This book will trace the historical vision of the
Nasa (formerly the Nez) of the highlands of
Cauca, Colombia over three centuries. In it, I ex-
amine the political, social and economic forces,
both internal to the Nasa and those originat-
ing in the dominant society, that have impinged
upon native thought, causing age-old symbols
to be deployed in new ways and innovations to
be cast as historical. This process of historical
renovation has served as an ideological means
of resisting ethnocide. My analysis is a product
of the times in which I came to know the Nasa,
an era in which they were under attack from
landowners and army, accused of political sub-
version because they had organized themselves
as Indians. Living with the Nasa from
sharing with them their fear of the soldiers
who were occupying their territory, I listened
to their thoughts on the past, and on how their
history might help them to survive the present.
Originally, I meant to study their notion of
sacred space, but quickly came to realize that
Nasa cosmology was inextricably bound up in
resistance tactics, and thus could not be studied
in isolation.
My first attempt at analyzing the informa-
tion I collected from
in Tierraden-
tro, Cauca, was a dissertation (Rappaport
that focused heavily on the contemporary Nasa
and the colonial roots of their historical vision.
Since then, as I worked with nineteenth-century
historical materials, I began to realize that tra-
ditional Andean scholarship was flawed in its
insistence upon cultural continuity from pre-
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