The Arhuaco people or Ika descend from the Tayrona society, one of the most ancient and important pre-Columbian civilizations of South America. Along with the Kogis, the Wiwas and the Kankuamos, they cohabit on the lands of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Situated in the North-East of Columbia, it is the highest coastal mountain range of the world (5775 m), the majestic starting point of the Andes cordillera. For the four native tribes of this region, the whole territory is sacred, they consider it as the heart of the Earth.

At the origins, the Arhuacos are semi-nomadic people, frequently traveling between villages, following the rhythm of the seasons. They are a profoundly peaceful people, committed to the preservation of the natural habitat of the Earth, living from agriculture, cattle-rearing as well as their craft that is renowned for its quality all over the world.

Two events have profoundly impacted the Arhuaco history : the Spanish conquest and the evangelization by capuchin missionaries between the end of XIXth and the beginning of the XXth century. In addition to a large number of deaths at the time of the Spanish conquista, the major part of the Arhuaco lands are taken away from them by the colonists. The survivors take refuge in the inhospitable territories of the high plateau of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, turning step by step to a sedentary life.

The arrival of the capuchin settlers endangers not only their socio-political organization or  their language but goes as far as affecting the original cosmogony of the Arhuaco people, thus carrying out a true ethnocide

In the 1980’s the Arhuacos free themselves from the grip of the catholic missionaries thanks to a political organization that they create, Gonawindua Tayrona (OGT), that helps them fight for the recovery of their traditional territory and the creation of a bilingual educational curriculum.

Since 1970 the Colombian government has recognized the línea negra (black line) as a border of the autonomous territory of the four communities of the Sierra Nevada.

Today their total population is estimated to be between 14 000 and 30 000 individuals, living on a territory close to 200 000 hectares.