Indigenous communities of Murindó: Defending life and their ancestral lands

In August, PBI accompanied the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission in the indigenous community of Chageradó, located in the Río Chageradó reservation in the municipality of Murindó. There, an assembly was held between authorities and members of the eleven communities of the two resguardo of the municipality, Río Chageradó and Río Murindó. One of the main topics of this meeting was how to tackle the problem of land mines that are affecting the whole municipality. They also discussed how to preserve the model of ancestral life of the Emberá indigenous communities, their rights and their sacred land.

To reach the indigenous community of Chageradó it takes three hours by panga, crossing seven different rivers, including the Atrato, the Chageradó and the Ciénega, also known as “Agua Negra”. Many rivers in the Urabá region end with the syllable “do”, which in the Emberá language means river. The river is a fundamental element for life within the resguardos. It represents not only the main source of water and subsistence, but also one of the main “routes” of connection, both with other resguardos and with the urban centre of Murindó, and the place where community members meet to carry out daily tasks. Furthermore, given the indigenous communities’ deep connection with nature, the elements of the forest are sacred, demanding respect. Therefore, the defence of the territory within the resguardos also developes as a mechanism for building coexistence and harmony with their ancestral land.

The territory of the municipality of Murindó, and especially its two indigenous reservations, is now deeply affected by the installation of land mines by different armed actors. The mines violate the right to life and mobility of community members, forcing them to confine themselves to the resguardos, so as not to put their own lives at risk. In fact, the clashes have generated massive displacement from one community to another, forcing people to cross the veredal roads, where the risk of encountering mines is even greater. In addition, the mines violate the right to education of the youngest members of the community who, for fear of explosive devices, are not going to school.

In addition to the organisation between the different communities, the process of resistance and permanence in the territory relies on the Guardia Indígena, a collective made up of women and men, whose objective is to protect the land, in coordination with the traditional authorities and the communities, thus being guardians of life who promote the defence of rights. The Guardia Indigena is conceived as its own ancestral organisation and as an instrument of resistance, unity and autonomy.

Enjoying free time in the rain.

The rice Chageradó.

Indigenous guard (or Drua Wandra in the Embera language) with the typical blue waistcoat and the “chonta”, or staff of command, which confers a symbolic value to the guard and their authority.

Typical paruma fabrics, or doves, traditionally worn by the indigenous Embera women who wrap them around their waists as a skirt. These fabrics are usually very colourful and combine figures of flowers, animals, lines and circles.


Members of various indigenous communities participating in assemblies.

Old and new generations.

The panga is the only means of transport to reach the community, which is located about three hours from the town of Murindó.


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