The Kogi Talks

Video transcripts



TUCSON (A-P) — There are video presentations featuring Kogi offering information. Those with a special interest in non-verbal communication should watch them on YouTube. Those looking for human interest videos may watch them before changing channels. To take what the Kogi are saying in, to think about it, transcripts works best [with added words meant to inform or attempt an interpreted translation]:

Message from the Kogi

uploaded Nov 2, 2011

My name is Fernando Daza [Spanish language pseudonym. He is Spanish speaking, apparently a Commissioner (mayor or political leader) of the local Cabos (guardians), both appointed by consensus of the mámas]. I'm the authority and leader of the Kogi people of Cesar and of our organization Gonawindua Tayrona and the Kogi-Malayo-Arhuaco reservation. For the Kogi people of Cesar, Magdalena and Guajira, there are many inconveniences and crisis because many little brothers (term for people who don't come from the Sierra) conquer our cultural identity and our territory.

Since more than 500 years ago, this domination, these attacks, this slavery..., and now again they want to attack our territory, they want to have influence over our territory and therefore also humanity, and they don't respect the sacred territory, and they don't respect our human rights, and they don't respect our indigenous culture of the Sierra Nevada of Gonawindua, or, Santa Marta.

Why do we speak of sacred territory? Because it is of the four ethnic groups of the Sierra, the Kogi, Kankuamo, Arhuaco, Wiwa. We are the guardians of the heart of the world. Because we four ethnic groups speak of this as "The Heart of the World" both on a national and international level. Why are we guardians? So that nature isn't destroyed, so it doesn't get disturbed. So the rivers don't dry up. So there aren't too many diseases. So that neither the indigenous nor non-indigenous lead wars.

For instance, on the borders of our territory there are intrusions. Intrusions in our territory mean: mining, coal [openpit mines], farming...and many other things. And that's what worries us. That the little brothers have to realize that we are the Elder Brothers in that we conserve and protect. We love our little brother a lot. We don't want him to suffer because of so many diseases, because of the winter (floods), because of so many earthquakes [landslides], so we fight that this doesn't happen. But they have to leave us in peace on our sacred land. We all share the vision; we're all human. It worries us to hear of wars and conflicts...that so many people die...and that worries us. Like the winter to prevent that I want to pass on the message to all the little brothers that they also support us, that they also recognize us, the four ethnic groups of the Sierra Nevada.

Thank you.

[The fundamental Kogi narrative is "we are the Elder Brothers in that we conserve and protect. We love our little brother....but...." The Younger Brothers' core narrative is to take, grow, consume and use it up.]



Talk at Google

Mamo Pedro Juan & Santos Sana
The Kogi Indians: Wisdom from the Elder Brothers
June 2nd, 2014

0:03 Thanks everyone for coming. My name's Rebecca Moore, I lead the Google Earth Outreach and Earth Engine teams in Geo. This is a very special talk, welcome to the shaman and political leader of the Kogi people of Columbia, and to our friends Mark Platkin and Louie Anamadrigal of the Amazon Conservation Team. When we first started working with ACT in 2007, almost exactly seven years ago, ACT brought to Google the chief of the Amazon Sotori tribe and he explained to us the challenges that many indigenous peoples face around the world as their lands are invaded for timber and mining as their traditional ways of life are under threat and as they struggle to maintain their traditions and the links between their elders and their youth in the mist of exposure to the Western world. And I want to say Chief Almira discovered as the first member of his tribe to go to university, that Google Earth could be a powerful tool in defending the lands of his people and raising awareness around the world of how other territory was under threat, and not only use Google's mapping tools, but tools like android smart phones to empower indigenous peoples to, as Chief Almira said, to take their destiny into their own hands and strengthen them as a people through that collaboration that was fostered by ACT working with Google and the Sotori tribe. The Sotori tribe has now mapped and measured the carbon in their trees on their traditional lands and they have sold offsets in the carbon market place that is bringing millions of dollars into their tribe and has enabled them now to successfully resist the illegal logging. So this is a very positive case study of the blending of traditional ways with modern technology. Chief Almira actually said the time had come to put down the bow and arrow and to pick up the laptop in order to defend and strengthen his people. So today we are really excited to have visitors from Columbia, again facilitated by ACT who've taught us that we are not helping, it is not about Google giving to these people, these tribes, it's about creating a partnership. In fact Chief Almira was quoted in the press as saying, "The Sotori don't know much about technology, but Google doesn't know much about the forests, and we do, and together we can form a stronger partnership for the benefit of the people and the environment of the rain forest." Thank you for coming.

3:22 My name is Jenifer Austin and I manage the ocean program and I'm excited that Mark is here to talk about their work in Columbia.....

4:35 Mark: It's great to be back here and Jenifer and Rebecca were the one who ushered ACT in, we were a Trojan horse, we open the door and all sorts of shamans pour out....we're going to turn it over to the Kogis now.

23:00 My name is [Máma] Jose Farurata, I've come from the Sierra Nevada near Santa Marta in Columbia and I live sacred village Seduwa, and we've come out to share the message of our ancestors. So for a very long time, for 30 - 40 years we didn't want to come down from the Sierra, but when we did we found that the Younger Brother have gotten really big and they've grown, but they have grown in material ways and what they haven't done is grown with nature, with spirituality, with the forest. We continue to do that, and this is why we come out to share this message.

28:05 Our creator Seranqua, and other names, they were charged with taking care of the planet, of taking care of diversity, and they were left with the legacy, a map, of the diversity that cannot be seen. The diversity of thought and spirit of being able to map that doesn't exist in writing in material form, a map of how to interpret the oceans.

32:28 It is the spirits of the trees, the spirits of the water and ocean that have conveyed to them how sick the oceans are becoming. The Younger Brother is able to fly and is able to have a low of technology, and they see a lot of things, but what they don't see is what we see. It is very important that you have to two ways of seeing, and grow in that way.

38:00 A long time ago when there was just indigenous people in South America, they didn't have any problems, but now adays we have to coexist with other people and so now we need to be able to explain to the world that in these sacred sites in the Sierra Nevada, that's where our wisdom, our spirituality, our culture, that is where these things are kept. If we don't protect them we are going to disappear. We need a map to be able to understand, to be able to get other people from the outside world to understand why we are important, because otherwise they are destroying us little by little out of ignorance, and so we need to have those maps. Yesterday I heard we were going to a place where they drew these maps and I had no idea what it was, maybe there was this huge apparatus or a giant mountain, I had no idea what to expect and I walked in here and they said, "This is the place where they make the maps." Really? This is where these maps are made?....I was shocked that you took me to may village [via Google Earth] and you went down there, you took me there, that tells me we need to work together so that people can understand what is at stake.

45:00 I want to end by saying I feel really strange being here every thing is so square and yet I can see that you guys can see a lot and that it would be really great if you could work with us in some really basic things in our territory. My thoughts will be here with you, my way of thinking will be here with you. There are some basic things that would be a huge help to us. Thank you for receiving us.

49:24 I have a question about the Kogi language and there must be so much information encoded about your tradition and heritage that you have been able to protect encoded into this language, and I understand that most members of the Kogi community monolingual and that right now although the threat if very low of a language shift, but I was wondering if younger members of the Kogi community are adapting to learn Spanish and if that is in anyway a distant or immediate threat.

51:05 So the way that they manage language, culture and everything else is the elders manage that, it is under their care, and they don't put it in writing, so the knowledge of those who are going to be knowledge keepers and mámas, it is all oral transmission. There are special caves where the knowledge transfer happens. They do things like reading of bubbles and things like that.

51:50 What stressing signs do you see in the ocean that are most concerning to you. "The first changes around the mountain range is the climate and how it has shifted, it is no longer its normal rain." So at first he said we have been able to persevere through a lot of...climate change is causing a lot of stress, causing a lot of cultural changes, but we adapt, before when there was war, and illicit crops, and other threats we adapted, but now as we going...and this is due to the mámas and the influence they have over us...but they want to know specifically about the oceans...we rely upon the sacred sites for getting the offerings because everything we use [consume] has to have an offering when it's used. So what we're noticing is how the offering, those materials from the ocean are shifting.

54:58 So they have the porporo that he has is filled with pulverized shells, a specific shell, and that's shifting and so the minute those disappear, they're going or will have to adapt, or I don't know what's going to happen, but to them that is fundamental, and that is changing.

55:52 So before they used to live a very long life, before it was normal to live 120 years, but people are living shorter lives now, and they see that as a weakness.

56:25 So they are finding, doing the surveys of the sacred sites along the coast, and what they've found that a lot of the shells they use are deformed or huge.

56:38 We have to stop now.


Kogi People Colombia

Published Feb 7, 2013
clip from BBC Lost Kingdoms of South America

0:10 The Kogi, an indigenous community of around 12,000 people live in small mountain villages not far from the Tairona sites of Pueblito and Sito Perdido. Living separately from contemporary society, they've preserved there traditional way of life, and they guard their independence fiercely. So it is a huge privilege to be invited into their village for the day.

0:35 Most Kogi still speak a language derived from Chibcha, the tongue of the Tairona and Muisica. My guide Juacito is one of the very few who also speak Spanish. I asked him if he felt his people were connected to the Tairona.

0:55 Of course. For centuries. Our culture is very much alive. We have endured for thousands of years, and we're still here. As you can see, all the members of our community are still building their houses as we used to in the traditional way. [local materials, sustainable architecture.]

1:29 Juacito invited me to help in the building of a new house for the mámas, the Kogi spiritual leaders [daily life advisors]. There is a deep cultural connection here with the environment. One that seems to echo the philosophy of the Tairona. I can easily imagine these houses sitting on the round stone terraces at Pueblito or Sito Perdido.

1:56 One of the ceremonies that will be carried out in this house is the initiation ceremony where a boy turns into a man [at 18]. At that point they will be given a gourd [poporo] and coca leaves and as you'll see, all men here chew coca. This is an essential part of Kogi life. It is impossible to know if the Tairona had the same right of passage, but coca chewing reoccurs again and again in their pottery. The connections are clear to see. When Kogi men meet they exchange coca leaves. They are repeatedly extracting lime from a gourd known as a poporo and wiping against the waded coca leaves in their mouths to release the active ingredients. Cocaine is derived from the coca plant, but raw coca leaves do not have the same powerful narcotic effect.

2:53 Kogi men chew it as a mild stimulant that helps them communicate with their ancestors rather with Aluna]. These traditions, passed from generation to generation, continue the Kogi's deep spiritual [per narrator's interpretation] connection with their environment.

3:10 Everything that goes into the construction of these houses has to come from a seed [except mud]. This is because they see themselves as seeds of the Sierras, that humans need to be nurtured and grown just like plants, so in these houses we start to see a connection between how they are constructed and the Kogi idea that people and environment are one [see Bioscience 101].

3:35 The Kogi assert a sense of their own history and beliefs that is inseparable from the land, the same land that sustained the Tairona [until the Spanish conquest].

3:50 [Kogi máma] We are keeping our culture alive by looking after nature - the water, the wind and everything around us [not in some sort of spiritual magisterium as some believe]. This place and many other places on the way to the sea are sacred to us [as study areas?]. The Sierra Nevada is sacred to us [as observational systems ecologists who are not as limited as physists, astronomers, bacteriologists...without instrumentation]. It's untouchable. It's the world's heart, and like with your own heart, you would die if it got destroyed.

4:40 Today Kogi culture is alive in part because of the protection offered by the mountains. The same mountains that protected the Tairona nearly 500 years ago. Unlike the Muisica, the Tairona were never completely overrun by the Spanish. The geography of their homeland made it difficult for the conquistadors to penetrate far. But Spanish colonization of the valley stifled trade between the villages of the mountains and wave upon wave of Old World disease decimated the population.

5:16 Eventually all that remained of the Tairona where dwindling communities.....

[This video includes significant visual information.]



Kogi, Máma Shibulata and Professor Alex Rogers take Q&A after Aluna World Premiere

June 18, 2012

1:00 [Máma Shibulata] I leave the film Aluna here with you so you can learn about what we know about the needs of the natural world and you will realize that you must not damage it anymore.

1:29 [Director] I'm absolutely thrilled that Alex has come, he came up from Oxford this afternoon, he's going straight off to the Rio conference first thing tomorrow morning, but I thought it was a good idea for him to be here and to explain to you why, in his view, what the Kogi say is scientifically worth listening to.

1:52 [Alex Rogers] Thanks Allan, thanks to everyone for staying behind to hear us. The Kogi really understand their environment in a way that is so profound that we almost can't recognize it. It is understanding in absolutely tiny detail the place in which they live. Every plant, every animal, the sun, they recognize its place in the environment. That knowledge has been passed down from generations and generation, and it's a very interesting statement during the film that in a way we know less than previous generations, there is a name for that phenomena and it's call "shifting baselines," which has been recognized in modern biology, and that is a situation where you look at the environment and after 10 to 20 years of experience of it, and you think that is normal. If you were in that place 50 to 100 years ago it would be profoundly different. Many more species, the species that are there, larger. When the Kogi talk about connectivity between habitats and ecosystems there is a very real phenomena that we've come to recognize in the last 10 to 20 years of ecology. Mangrove forest in particular are intimately connected with other [case brief?] systems such as coral reefs and sea grass beds, and if you damage one of those system you in fact loose the others simply because the unknown effects on connectivity. We now recognize this connectivity over huge scales environmental oscillations in the Pacific could effect on krill, tiny shrimps, in the Antarctic. They do, and the world really is connected in profound ways we are only just learning about, to understand. The Kogi idea of special places where certain species are found is something we've only just recognized in modern ecology, this idea of source populations, places where a particular habitat is very special for a species, has everything a species requires, that's the place where these species reproduce and feed all the environment around them for that particular species. In fact it was this very phenomena which partially lead to the collapse of the famous Northwest Atlantic cod stock and when basically there was a major exploitation, that species retreated to a very small area which was this poor habitat or source area. Because the fisherman were still catching the same quantities of fish from that small area they thought the population of stock was absolutely fine. Of course it wasn't and the stock collapsed more or less overnight. So the Kogi really do have an understanding of the natural world in a way that we should listen to, and also some of the things they are seeing are not simply a result of local activity, of course, they're caught between local development and also larger phenomena such as climate change, so we should recognize the shifts and changes in the environment, changes in seasons and so on as real warnings that things are out of kilter.

5:49 Opened up to questions: Tell me something more about how the Kogi see Aluna. Does it penetrate all nature, like a quantum field, is Aluna something similar to this?

7:00 It's a universal field and it extends everywhere and through the whole of the earth.

7:30 With everything that we've seen and everything that they're trying to tell us, can it be fixed?

8:00 We think that, yes, we can really stop doing the damage if we kind of stop now if possible to do something.

8:30 The Kogi have never been fatalists, and they've also said to me that if they didn't think there was any hope they wouldn't have bothered with all the work that was involved in making this film.

8:45 I wonder what your views are about the increasing use of technology, particularly in the western world, and whether you feel that effects peoples ability to connect with and therefore honor nature?

10:00 The little brother has forgotten that knowledge that they have been left by their ancestors and technology sometimes not very clear to them.

10:37 So technology interferes with their understanding and doesn't advance it, is that right? Yes.

10:53 My impression from the film is that there is not a lot of time left, and given that the world is so affected my multinational companies and the like in terms of pollution and the damage, my question to the mámas is, as an individual what can I do? I feel powerless and the implication I take from the film is that we don't have enough time because there is a momentum that is in place around the planet, and I as an individual, no matter what I do to have the kind of effect necessary that I take from the film that is really necessary? And to thank the mámas for their message to the Younger Brothers.

13:23 He suggested please to understand the message first and then to reflect upon it.

13:35 [Alex] What I would say is that time is certainly running out. You may have seen in the news this week that we've reached the magic figure of 400 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere. Which is somewhere we as biologists never wanted to go. And for ecosystems such as coral reefs are almost is a situation where they are irretrievably gone, and certainly if there isn't serious action taken in the next ten years, maybe 20 years, we will see whole systems just disappear from the earth. Having said that, my own personal experience, one person can make a difference. I think the first thing to do is educate yourselves and educate other people about the consequences about the way we live, the consequences of levels of individual consumption, and I'll give you a very simple example. People go to tropical countries on holiday and they slap tons of suntan cream on. What they don't realize is that that stuff interferes with the reproductive systems of the very coral reefs that they are going to see, and actually turn them sterile. So it's just thinks like that, the complete thoughtlessness that we've slipped into, this absence of thought, which the Kogi talk about a lot, that to think about the world, think about where you want to be, and we're not thinking about where we want to be in ten or twenty or thirty years time. We're almost forced or push into thinking about the immediate present, and that is not what we should be doing.

15:40 I just wanted to ask what he thought about little brother Allan, because sometimes he seemed quite slow on the uptake. I want to know whether he got your message and as your messenger what the frustration of the process from your point of view were?

16:50 He say he was very very difficult to walk along and to have to list these old places and he has to learn a lot and he did really well.

17:55 I want to thank you for being an absolutely marvelous audience, and for handling the Q&A so well. Thank you because I so used to being in situation where instead of asking people questions they start to tell them things.



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