Lesson 810: Colombia’s Guardians of the Homelands

At the southwestern edge of the Caribbean Sea and the northern tip of Colombia, an enormous mountain covered by glaciers and snow, jets up abruptly, four miles high: the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. This mountain and the nearby peninsula are home to people who have lived here and protected their land for thousands of years.

Learning Objective

Students will learn about the culture and traditions of the indigenous people of the Wayuus and Arhuacos.

Social Studies Standards

Individuals, Groups, & Institutions: B, D, E

Discussion Prompts

  • Wayuus are nomads who are constantly moving. Discuss some of the implications of being a nomad in today’s world. Why are they still nomads, in your opinion? Do you know anybody that you would consider nomads in your region? Justify your answer.
  • Vallenato music fuses instruments from different cultures with poetic lyrics about everyday life and traditional dance rhythms of the Arhuaco. Discuss the impact of such music in their culture and talk about what type of music would correspond to vallenato music in your culture.
  • Arhuacos feel they are the caretakers of the land and to some extent of all mankind. However, today they have a very practical concern about economics. What is their future forecast comparing to the fate of the indigenous people in your region?
  • What are some of the battles that the residents in your area are facing that are comparable to the ones the Arhuaco and the Wayuus are facing such as mining, dams, water, land appropriation, broken treats, education, and economics.

Lesson Activities

  • Mochilas for the Waiyuu people are connected to their livelihood and spirituality. In a jar or paper bag, place 5 things that would reflect your livelihood and spirituality and briefly describe each. Share with your peers.
  • Arhuaco’s headdress represents the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Design and create a headdress, symbolizing your ecology.
  • For the Arhuacos, shapes and patterns have meaning, and order to them. Each design symbolizes their ancestors’ knowledge. After looking around your region, create on graph paper a design that could be used in the creation of a local variation of a hammock or mochila. Write a paragraph explaining it.
  • Create an artwork illustrating the symbolism and spirituality about the cardinal directions for the indigenous people of Colombia, including their struggles with their lands, culture, and traditions. Name the art piece and include a brief explanation about it.


  • cardinal directions
  • ecology
  • hammock
  • isolation
  • mochila
  • nevada
  • nomadic
  • resistance
  • spirituality
  • vallenato


In the Americas Season 8 Lesson Episode 10