On March 3, 2003 the highest U’wa Council of the Traditional Authorities of 17 indigenous U’wa communities, leaders, and general public received official word from the President of Ecopetrol, Isaac Yanovich, regarding the discovery of petroleum in Gibralter I of the Samoré block. The U’wa community, by way of our highest council, would like to make their position known.
The U’wa have suffered abuse, and been deceived and mocked by the national government and multinational companies since Jan. 11, 1995 when OXY informed us of their intention to explore and exploit the hydrocarbons in our territory. The U’wa, in accordance with our Traditional Authorities, high councils, professors, organizers, leaders, elders, and women, have taken the position of not permitting exploitation of petroleum in our territories for reasons well known in the nation and the world.
Today, March 4, 2003, we are here to remind Ecopetrol, the national government, Occidental Petroleum, and the world, that we will never change our position. The U’wa will never negotiate or sell our mother earth, nature, the environment, our culture, our history, and our higher laws. For the U’wa, all of this is not to be sold. It represents our right to live, which takes preference over any right, be that economic, social, or political.
The events of March 4, 2003 leaves it clear that Ecopetrol, the national government, and OXY have been and continue to be directly responsible for the destruction, and gradual and forced disappearance of our history and culture that is part of our ancestral heritage as a people. All we are demanding is our healthy territory, peace, and tranquility in order to live in harmony with nature and in this way follow the laws our God Sira gave us.
If the Colombian government together with Ecopetrol continues with this project, they will have to respond to the Colombian people and the world regarding the natural and ecological disasters this project is generating. Moreover, they will be responsible for the increase of violence and social and cultural imbalance that it represents.
Communities with principles have no price.
Luis Tegria Tegria
Vicepresident, Cabildo Mayor U’wa