Territory and Population

The Misak tribe, also known as Guambianos, are a traditional indigenous group of approximately 21,000. They are a tribe of the Colombian Andes, located principally in the Cauca region of Colombia in small communities around the town of Silvia.


Traditional beliefs, dress, language and laws have been resiliently kept alive to this day, while substantial integration and adoption of outsider beliefs, such as Evangelism, have become more prevalent over the past decades with the arrival of missionaries to their communities.

Their society and laws function through both male and female leaders of the community, known as Tatas and Mamas, respectively. They are voted into positions of administrative and spiritual power each year at community ceremonies within the “Veredas,” the small mountain communities within their protected territory.

The Misak economy is based primarily on agriculture, especially corn, coffee and potatoes, and a large proportion of their agricultural products, minus coffee, are used for subsistence within the community, not for outside distribution. The Misaks are certifiably “poor” in material wealth, but rich in so many other ways, and most Misaks are very content to live their lives with their families in the Veredas, farming and remaining with their traditional ways of life.


Unfortunately there has been constant pressure on them to adopt modern practices, and to sell off parts of their territory to wealthy landowners within the Cauca, Colombia department.

The Misaks have tried to battle these influences through policy and education within the community, but with such limited resources, it has been a hard fight. They also suffered through a period of strong militant guerilla pressure and violence, but thankfully that time has passed.

Traditions, Language and Symbolic Products

Outside distribution of traditional crafts,which they have made from sheep’s wool for hundreds of years, has also been extremely limited. All of their beautiful traditional crafts, such as wool Mochilas, hold great symbolic significance, connected especially to nature, their Worldviews (Cosmovision), and community gathering. The spiral is one symbol of great importance to the Misak, a representation of the circle of life, and the cyclical nature of the Universe in Misak mythology. Ancient spiral petroglyphs can be found on rocks in the Veredas.

A single Misak Mochila can take weeks for one individual Misak woman to complete, and is completely handmade out of local sheep wool.