Ette Ennaka artisan using a spindle to spin. ©

British Council

The Ette Ennaka People, ancestral inhabitants of the Magdalena region, were formerly known as “Chimilas”, part of the “Great Chimila Nation”. According to historians, it runs from the Frio River and the northwest foothills of Sierra Nevada in Santa Marta, to near Mompox and the Zapatosa Swamp, including some areas around the Magdalena, Cesar and Ariguaní rivers.

At its peak, the estimated number of people of the “Great Chimila Nation” was 24,000. During the Conquista and the colonial era, their people were expelled from their land, which reduced their numbers and hampered their self-government.

63.9% of the population lives in the Issa Oristunna Reserve and in other settlements such as Ette Butteriya, Itti Takke and Nara Kajmanta, all located in the Magdalena department in the Caribbean region. The “Sowing Our Knowledge” programme works in the Issa Oristunna Reserve, in the municipality of Sabanas de San Ángel, and in the Nara Kajmanta settlement, at the foothills of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Native language

The native language of the Ette Ennaka people is Ette Taara, which belongs to the Chibcha language family. It is widely spoken by most of the population.

Number of inhabitants

According to recent official figures, 2,239 people recognise themselves as Ette Ennaka (National Census 2005), of which 1,497 live in:

Location People
Resguardo Issa Oristunna 1.301
Nara Kajmanta 196


Ette Ennaka considers themselves descendants of Yaau, the protective father, a powerful masculine entity that talks to them in dreams, visions and through the use of tobacco, a sacred plant for the Ette Ennakas. The feminine character of the universe is attributed to Numirinta, an entity that rules over wind and water. For them, dreams are sacred, and the world is in constant destruction and regeneration.

The Ette Ennaka people live according to a series of symbolisms determined by their own worldview. The colour white, central to their fabrics, represents the heart and mind of Yaau. Ijka, the kapok tree, represents the house of corn. The harvest is stored there, and its condition is a sign of the current state of the crop.

What is our main goal?

The main goal is to promote participatory strategies that foster the transmission of traditional knowledge to younger generations. This is done facilitating spaces to share knowledge and revitalise the relationship to the ancestral land, as well as fundamental customs and traditions in their worldview.

The programme includes collective efforts in 4 areas that include traditional weaving, woodcarving, music and traditional medicine. They involve the recovery of techniques and stories, expression of their Cultural Heritage, which are at risk of falling into oblivion.