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The Kogi or Kogui or Kaggabba, translated "jaguar" in the Kogi language are a Native American ethnic group that lives in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia. They are one of the few surviving Pre-Columbian civilizations of South America.
The Kogui language belongs to the Chibcha family.
The Kogui claim to be descendants of the Tairona culture, which flourished at the time of the Spanish conquest, after the destruction of the Tairona cities they escaped into the higlands, where they have been living in relative isolation for generations.
Their mythology teaches that they are "Elder Brothers" of humanity, living in the "Heart of the World" (the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta). Those not living in the Heart of the World (generally people from the west) are called "Younger Brothers." Their mythology suggests that these Younger Brothers were sent away from the heart of the world long ago. In response to infringements on their homeland by westerners, a legend arose claiming the Younger Brothers had now found their way back, and were reaping their destruction on the land.
The Kogui base their lifestyles on their belief in "The Great Mother," their creator figure, whom they believe is the force behind nature, providing guidance. The Kogui’s understand the Earth to be a living being, and see the colonizers' mining, building, pollution and other activities damaging the Great Mother.
From birth the Kogui’s attune their priests, called Mamos, to the mystic world called Aluna. It is in this "spirit-realm" that the Mamos operate to help the Great Mother sustain the Earth. Through deep meditation and symbolic offerings, the Mamos believe they support the balance of harmony and creativity in the world. It is also in this realm that the essence of agriculture is nurtured: seeds are blessed in Aluna before being planted, to ensure they grow successfully.
The Kogui people live largely in peace amongst themselves and their environment. They use slash-and-burn farming methods; each family tends farms at varying altitudes of the Sierra, producing different crops to satisfy the range of their needs, they also raise cattle on the highlands. Their community is closely knit around the Mamos, while the rest of the community works under direction of the Mamos.
In 1990, having seen evidence on their mountain to suggest extensive worldwide ecological damage, the Kogi’s sent a message to the world via a Lampeter University archaeologist, filmed in partnership with the BBC. The Kogis gave a warning to the "Younger Brothers":
|“||...the world doesn’t have to end; it could go on, but unless we stop violating the earth and nature, depleting The Great Mother of her material energy, her organs, her vitality; unless people stop working against the Great Mother, the world will not last||”|
- (Spanish) Etniasdecolombia.org
- BBC Documentary: A Warning from the centre of the World
- The Tairona Trust
- TEDtalks, Wade Davis on endangered cultures, the Koguis at 8 minutes 10 seconds