Taita Misak enjoying a sample of the traditional cuisine. ©

British Council

Also known as the Guambiano people, the Misaks live in the Guambía Reserve, located in the municipality of Silvia, in the south-east region of the Cauca department.

The reserve’s size is 18,000 hectares, of which 6,000 are farmland, and 9,000 are wasteland, bushy areas and rocks. They are considered millenary people, descendants of the Pubenences, born in the great Kauka (Cauca).

For the Misak their history is divided in four major periods: the first period, from 1535 to 1600, is known as “the period of initial contact with Europe.” The second period goes from 1600 to 1700, and it is known as “the centuries of reduction under colonial times.” The third period, from 1800 to 2000, is known as “The time for integration” (Mama Liliana Pechene Muelas, 2018). The fourth period goes from 2001 to the present, and it is known as “the years of constitutional recognition and the new land scarcity problem.”

Native language

The Misak speak Namtrik, which belongs to the Chibcha language family. This language is represented by graphemes and morphemes found in ancient sites throughout the Guambía territory.

It bears a close relationship with the elements in mother nature - therefore during different seasons expressions indicate specific actions. Those who have the gift of interpreting natural phenomena have the task of communicating them to the rest of the community.

Day to day, the Misak people maintain harmony through the use of natural language. This unique system of communication is called NAMUY WAM. For the Misaks, language is like breast milk, because it is transmitted from generation to generation.


The Misak worldview is centred around the equilibrium between the protective beings PISHIMISAK (woman) and KALLIM (man), who are spirits that inhabit the land. The Misak people’s everyday lives unfold in the company of medicinal plants, water, womanhood (the land) and seeds. This is a respectful relationship that goes both ways: if we respect the space that mother nature offers us, then our work will be rewarded with abundance. 

Otherwise, if the relationship with nature is not harmonious, scarcity will come as a signal of the lack of harmony between the inhabitants and the land. In order to mediate between the spiritual and earthly realms, the Misak consider the role of the Mϴrϴpik (traditional doctor) as vital.

Number of members

The total population of the Misak people in Colombia is 21,085, distributed along 7 different departments. The “Sembrado Nuestros Saberes” (Sowing Our Knowledge) programme works in collaboration with the Indigenous Council of the Guambía Reserve.

Resguardo Indígena de Guambía 14.300

What is our main goal?

The “Sowing Our Knowledge” programme (Cultural Heritage for Inclusive Growth or CH4IG) has centred its work with the Misak people on restoring and disseminating their Cultural Heritage. This has been done through reclaiming their culinary heritage, fostering traditional farming of autochthonous foods, gathering and disseminating knowledge about traditional crafts and architecture to younger generations, and building an ethnic ecotourism plan to improve wellbeing and sustainability. It includes the following components:

  • Recovery and dissemination of the Misak culinary heritage, in regard to the preparation of foods, the utensils used, and agricultural production for culinary purposes, such as the preservation of traditional seeds.  
  • Boosting traditional farming of autochthonous products of the Guambía Reserve, such as coffee.
  • Gathering knowledge about traditional Misak crafts and its dissemination across generations. Crafts include woodwork (stools, toys, drums), pottery (ancestral ceramics) and fabrics for bags (jigras) and backpacks.
  • Intergenerational transmission of knowledge on Misak traditional architecture, to contribute to the future construction of the Harmonisation Centre.