the world Tribal communities are fighting to defend their ancestral lands and the biodiversity that lives within it.

But too often these struggles go by unnoticed, and in general indifference cultures and forests are destroyed in the name of money. 

"As you can see my hair is full
of grey.
I have come back to die here
at the foot of the tombs
of my parents."

Alejandra, Comunidad de Dejawa, Pueblo Sikuani

From Storytelling to Legal Action

“Tierra Aliwa” was designed and implemented in collaboration with the “Gobierno Mayor – Autoridades Tradicionales Indigenas”.

Our strategy combines legal and audiovisual means in order to mobilize civil society and protect the fundamental rights of the people living in Aliwa.

The team

Angello Olaya

Cameraman

Morgane Coqué

Legal advisor

Florian Alphonso

Photograph

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