Ingrid's Capture & Timeline
by Paul DeMain
News From Indian Country

© March 21, 1999 Feb. 25, 1999
Started Out As Just an Ordinary Day

Thursday, Feb. 18 In one of the largest military confrontations in years, 70 FARC rebels are killed in a new strategy to use powerful military equipment provided by the United States and to mute U.S. criticism that Columbia is not doing enough to fight rebel militias.

Thursday, Feb. 25 The day could have been just like any other ordinary day but word was getting back to friends that Terrence Freitas, Ingrid Washinawatok and Lahe'ena'e Gay were late for their plane flight home. Then devastating words: a U'wa guide confirmed their abduction by two armed individuals in civilian clothes. FARC members typically operate in uniform dress in 100 men units.

Friday, Feb. 26 U'wa representatives say they believe FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, were responsible for the abduction of the three. Immediate efforts are launched to make low profile direct contact with FARC representatives and support groups. The U.S. certified Colombia, reducing restrictions on U.S. aid, including military funding.

Saturday, Feb. 27 Tribal organizations in New York, Hawaii, Keshena, Wisconsin and other parts of the country desperately try to get confirmation that the three are being held, by whom and their status. Efforts to keep a low key media approach are not working, as word of the abduction is leaking out. Menominee Chair Apesanahkwat and Massachusetts attorney Dean Cycon, representing the three families request the U.S. State Department soften its anti-rebel stance and statements in order to facilitate the negotiation process.

Sunday, Feb. 28 The newspaper El Espectador reports from Bogota that FARC rebel unit 45 has admitted they have the three. The report is never reconfirmed. U.S. Anti-Drug Chief Barry McCaffrey brands the rebel movement as "narco-guerrillas."

Monday, March 1 Word of the abduction is relayed by mainstream media. The U.S. State Dept. claims FARC rebels are holding the three and demand their release. The State Dept. misspells the names of individuals and mistakes the educational nature of their trip. A Menominee Nation communique is sent to several FARC support groups and representatives requesting dialogue. The U'wa call on FARC to release the three. Three trucks filled with members of a right wing death squad randomly murder eight FARC supporters two days after the U.S. State Dept. issued a "damning" report on ColombiaŐs human rights record.

Tuesday, March 2 Negotiators believe that contacts talking with the Red Cross had confirmed rumors that FARC was holding the three. Based on past kidnapping cases, friends are told personal family messages could be relayed. The Red Cross allegedly informs U.S. relatives that if FARC has the three, there should be no problem discussing terms of release.

Wednesday, March 3 Believing progress is being made, the family and friends maintain a media blackout. Attorney General Janet Reno arrives in Bogota with other U.S. officials who condemn and decry the kidnapping.

Thursday, March 4 A communique from FARC through other organizations says they stand in solidarity with Indigenous organizations of the world and the word that follows is that FARC will be searching its ranks for the three. Attorney General Janet Reno announces $230 million in new drug/rebel fighting funds for the Colombian military. The Red Cross tells negotiators for the three, it may be possible to hold direct contact talks with FARC on Monday, March 8 in Colombia. Three bodies are found on the border of Venezuela after a farmer hears a barrage of gunfire.

Friday, March 5 The families are notified of direct identification by tattoos and credit cards found with the bodies. An outpouring of anguish, disbelief and anger occurs across the country and world as news of the killings is publicized. FARC ruling commanders say that it is hard to believe any of their units are involved saying "enemies of peace" are responsible. Colombian news media reports the deaths as uncharacteristic of FARC actions and others now suspect the killing appears to be the work of right wing militias hired by oil interests to protect their property.

Saturday, March 6 Menominee Nation chair criticizes the U.S. State Department statements and funding during negotiations as inflammatory. Colombian news media say the murders are uncharacteristic of FARC rebels. Colombian Attorney General Jaime Bernal Cuellar tells the world not to jump to conclusions. The Colombian military announces they have radio transmission tapes of high ranking FARC officials ordering the execution. Venezuelan government officials question FARC culpability because the new president sympathizes with some FARC land reform demands. Negotiations for the return of bodies begins at the New York Indian Community House, from Hawaii and Wisconsin. FBI agents fly to Venezuela.

Sunday, March 7 Desperate negotiations for the return of the bodies began with painstaking progress. A body ransom is demanded for work on Sunday by some Venezuela politicians. The FBI is notified not to autopsy the bodies without family consent. The State Dept. officials debate what line item budget, and how and who would get a plane to return the bodies. Phone calls demanding the bodies be returned promptly flood the White House. Over 1,000 rally in NY.

Monday, March 8 Negotiations for return of bodies continue throughout the day. Preliminary meetings with U.S. officials regarding anti-drug efforts with FARC in Colombia are cancelled. Bogota news media reports the peace process is teetering and may have ended with the death of U.S. activists. Midewin members on the Menominee reservation from the Three Fires Society conduct ceremonies consistent with Ingrid Washinwatok's initiation status. Family members are consoled with singing by a local drum at the home of Ingrid's sister, Gina.

Tuesday, March 9 Word is received late in the day that the bodies will return to U.S. soil by Wednesday morning. Three Fire Society women sing water songs for the family during the morning and an evening ceremony to continue Ingrid's teachings is conducted. Final initiation will take place in June at the Bad River Chippewa reservation with a stand-in replacement relative or friend. She will then become full Midewin. Plans, over planning and help becomes spontaneous throughout the Menominee Nation.

Wednesday, March 10 The bodies of Terrance Freitas, Ingrid and Lahe'ena'e Gay are returned to Miami, Florida. Washinawatok is transported by commercial jet to Green Bay where she is met by her husband Ali and friend Rigoberta Menchu. Three Fires Midewin women smudge and dress the body in preparation for final rites. Big Drum Society members hold the first of a four day wake, feast and song services in the traditional village of Zoar and over the next four days serve over 1,000 people. The Maori of New Zealand begin holding four days of mourning ceremonies to coincide with Drum Dance ceremonies in Zoar.

Thursday, March 11 FARC rebels confess to killing the 3 Americans and say the commander responsible may be executed. National Indian organizations demand that the peace process continue in IngridŐs name and that the killing must stop. Organizations call for full investigation into deaths and ask that FARC allow an international delegation to interrogate those responsible.

Friday, March 12 Visitation and final wake services are conducted. Many questions remain.

Saturday, March 13 Ingrid is buried near the Wolf River on the Menominee Nation at the site where Ingrid was to have built her home. Friends promise her death will not be in vain. The first draft of an international investigative commission is presented in Keshena, Wisconsin.

Tributes For Ingrid
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