Murders in Colombia
Michael Austin Shell
BrightCrow at InfoAve.Net
Thu Mar 11 22:42:19 JEST 1999
I am forwarding to you two items about the recent kidnapping, torture and
murder of Native American activists who had gone to Colombia to work on
behalf of indigenous peoples there. The first item is from Indigenous
Women's Network, the organization whose representatives were killed. The
second item is from Ed Nakawatase of AFSC. AFSC will be releasing a
Please share this information with others. Thank you.
From: Genvau at aol.com
To: CDunger at aol.com
Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1999 06:06:06 EST
The Indigenous Women's Network
March 8, l999
RE: Killings of Indigenous Activists
We,the members of the Indigenous Women's Network, address our comments to
the world. On February 25, we received word that our sister Ingrid
Washinawatok, the Co-Chair of The Indigenous Women's Network and Lahe'ena'e
Gay and Terence Freitas, two other members of a humanitarian delegation to
the U'wa people of Colombia were kidnapped. It was during the end of their
visit that our sisters and brother were kidnapped by hooded men in civilian
clothing from the car they were traveling in. The three were part of a
delegation that had been invited by the U'wa People to join in prayer and
solidarity. The purpose of the trip was to assist the U'wa People in
establishing a cultural education system for their children and support the
continuation of their traditional way of life.
The morning of March 5, the U.S. Embassy contacted the families of Ingrid,
Lahe'ena'e and Terence informing them their bodies had been found in
Venezuela about 30 yards from the border of Colombia. They had been bound,
blindfolded, beaten, tortured and shot numerous times. It was through
Ingrid's credit cards, which were still in her possession that they were
able to trace their identity so rapidly.
The Indigenous Women's Network, joining with the Menominee Nation, and
other Indigenous Nations, is calling for a full prosecution of those
responsible, and an investigation into the actions of the US State
Department in reference to this incident. We believe that the US State
Department destabilized negotiations and ultimately cost our sisters and
brother their lives in a possible attempt to gain financial support for US
policies in Colombia.
We attribute this assertion to the fact that exactly during the
negotiations for the release of the three humanitarian workers, the US
State Department released approximately $230 million in military support
for the alleged Anti- Drug War in Colombia. The Colombian government then
attacked and killed over 70 members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC) in an orchestrated attack. We believe that these two overt
acts may have destabilized any hopes for the release of our sisters and
The U'wa People live in the Arauca province in Northeastern Colombia. The
U.S. multi-national oil corporations, Occidental Petroleum and Shell Oil,
had been carrying out oil exploration in the area know as the Samore block,
the ancestral homelands of the U'wa People. It is estimated that these oil
fields hold less than l.5 billion barrels of oil, equating to less than a
three month supply for the US. The U'wa people had threatened to commit
mass suicide if these oil companies were successful in their exploitive
US and Colombian government Officials were prompt to lie blame on the left
wing guerrilla forces of FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).
This situation is not one that blame can be established through words of
Government officials without conducting an investigation. It is a much
more complex crime.
The reality is that the Indigenous community and the US State Department
had both been involved in negotiations for the release of these three
humanitarian workers. Apesanahkwat, Chairman of the Menominee Nation was
active in attempting to negotiate the release of the hostages as soon as he
heard of their capture. "I sent a direct communique to the leadership of
FARC two days after she was captured...The FARC leadership had sent a
response by e- mail the morning of the hostages' death," Apesanahkwat said.
"They sent greetings to us as a relative indigenous group, and said they
were optimistic about seeking her release," he said.
Yet, as Apesanahkwat noted, the US government sent money for arms to the
Colombian government four or five days after the kidnappings, knowing that
those arms might be used against the rebels who may have held the kidnap
victims, and that the kidnap victims might well be executed in retaliation.
Seventy FARC rebels were killed in a government-led attack just before the
kidnap victims were executed.
We, the Indigenous Women's Network join with the Menominee Nation in
calling for a Congressional inquiry into the State Department actions in
Colombia, with regards to this incident. We also request, on behalf of our
sister Ingrid, that her death not be used to forward political ends of the
US State Department, but that instead, it be recognized as a crime, a
continuation of the Indian wars.
It is a crime against humanity. Against the mothers whose daughters and
sons moccasins no longer walk on our Mother Earth. It is a crime against
the sane, the Indigenous Peoples and all peaceful citizens of the world.
This crime was committed by the insane, the greedy, the corrupt and those
that will ignore the exploitive trade agreements which allow and accept
these practices as business as usual, all in the name of protecting
"National Interests", and subsequently the interests of multinational
corporations. We believe that responsibility for these deaths rests with
all of these parties.
Ingrid and her companions gave the ultimate sacrifice - their lives - in
the struggle for the attainment of human rights for Indigenous Peoples.
State Department support will increase the militarization of a country
already fraught with one of the highest rates of violence in the Western
Hemisphere, and a state continuing violence against Indigenous peoples. It
is against violence, and for the life of the people and the land, that
Ingrid, and the others stood.
Ingrid as well as her companions viewed the situation of the U'wa as a part
of the global struggle for Indigenous self determination as well as the
preservation of the natural environment. The deaths of our three
companeros must be understood as having a direct relationship to the many
thousands of deaths of those who seek human justice not only in Colombia
but throughout Latin America and other parts of the world.
We who work for social justice must ensure that further repercussions do
not fall on the U'wa community simply because they sought and received
international solidarity and support from groups like Project Underground,
the Indigenous Women's Network and the Pacific Cultural Conservancy
International. The Indigenous Women's Network and others will do our utmost
to see that justice is done and that we will continue Ingrid's fight in her
support of the U'wa Peoples and all those who work for social justice.
The history of violent repression in Latin America against Indigenous
Peoples would lead us to believe that right wing governments, and their
death squads supporting the interests of resource companies and those
wanting to interrupt the peace process are likely to have been involved in
the deaths of our three companeros. We also demand that financial support
to the Colombian military be withdrawn until the true facts surrounding the
deaths are revealed.
As Women, we are the Mothers of our Nations. We share the responsibility
of being life-givers, nurturers and sustainers of life- as Mother Earth is
a life giver.
The Indigenous Women's Network is committed to nurturing our children and
planting seeds of truth for generations to come. We do not want to repeat
past mistakes. We will continue our work to eliminate the oppression of
colonization, and to end the Indian wars.
The Indigenous Women's Network demands that the parties responsible for the
abduction and execution of Ingrid Washinawatok, Terence Freitas, and
Lahe'ena'e Gay, be brought to justice. They must make themselves known and
not hide behind the corrupt plunders of those that rape our Mother Earth of
her blood and the parties that protect them.
In the Spirit of Mother Earth,
The Indigenous Women's Network
For more information contact Charon Asetoyer at (605)487-7072 or
Priscilla Settee at (306)653-4101.
From: Ed Nakawatase
Sent: Monday, March 08, 1999 3:08 PM
To: All Staff (Nationwide)
Subject: Ingrid Washinawatok
We are deeply shocked and saddened by the news of the murder of our friend
and colleague, Ingrid Washinawatok, in Colombia. Ingrid and fellow
activists, Lahe`ena`e Gay from Hawai`i, and Terence Freitas from Oakland,
had been kidnapped and killed under disputed circumstances. The three had
come to Colombia to support the indigenous U'wa people in their efforts to
save their traditional lands from desecration from oil drilling.
There will be additional information and commentary forthcoming about the
circumstances and context of these killings as well as possible suggestions
for action as the facts become clearer.
Ingrid was a Menominee Indian from Wisconsin. To the very end, she was a
strong advocate of indigenous peoples. She had been staff for the
International Indian Treaty Council, co-chair of the Indigenous Women's
Network, and a board member of the American Indian Community House in New
York City. Most recently, she was co-director of the Fund of the Four
Ingrid had collaborated with AFSC a number of times She had been a member
of the program committee of the Third World Coalition (TWC). She had
worked with regional and national staff on specific indigenous issues. In
her role with the Fund of the Four Directions, she provided encouragement
and early support for the production of the AFSC resource guide, Resistance
Ingrid leaves her husband, Ali el Issa, and their son, Maehki. Condolences
and expressions of support can be sent to Ingrid's mother. The address is :
3 Fair Ground Street
Keshena, WI 54135
More information about the sayma