Tuesday, March 2, 1999

Families seek freedom
for three kidnapped
while in Colombia

By Rod Thompson


PAHOA, Hawaii -- Relatives of three Americans kidnapped while on a private cultural mission in Colombia last week say they do not have any more information about the situation and don't wish to comment, spokesman Larry Brown said today from the group's office.

The three are Lahe'ena'e Gay, 39, director of the Pacific Cultural Conservancy International, Ingrid Washinawatok, 41, a member of the Menominee Nation of Wisconsin, and Terence Freitas, 24, an environmental scientist.

The three were visiting the U'wa Indians in northeastern Colombia at the invitation of the Indian group, Brown said.

He declined to say exactly how long they were in the South American country before they were kidnapped.

News reports from Colombia indicate U'wa leader Roberto Afanador and a driver were taking the visiting Americans to an airport for a flight out of the area, when they were stopped by armed men and the Americans were kidnapped, Brown said. He said he has not been able to confirm those details.

Initially the families of the three wanted no news to be released about the kidnapping, Brown said. However, the story was first made public in the Colombian press and publication of the story followed on the Internet, he said.

The families still seek to release a minimum of information while attempts are made to secure the release of their loved ones.

The Pacific Cultural Conservancy International was created in 1989 with Gay being the primary founder, Brown said.

Information published by the group says about 1,400 human populations within the Pacific rim alone are facing physical extinction within the next 50 years, and 500 are facing cultural extinction.

Brown said the data were gathered by Gay. They refer to native people in widespread areas such as Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and North and South America.

Physical extinction can mean the groups intermarry with other people and lose their identity, he said. He was uncertain about how that differed from cultural extinction in Gay's compilation

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