The Yukpa are a semi-nomadic indigenous people from Colombia, hunters, gatherers, fishermen and farmers, who live in the Serranía del Perijá in the department of Cesar, northern Colombia. According to the Auto 004 of 2009 issued by Colombia’s constitutional court, the Yukpa, last speakers of the Caribe family language, are in imminent risk of physical and cultural extinction due to the loss of their ancestral territory and the subsequent impossibility to live out their culture.

In the middle of the 20th century, the colonization of ancestral land increased due to the armed conflict who pushed many to seek new territories to live in. Furthermore, the Colombian government implemented agrarian reforms to amplify production. But the worst loss of land came with the cotton (70s) and marijuana (80s) booms which forced the Yukpa to migrate to the higher parts of the mountains. “Since then, we can’t hunt or fish in the lands that are considered private because they hunt us out with guns.” The Yukpa people have lost more than 85% of their ancestral territory.

“Our ancestors were deceived, they would exchange land for a handful of salt, for a machete or a donkey. They did not conceive the occidental notion of private property and this is how we began to lose our ancestral land.”

Due to their semi-nomadic way of life, the Yukpa are forced to live in poverty in fifteen different cities of Colombia because they do not have lands to live in. One of the biggest threats to the Yukpa people are the mining and palm oil businesses that are operating on their ancestral land in violation of the right to prior consultation. The Drummond, the US-owned multinational has taken control over 42’800 hectares of ancestral land, altering the course of rivers that are vital to the survival of the Yukpa, violating ancient cemeteries, destroying biodiversity and accelerating the physical and cultural extinction of this thousand-year-old people.

We need to defend Life!