Alan Steinfeld talks to Adam Yellowbird and Wachan Bajiyoperak of Peru about the message of the Kogis, the Elder Brothers; who maintain a spiritual integrity for the planet... They are also joined by spiritual teacher Catherine G. Lucas of the UK.
For Adam Yellowbird and more information go to:
For Wachan Bajiyoperak
go to: http://www.Willkasara.com
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For the indigenous peoples living on the steep slopes of Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, sustaining the balance of the spiritual and ecological world is their sacred task. They call themselves the Elder Brothers, the guardians of the Earth, and the rest of modern civilization are the Younger Brothers, whose exploitative practices are destroying the mountain’s ecosystem and, by extension, the rest of the planet. The four indigenous groups of this region—the Kogi, Wiwa, Arhuaco and Kankuamo—believe the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the beating heart of the world: what happens here happens everywhere, and when its rivers run dry, its ice caps melt and its endemic species disappear, so do the rest of the world’s. They maintain their deep commitment to restoring equilibrium to the Earth through daily meditations, ritual practices and mental discipline, and they have continued this vigilance even as the Younger Brothers have encroached into the mountain with logging, mineral extraction, commercial plantations and drug-crop cultivation that placed them at the center of violence between warring factions in Colombia’s protracted civil war. Protecting the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta’s water resources is now their focus, as they protest projects that will dam two mountain rivers and a massive ocean port development that will export natural resources mined in the region while also blocking access to a sacred site by the sea. In 2007, the four tribes issued a joint statement condemning the projects: “From the beginning of these projects we have expressed in many ways our opposition … They negatively affect our way of life, they degrade the environment, and they violate every part of the Constitution that pertains to the fundamental rights of our people.”
The Land and Its People
The four existing indigenous tribes of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta are the remnants of a sophisticated pre-Hispanic civilization known as the Tayrona. When the first Spaniards set foot in Colombia in the 16th century, they found a civilization that practiced sustainable farming through crop rotation and vertical ecology, built terraced drainage systems that minimized erosion, and produced exceptional gold and pottery work. But the conquistadores drove the tribes high up into the mountain, where they tried to protect their culture through isolation. The Kogi were able to maintain the most traditional culture while the Wiwa and Arhuaco experienced different levels of acculturation. The Kankuamo, who had all but disappeared, are now working to recover their language and culture. Estimates for the total number of native people living in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta range between 35,000 and 51,000.
Though the tribes speak different languages, they have nevertheless retained a common spiritual tradition. According to this tradition, when the great Mother created the world, she spun a spindle, and the threads that unspooled crossed to form the four Tayrona peoples and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta itself. Within the indigenous communities, every action and behavior is informed by what they call the “Law of Origin,” an ecological philosophy that governs their relationship to nature, animals, weather, bodies of water and the cycles of the planets and stars. The spiritual practices and ethical beliefs of the Tayrona revolve around their conception of aluna, which is the belief that all reality is created by thought, and that every object or being has both a physical reality and a spiritual essence, all originating in thought. The tribes’ highly trained ritual priests—the mamas—communicate in the aluna dimension through ritual and meditation. In their communion with the aluna world, the mamas focus on maintaining the ecological and spiritual equilibrium of the mountain.