Our History

The Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca-CRIC, has been a catalyst of the vindicating and resistance processes performed by Colombian indigenous peoples throughout the national geography since its creation in 1971. These efforts have been made in order to demand the Colombian State to establish protection measures for Indigenous ancestral territories, cultural entities and fundamental rights.

Indigenous authorities and delegates from other communities of Colombia attended eagerly and more representatively to the Regional Congresses and collective work meetings of the CRIC with the purpose of making their problems visible and also socializing them. Apart from that, those gatherings were held with the objective of sharing the organizational experience and establishing dynamics of unity for the recognition of Indigenous rights. The integration in some CRIC congresses during the 1970s allowed important committees to be formed with the purpose of addressing the issues of indigenous peoples in Colombia. Thus, leaders of the Arhuaco, Kogui, Sikuani, Emberá, Cañamomo, Pijao, Pasto and Amazonian peoples, among others, were met, who, together with the Nasa, Coconuco and Giuambiano communities, supported the creation of an organizational entity that will represent and unleash actions nationwide to promote the interests of the indigenous peoples of the Country.

“Indigenous Unit”, the newspaper which belongs to the CRIC, became the voice and fundamental means for the display of the needs, threats and violation of the rights of Indigenous peoples. It helped our communities display the abuse that Indigenous peoples lived on a daily basis in Colombia and denounce it to the interest of the national and international community. Its director Trino Morales, is a Guambiano Indigenous, who, since 1963 had been leading territorial recovery mechanisms for his people. He was commissioned by the CRIC, to work on the national organizational issue.

The indigenous peoples of the country were visited for two years by Trino Morales and other indigenous leaders coming from Tolima, Cauca, Sierra Nevada, Antioquia, Caldas, Nariño and the Eastern Plains (Llanos Orientales), among other representatives, in work commissions that are still pleasantly remembered. As a consequence of this great effort the First National Indigenous Congress of Colombia was created, and it was held in the community of Lomas de Llarco, Municipality of Coyaima, south of the Department of Tolima. The event took place on October 12, 1980. This meaningful happening constitutes the first step taken in agreement with other Indigenous peoples, authorities and organizations to provide the national indigenous movement with a political and organizational structure of the same order.

In a general assembly held in Lomas de Llarco, one thousand five hundred delegates representing the indigenous peoples of the country, agreed upon the creation of the National Indigenous Coordination of Colombia. This committee was commissioned with the organization and convening of the First National Indigenous Congress (CNI); as well as the constitution of the ONIC.

In order to protect their special, collective and cultural rights, from the unit of organizational and programmatic action, ONIC, as a national political project, constitutes the first and only agreed and independent commitment of the indigenous peoples of Colombia. In the same way, The First National Indigenous Congress that institutionalized the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, took place in the Town of Bosa, in February 1982, and was composed by representatives of 90% of the Colombian indigenous peoples. It was attended by 12 international indigenous representative groups. For the first time in national history, two thousand five hundred delegates from the different indigenous peoples of the country met to talk about their past, present and future. They also provided the Colombian State with proposed strategies for the protection of the integrity of their ethnic identities.

The principles of Unity, Land, Culture and Autonomy that shape the lines of action of the entity were transferred to ONIC by The First National Indigenous Congress (CNI). In the same way, it issued its laws on aspects such as Indigenous Legislation and the accomplishment of Law of State No. 89 of 1890, empowering all the Indigenous people of the country to strengthen their autonomy and accompany the traditional authorities for the operation of their government.

When ONIC was constituted, Colombia was going through one of the most difficult situations in its national history. The country was nuanced by the ascension of characters linked to underground economies to the political power of the State, the presence of private justice groups, the strengthening of the actions of the guerrilla groups, and the indifference of the State and the National Government towards the fundamental rights and freedom of Colombian citizens. All of these facts generated an environment of institutional violence, characterized by the systematic violation of the International Human Rights Law, which severely affected the indigenous peoples who will forever carry in their memory the massacres, tortures, disappearances and murders of their authorities and leaders happening since the creation of the government policy and the Security Law imposed by then President Turbay Ayala.

In the 80s, the organizational and political groups of the indigenous peoples of Colombia participated in the process of struggle for the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide. Hence, at the same time indigenous peoples in Colombia take a first step towards the construction of their political and organizational autonomy, other ethnic minorities of the world gain access to scenarios where their issues could be heard. As a result, on August 9, 1982, the Working Group on Indigenous Populations met for the first time, which was established on the basis of the study presented by Mr. Martínez Cobo, - Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights - on the situation of fundamental rights and freedom of indigenous people. This Working Group took the role of subsidiary body of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. Furthermore, the United Nations General Assembly instituted August 9 as the international day of indigenous populations to commemorate the date of the first meeting of this group.