What can we learn from the U’wa? Persistence, for one thing. Decades after they came to the world’s attention for successfully protecting their sacred lands from environmental destruction, they have not wavered in their determination. The threats may change – Occidental Petroleum announced their departure from U’wa territory in 2002 later replaced by Colombia’s national oil company Ecopetrol – but their vociferous (and strictly nonviolent) self-defense will not.
The latest attacks on their lands and their culture are concentrated in northern U’wa territory. Starting in February of 2014, Ecopetrol intensified oil exploration activities on an oil platform known as Magallanes. While technically outside the U’wa resguardo(reservation), the area is firmly within U’wa ancestral territory. It is also immediately next to the Cubogón River, which holds spiritual significance for the U’wa, in addition to supporting their daily livelihoods.