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Healing Bridges

Washington, United States
Joined June 2021

We works with Kofan shamans so that the Colombian Government restores their territory and they reclaim their cultural sovereignty. We also provide emergency aid and support food security projects.

Presence in: Colombia, United States
Focus: Community / Customary Land Rights, Environmental Justice, Governance, Accountability & Transparency, Livelihoods, Other, Policy Advocacy, Traditional / Customary Justice

Healing Bridges produces audiovisual products about traditional communities, acts to strengthen traditional communities, and looks to bridge the traditional and the modern. At its founding in 2006, the founder was videotaping the oral history of the elder shamans and their wives, of the Kofan (A’i), Siona, and Inga people of the Colombian Amazon.

When the Kofan shamans, traditional authorities, asked Healing Bridges to help stop the encroachment of their territory, Healing Bridges joined their efforts to protect and restore their territory. The Kofan shamans and their traditional medicine are the center of Kofan culture, are the key to the Kofan renaissance, and have priceless contributions to offer the modern world.

Healing Bridges acts under the consent of the Kofan shamans to put pressure on the Colombian Government so that it will restore Kofan territorial boundaries to those it recognized in the 1970s and ensure that the Kofan can reclaim their cultural sovereignty in their reservations. Healing Bridges also engages in direct aid, both in emergencies, but also in the development of small agricultural projects to support the Kofan’s food security, supporting development with culture and identity. Healing Bridges has increasingly embraced the Sustainable Development Goals and is exploring the mechanisms of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Healing Bridges develops its goals and strategy by gathering the Kofan traditional authorities of five territories (four in Colombia, one in Ecuador), exchanging information in both western and ceremonial settings, and then translating their mandates into targeted petitions to the Colombian Government. Healing Bridges then engages outside actors, including the United Nations system, the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, and/or the U.S. Government to enhance the support for the petitions. All relevant activities count with the free, prior, and informed consent of the project’s participants.

People Associated With This Organization

Carlos Salinas

United States  
Healing Bridges
Joined June 2021
Interests: Community / Customary Land Rights, Environmental Justice, Policy Advocacy, Traditional / Customary Justice
I am the Executive Director of Healing Bridges, which works with the Traditional Authorities (shamans) of the Kofan (A'i) indigenous people in the Colombian Amazon to defend their land, culture, and autonomy. Healing Bridges translates their needs into actionable petitions to the Colombian Government, and then engages outside actors like the U.S. Government or the UN so that the petitions are respected. Healing Bridges has a petition pending before the Inter American Commission on Human Rights and working with our partners, the Corporación Visión Renacer, we have won two constitutional recourses (tutelas) in the courts, one at the level of the Colombian Constitutional Court.

I have an undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master’s degree in Latin American Studies from Georgetown University. I was on staff for ten years with Amnesty International USA, as advocate for Latin America and the Caribbean before the U.S. Government. My last year in Amnesty was as Acting Director of Government Relations. I have testified before Congress many times and was involved in the passing and subsequent defense of the Leahy Law.

Although my first visit to the Colombian Amazon's Putumayo Department was in 1986, to stay with a traditional authority of the Siona people, the late Francisco Piaguaje, I first met a Kofan in 1998, when I was part of an Amnesty International mission to Colombia. I first visited the Kofan reservation Santa Rosa del Guamuéz in February 2004. Since then, I have been to Santa Rosa some fifty-nine times, gathering with the Kofan Traditional Authorities and others to jointly develop strategies through discussion and the ritual ceremony of their traditional medicine, Yagé.

I am interested in joining the Namati network to see where there may be possibilities for collaboration, especially for legal support and the preparation of other formal material.
Carlos Salinas is the network champion (main point of contact) for Healing Bridges.

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