Aída Quilcué is an indigenous leader from Tierradentro, Cauca. A member of the Nasa group, Quilcué has occupied a number of leadership roles for various organizations, including the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) and the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC). Quicué is a currently a Senator from Colombia’s Alternative Indigenous Social Movement (MAIS). She has led dozens of indigenous mobilizations, including the 2020 Minga Indígena that culminated with tens of thousands of peaceful indigenous protestors from Cauca arriving to Bogotá, urging the national government to take action against the rampant violence affecting Colombia’s indigenous territories.
In our conversation Aida spoke from deep experience when sharing the frustrating dynamic that has often governed indigenous communities’ interaction with the state. This weariness is relevantly highlighted by the role of formal schooling in promoting the development of indigenous students and their wider community. “The knowledge that Mother Earth provides is knowledge that we should all learn,” explains Aida, “yet this is something that formal education traditionally neglects.” Undeterred, indigenous communities throughout Colombia have continued to seek out and promote knowledge throughout colonization, 55 years of civil conflict, and other more contemporary challenges. Their successes include formalizing indigenous education whereby narratives are determined at the local territorial level, yet certified nationally. Such adaption notably addresses habitual concerns other non-indigenous communities have criticized, highlighting that much can be gained by appreciating the experience and insights from indigenous teachings into wider efforts to sustain a more peaceful Colombia.
But Aida is also adamant in stressing that such efforts are easier said than done, as many influential stakeholders are historically eager to discourage wider engagement and commandeer development programming for their own benefit. As Aida argues, “local communities and the organizations that represent them need to play a more central role in developing and leading programs that truly educate and empower those stakeholders best positioned to promote a more peaceful Colombia.”