Published on February 3, 2013 by Amy
Ingrid Washinawatok El-Issa (also known as O’Peqtaw-Metamoh and Flying Eagle Woman) (July 31, 1957- February 1999) was an internationally-known member of the Menominee Nation of upper Wisconsin. She was murdered by FARC guerrillas in Colombia. At the time of her death she was forty-one years old, the wife of Ali El-Issa, a Palestinian, and the mother of her 14-year-old son, Maehkiwkasic (meaning “Red Sky”). She was born in Keshena, Wisconsin.
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Washinawatok was the Chair of the NGO Committee on the United Nations International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, a delegate to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, an NGO representative in consultative status to the UN for the International Indian Treaty Council, and a member of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations.
Ingrid Washinawatok was an award-winning lecturer who spoke worldwide on behalf of the rights of Indigenous Peoples. She co-produced the film documentary, Warrior. She was the recipient of numerous awards from the Native American, Asian American, Hispanic American, and African American communities.
“Ingrid was known as a tireless defender of the rights of Indigenous peoples,” said Mary Robinson, then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Ingrid Washinawatok, along with Hawaiian activist Lahe’ena’e Gay and environmental activist Terence Freitas, were asked by the U’wa People of Arauca Department, Colombia, to help set up a school to protect their culture and language, and to help them to defend their lands against oil exploration by Occidental Petroleum. On February 25, 1999, while traveling with the U’was, the three activists were kidnapped by guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). A week later Washinawatok and her colleagues were found murdered, their bodies dumped across the border in Venezuela.
After initial denials, the FARC stated that “Commander Gildardo of the FARC’s 10th Front found that strangers had entered the U’wa Indian region and did not have authorization from the guerrillas. He improvised an investigation, captured and executed them without consulting his superiors.”
In 2003, Nelson Vargas Rueda was extradited to the United States for prosecution in the case. He was the first FARC member ever extradited to the USA. However, the case was dismissed when two witnesses failed to appear.
The Menominee Nation honored her with a full warrior’s funeral, and she received a memorial in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, in New York City.