Jul 13, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

As Western values continue to penetrate indigenous societies in Colombia, the country’s indigenous Misak people have taken an innovative measure to preserve their culture: Operating a university of their own. Here’s a closer look at Misak University, as recently reported by DPA International.

Introducing Misake University

The Guambia indigenous reservation in Cauca is home to approximately 13,000 Misak people -- half of the full Misak tribe, one of Columbia’s 68 indigenous groups accounting for a population of more than a million people. It has also been home to Misak University since 2011.

The Misak University curriculum comprises a range of indigenous topics, including ecological, economic, and social structures. At the forefront of all studies, meanwhile? Nature. Says academic coordinator Trino Morales, “We have duties rather than rights toward nature.”

Other Misak tenets incorporated into the university’s curriculum include respect for elders, spiritual values, and the importance of dreams. Traditional music, clothing, weaving, agriculture, and history are also all covered.

“A Process of Resistance”

Created as a “process of resistance” against Western ways, Misake University does not -- by design -- hold a position within the country’s higher education system. Says Misak thought teacher Augustin Almendra, “They colonized our minds, our way of seeing the world, with money and the cross. We need to awaken.”

“The Misak have forgotten a lot of things. The courses help to recover and to strengthen the culture,” adds traditional healer and Misak University student Alexander Tunubala.

But recognition of the importance of indigenous values isn’t limited to indigenous people. Westerners, too, are increasingly seeking out the wisdom it has to offer -- particularly the ecological world view it represents.

“We have a lot of people from Europe coming to visit us….they want to talk to us and learn from us. Outsiders sometimes take more interest [in our culture] than our own young people do,” reveals Morales.

 

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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