U'wa: EarthRights updates, Appeal for Berito

During his first trip to the US, Berito visited Madison to meet with relatives of Ingrid Washinawatok organized by CSN.

Our colleagues at EarthRights International, who sent a team to U'wa territory last month to participate in the Summit for Life, have published several updates we would recommend:
U'wa Summit in Defense of Life (Blog, 8 December 2016)
Also, Amazon Watch founder and Board President Atossa Soltani, who also went to U'wa territory, has launched a special fundraising appeal to support health for Berito Kuwaru'wa. Please see the text below and join us in making a special contribution through Causes!
2017 is going to be a big year: the 20th anniversary of Berito first traveling to the U.S. to raise consciousness about the U'wa people and their struggle. 

Funding Request to Support the Health and Well Being of 
Celebrated U'wa Spiritual Leader Berito Kuwaru'wa


Donate via this Causes page


December 14, 2016

The U'wa, a traditional indigenous community of 7,000 people who inhabit the Andean Montane cloudforests of northeastern Colombia, see themselves as the guardians of the natural world and all of creation.  Guided by their spiritual leaders known as the Werjaya, the U'wa have lead an inspiring global movement to protect their culture and their sacred homeland. 

Berito Kuwaru'wa is an U'wa elder and spiritual leader and served as the President of the U'wa high council and their international representative for over a decade.  Traveling to some two-dozen countries, Berito has brought the message of the need to defend the natural laws of Mother Earth.  He has been a champion of indigenous rights in Colombia and a key figure in the indigenous rights movement globally.  Today Berito continues to play a critical role in present day U'wa efforts to defend their one million acre cloudforest homeland, the Unified U'wa Reserve.  

Berito was instrumental in the U'wa winning legal recognition of their ancestral territory (kera chikara).  He lead the U'wa people's 7-year struggle that forced Occidental Petroleum to abandon its oil project on their sacred lands.  In the early 1990's, Berito lead efforts to expel the missionaries who used to kidnap and abuse indigenous children (including him). Under Berito's leadership, the U'wa reclaimed the old mission and converted it to a bilingual school where nearly 100 U'wa children now attend.  He continues today to guide the next generation of U'wa leaders. 

For his tireless efforts, Berito was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 1998.  A testament to his commitment to his people, Berito dedicated the entirely of his cash prize to purchase and reclaim additional areas of their ancestral territory to expand their legal reserve protecting areas the U'wa consider sacred.   Berito is truly a global treasure to all of humanity.  

Berito lives a humble life surviving off the land from the staple foods that he and his family grow and from the wild foraging of fruits and vegetables from the forest.

Berito Kuwaru'wa has battled Tuberculosis and respiratory problems for many years.  He has been hospitalized a number of times and over the years his condition has become chronic.  In speaking to Berito and some of his close U'wa friends and associates from the U'wa Association recently, Amazon Watch learned what could help improve his health, is to build him a new house.  His house, which is a very modest wooden shack, needs to be torn down and rebuilt.  The home is open to the elements with constant cold drafts and damp conditions. In addition, his kitchen is an open fire pit where smoke is constantly filling the air.  His doctors have long advised him to weatherize the house and install a closed wood fire stove that ventilates directly to the outside in order to reduce his exposure to smoke.  His friends and close associates have offered to help him. To make this endeavor a reality, $6,000 is needed for materials and labor to build new home and install a ceramic enclosed hearth kitchen.  

Below are some links about Berito and the U'wa story. Amazon Watch is currently setting up a Causes pagefor this effort to raise and sent funds to Berito.  The goal is to raise $6,000 by end of the year.  Thank you for considering this request.  For more information, please contact Atossa Soltani,  atossa@amazonwatch.org202-256-9795


Links for more information:

About the U'wa

Article about Berito Kuwaru'wa

Video from the Goldman Prize