The Nasa or Páez people, are an indigenous ethnic group, with an estimated population of 70,000 members, who mainly live in the department of Cauca, in the mountainous southwest region of Colombia. This reportage documents the Indigenous Guard, which is conformed of men, women and children armed only with ceremonial sticks, as they confront these powerful armed in the name of their cultural survival as a proud indigenous people.
The Nasa people have a long warrior tradition of defending their culture and territory. The Spanish conquistadors tried to dominate the Nasa through a system of forced labor, (called the encomienda) which they imposed on many native peoples in Latin America during the 16th,17th and 18th centuries. However, in modern times this territory has been a focal point of conflict between the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) guerrilla forces and the Colombian armed forces. These violent actors fight Colombia´s internal war, which has gone on for over 50 years, within the Nasa territory. As a response, the indigenous community organised an 'Indigenous Guard’, a civilian self-defence organization. At present the Indigenous Guard has some 6,000 active members, charged with protecting communities by preventing the incursion of armed groups into the tribe's territorial reserves.