Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Kogi: The Elder Brother’s Warning

"Up to now we have ignored the Younger Brother. We have not deigned even to give him a slap. But now we can no longer look after the world alone. The Younger Brother is doing too much damage. He must see, and understand, and assume responsibility. Now we will have to work together. Otherwise, the world will die."
- Kogi Mama

The Elder Brothers

The Kogi are an indigenous people living in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains of northern Colombia, in South America.

They are the only civilisation to have survived the Spanish conquests and to have kept their individuality. They are perhaps the only indigenous people in the world who, because of the particular nature of their surroundings, have been able to keep themselves apart and sustain their culture inviolate. And not only that.

The one anthropologist who managed to study them in the 1940's and 50's concluded that though they are similar in some ways to the other Indian peoples around the Caribbean, northern Central America and south to the Andes, there are such profound differences that "in the end the Kogi stand alone".

They have survived to this day, keeping their traditions and relying upon, and looking after, the mountain environment. They believe it is their duty to look after the mountain which they call "The Heart of the World". They call themselves the Elder Brother and refer to the new- comers as the Younger Brother, who they believe is destroying the balance of the world.

In 1990 the Kogi decided they must speak out to the rest of the world. They had survived by keeping themselves isolated but they decided that it was time to send a message to the Younger Brother. They could see that something was wrong with their mountain, with the heart of the world. The snows had stopped falling and the rivers were not so full. If their mountain was ill then the whole world was in trouble.

The Kogi Mama's Speak

We work to take care of the world.

We respect the Mother Earth... [W}e know that the land is our Mother Earth.

If we plant an orange tree or any type of tree and then dig it up by the roots it will die. Digging out the earth’s gold is the same thing. It could die. We’ve all heard many stories that the world is dying. Why is it dying? It is because they have robbed so many tombs. The world is like a person. Robbing tombs, stealing its gold, it will die. We don’t take out the earth’s gold. We know that it is there but we do not take it. We know from our divinations that the advice of the Mother is not to take the gold. We know where it is but we decide only to make offerings to it.

How is it that we are able to live? Without blood we cannot live and without bones we cannot walk. Here all the Mamas [teachers, custodians of Kogi cosmological thought] are in agreement about what it is we are going to say and how to speak. If i cut off my foot I cannot walk. When they [the Younger Brothers, us] dig into the earth and take it’s gold it is the same thing....Gold has it’s own thought and it can speak. It is a living being. They must stop stealing it.

If they take all the gold the world will end. The Mothers of banana trees, of all the trees and of all the birds, they have all been stolen. They are cutting off the flesh of the Mother’s body. They have taken everything. They have stolen the spirits of all things from the Mother. They are stealing the very spirit and thought of the Mother...

It is the mountains which make the waters, the rivers and the clouds. If the trees are felled they will not produce any more water. We do not cut down the trees that grow by rivers, we know that they protect the water. We do not cut down huge areas of forest like the Younger Brother does, we cut small clearings for our fields. The Mother told us not to cut down many trees, so we cut very few, tiny patches.

If the Younger Brother keeps cutting down all the trees, there will be fires because the sun will heat the earth.... We are the Elder Brothers so we have to think clearly....

Younger Brother, stop doing it. You have already taken so much. We need water to live. The Mother told us how to live properly and how to think well. We’re still here and we haven’t forgotten anything.

The earth is decaying, it is losing its strength because they have taken away much petrol, coal, many minerals. Younger Brother thinks, Yes! Here I am! I know much about the universe! But this knowing is learning to destroy the world, to destroy everything, all humanity.... The Mother is suffering. They have broken her teeth and taken out her eyes and ears. She vomits, she has diarrhoea, she is ill.

If we cut off our arms, we can’t work, if we cut off our legs, we can’t walk. That is how it is with the Mother. The Mother is suffering. She has nothing.

Does the Younger Brother understand what he has done? Does he?

KOGI Lost Tribe of Pre-Colombian America

By Louis Mejia for, All Rights Reserved.

The Kogi know secrets about nature that would make our scientists rethink their ideas on the environment and the universe. They have a presence about them that commands respect. The power of their mind is beyond comprehension. But few people outside of Colombia know who they are and what they represent. Why do they call themselves the Elder Brothers and how can we learn to live in the spiritual world that this lost tribe lives in?

8 years ago I saw an amazing video called "From the Heart of the World, The Elder Brothers Warning." It was about a unique indigenous community that lived in Northern Colombia who say they are keeping the world in balance. I was so impressed with these people because they are still living with the same spiritual values and traditions of their ancestors. But the ecological warning the Kogi shared touched a nerve and made me realize they may be right.

Who Are the Kogi?

When the Spaniards arrived in Northern Colombia 500 years ago, the Kogi fled high into the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. They believe the Sierra Nevada to be the "Mother" and the "Heart of the World." The Sierra Nevada, in the shape of a pyramid, rises from the sunny coasts of the Caribbean tropics to the chilly, snow-capped peaks that reach a height of 17,000 feat above sea level, all in only 30 vertical miles. It is isolated from the Andes range, but can be viewed spiritually as the crown chakra of the Andes.

In 1988 the Kogi allowed a BBC journalist, Alain Ereira to film a documentary about their culture. This was a historic event. No western journalists has been allowed to return since and the Kogi remained silent observing the ecological destruction of their sacred mountain.

But the Kogi are concerned about what is happening to their sacred Mountain. They are now ready to share their next warning and message to the "Younger Brother." We are the "Younger Brother" who are destroying the Earth and causing an ecological imbalance that may affect future generations to come.

The Kogi are the direct descendants of the Tairona civilization. The Tairona culture flourished in Northern Colombia around 1,000 AD. They left behind stunning gold artwork, stone and pottery artifacts and an amazing network of brick roads covering the Sierra Nevada. Kogi society has changed little in the past five centuries. They survived as a culture because the Kogi focus all their energy on the life of the mind as opposed to the life of a body or an individual. Fundamental to that survival is the maintenance of physical separation from their world and our own. The Kogi do not allow anyone into their land. They are very protective of their sacred space and the dense jungle is not kind to tourists. Very few Colombians dare enter into their territory.

Where do the Kogi live?

The Kogi live in the higher regions of the Sierra Nevada. Many self-sustaining communities are on the Western part of the Mountain accessible through Valledupar, which is located in the State of Cesar. You can also enter Kogi land via Santa Marta, a coastal city, but it is a little more difficult. The Sierra Nevada is the highest coastal mountain in the world only 26 miles from the beach. It is located near the Equator, which means it has no seasons. Day and night are of equal length all year round. It has every eco-system in its 17,000 km2 area (8,000 sq. miles) You can find coral reefs, mangroves, arid deserts, rain and cloud forest, and in the higher elevations, plains and snow-capped peaks with temperatures close to –20 degrees. The highest peak is the Pico Simon Bolivar at 5,775 mtrs. In 1965, archeologists found the remains of a lost Tairona religious center and called it the "Lost City." It is a three-day hike in dense jungle to witness a true wonder of the past. Rumor has it there are 2 more lost cities yet to be found.

Why are the Kogi unique?

The Kogi are unique among the world’s indigenous cultures because the Spaniards never conquered them. They are said to have memory of the beginning of time and remember the rampage the conquistadors brought to their region in 1498.

The Kogi represent the most complete surviving civilization of pre-Colombian America. They are not hunter-gatherers or a wondering tribe; they are a nation whose fields have been continuously cultivated for more than a thousand years.

The Kogi believe they are the "Elder Brothers," the guardians of life on Earth. Through their mind power and meditation they keep the world in balance. They live in "Aluna," an inner world of thought and potential. They are now concerned because their Mountain is dying.

Everything about their history and religion is passed down through oral instructions and their lives are run by the spiritual leaders or Shamans named "Mamas." The Kogi Mamas are chosen from birth and spend the first nine years of childhood in a cave in total darkness learning the ancient secrets of the spiritual world or Aluna. They are the priests and judges who control Kogi society. All major decisions and shamanic work are done by Divination. All is the world of Aluna, so the Mamas see a reflection of the physical world first in the spiritual world. If Aluna is the Mother, then the Kogi listen to the Mother by divining. This lost technique of divination is what keeps the Kogi world in balance and order. The Mamas are worried that the "Younger Brother" has not heeded the first warning. If the Sierra Nevada or the Mother dies, the world will also die.

Of unique importance is that the Kogi are a peaceful tribe that have never killed one of their own and rarely intermarry. They never grow grey hair and have no facial hair. They can spend 9 days awake without sleep during their ceremonial rites.

They are now beginning to learn Spanish because they realize the importance of communicating with the outside world. They also need to understand the Colombian Government’s laws regarding the Sierra Nevada, which was named a Human and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1986 and a National Park by the Colombian Government in 1977.

From the Heart of the World: The Elder Brother’s Warning

This documentary explores the culture and spiritual beliefs of the Kogi tribe -- a pre-Colombian American tribe once believed destroyed. The Kogi, who call themselves the Elder Brothers of the human race and us the Younger Brothers, are convinced we are destroying the balance of life on earth. Believing that our only hope is to change our ways, the Kogi have set out to teach us what they know of the balance of mankind, nature and the spiritual world.

Movie Review

by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

From the Heart of the World

Mystic Fire 01/92
Not Rated

One of the best films of 1992 is a warning by a South American Indian tribe that people give up their self-destructive ways and honor the planet before it is too late.

After four centuries of seclusion, the Kogi, descendants of a pre-Colombian civilization, asked BBC filmmaker Alan Ereira to visit their homeland in the Sierra Nevada mountains of northern Colombia. From the Heart of the World: The Elder Brothers’ Warning delivers their prophetic message to the world.

Seeing themselves as guardians of life on earth, the Kogi have a spiritual understanding of the bond between humankind and the natural world. This bond, they insist, must be honored.

The Kogi are governed by priests called “mamas.” As children, the mamas were educated in the dark and this early sensory deprivation has made them finely attuned to the mysteries and pleasures of their mountain environment. The Elder Brothers, as they call themselves, are convinced that we, the Younger Brothers, have wounded the earth through industrial exploitation, mining, and clearing of forests. They have seen signs of an ecological crisis in changing bird migrations and the lack of snow in the highest regions of the Sierra Nevada. The Kogis warn that unless we change our ways, the world will end: “If we act well, the world can go on.”

There have been many articulate calls for citizens of this planet to live in harmony with the natural world. But this video stands out as an especially cogent and moving plea for ecological wisdom.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent preview of the dynamic and cultural phenomena that the Kogi community represent.