Sierra Nevada Indians:
On the slopes of the Sierra Nevada (Colombia) the Arhuaco (Ika), Kogi, Kankuamo and Wiwa tribes live. Their ancestors are from the Tairona civilization. According to these tribes, the Sierra Nevada is the heart of the world. They refer to themselves as the ‘older brothers’, because they believe they have mystical wisdom and understanding that outside of their community, nobody has. The outsiders are called the ‘younger brothers’. Each tribe has their leaders, called Mamos. Mamos are spiritual leaders in charge of maintaining balance in the world through meditation, songs and ritual offerings. This balance is very important to them. Although they have lived most of their time in isolation, they still feel responsible for maintaining the harmony of nature and the universe on behalf of all mankind. When there are crises such as droughts, hurricanes or famines around the world, it is said that they are the consequences of human failure to keep the world in harmony. (Survival international, n.d.).
These tribes already got in contact with the negative effects of climate change three decades ago, when the Santa Marta snow caps started to melt and amphibians and butterflies started to disappear. In 1987, the tribes established the ‘Organización Indígena Gonawindúa Tayrona’, because they were afraid that climate change was impacting the cosmos and they felt like they needed to be represented at a governmental level (BBC, 2019). Climate change is still affecting their lives today. Wind and rain patterns have changed, resulting in difficulties with harvesting of crops (such as coffee, plantain bananas, sweet bananas, mangoes, pineapples and sugar cane (Quevilly, n.d.)) which are their main source of income (IWGIA, 2018).
Although they are not open to tourism, they do want to share their culture with the ‘younger brothers’ to show the importance of the conservation of the planet. The council leader Jose María Arroyo from the Arhuaco tribe said the following: “We don’t understand how people cannot see the damage they are doing to nature, and this won’t only affect us. The lack of life will also affect them, the non-indigenous peoples” (IWGIA, 2018).
There are multiple documentaries telling the stories about (one of) these tribes available on Youtube. With these documentaries, the tribes want to inform and warn the younger brothers about climate change.
From the Heart of the World: The Elder Brothers’ Warning – Kogi Message to Humanity – (1992)
Voices from the Sacred Mountains
International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA)
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