The Elders Project: Colombia Sacred People

By Miriam on May 5, 2010 at 11:18 pm under Feature, Important
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During my time in Colombia of January of 2010 I was blessed to have had the opportunity to be one of the guests of this beautiful event that traveled with the Mamos. When I returned to the Sierra Nevada, Colombia in April Rick had returned also to continue working on building the relationship with the Sacred People and create more plans for future work. It is simply amazing how much we in the industrialized world can learn from people who dedicate their lives to the Sacred work of ceremony for the earth, for humanity and all life. WE need to respect them for this and assist them in this work. From MY heart, I thank you all for your support of this project. I have seen the work being done, the intention of those assiting to organize the Elders Project and feel only the highest intention from all of them.

At the end of this report I have attached two videos. One is from Barbara Three Crow who was one of the people who took the initiative along with Rick Harlow to step forward and begin working to manifest what the Maoms had requested of them. The second is the work of Frank Chavez and is a great short film on The Black Line of the Sierra Nevada and what it means to the Sacred People.

Barbara Three Crow has more information on her website as well. Personally I find her to be a strong and beautiful woman and I am honored to know her. She is an inspiration. Barbara Three Crow website.

Thank you to all those associated with this project and the desire we all have to Protect the Sacred.


Mamo Sewkukuy

The Elders Project (TEP), on behalf of Mamo Sewkukuy and the delegation of mamos and apprentices who accompanied him, wishes to express deep gratitude to everyone who contributed to The Black Line Journey that took place in January 2010.

The Elders Project was born out of a series of meetings between the traditional authorities of the Koguis, Arhuacos and Wiwas of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (SNSM), Barbara Threecrow and Rick Harlow which took place during the nine days of the gathering of indigenous leaders from all over the Americas in Pasto, Colombia in August 2009. The elders expressed their desire to find funding for projects that would strengthen their traditions and support their spiritual work as “caretakers of the water and the life of the planet”. They asked for our help and we signed an agreement with them.

Signers of the agreement, Pasto, Colombia August 2009

This journey was the first and most urgent of these projects. Mamo Sewkukuy (Norberto Torres, a 90 year-old Arhuaco, known as the spiritual geographer of the SNSM) was grateful for the opportunity to pass along his vast knowledge to 2 generations of Kogui, Arhuaco and Wiwa mamos and apprentices. Among the delegation was one of Mamo Sewkukuy’s sons as well as a grandson. The fourth indigenous group of the SNSM, the Kankuamos, were unable to send a delegation because of ongoing internal meetings within their community.

Mamo Sewkukuy’s son and grandson

The journey began on January 16, 2010 in Valledupar at the site known as Pozo Hurtado on the Guatapuri River and ended ten days later at the same site. The group of thirteen mamos and apprentices accompanied by TEP support staff (and 5 guests invited by the mamos) made the journey around the black line, visiting a total of forty sacred sites or “points of payments” (puntos de pagamentos) where spiritual offerings were left in accordance with “The Law of Origin.”
Beginning of the journey, Guatapuri River The list of participants:

Mamo Seukukwi (Norberto Torres) Arhuaco
Mamo Vicente Torres Mamo Javier Torres Arhuaco
Mamo Jose Vicente Zalabata Arhuaco
Mamo Jose Maria Perez Arhuaco
Mamo Nestor Torres Arhuaco
Bienvenido Arroyo, Excabildo Gobernador Arhuaco
Mamo Jose Gabriel Alimako Kogui
Mamo Pedro Conchacala Kogui
Mamo Jose Maria Conchacala Kogui
Mamo Mayor Carmen Conchacala Daza Kogui
Catalina Daza Gil Kogui
Mamo Jose Ignacio Dingula Wiwa

TEP Support staff:

Nora Diaz, Secretary
Jesús Ortiz, coordinator
Rick Harlow, TEP coordinator, photographer
Jan Willem Meurkens, TEP filmmaker

Tragically, all is not well in the Sierra Nevada Santa Marta. The ancestral territorial boundary of the 4 indigenous pueblos, The Black Line or “La Linea Negra” as the mamos call it, is in great need of restoration. Many of the sacred sites have been severely degraded by abuse and misuse. Some sites have been paved over and are not accessible. Others are on private land being developed by government and private corporations. At Puerto Brisa the mamos were not allowed access to the sacred site and were unable to make their pagamentos. Frequently along the journey the mamos would point out the damage caused by development, mineral extraction, harmful agricultural practices, tourism, litter and graffiti. They insisted repeatedly that the Colombian Government return control of the sacred sites to them so they can properly care for and heal the damage.

Graffiti at one of the sacred sites.
Entrance to Puerto Brisa after being denied access to sacred site.
Power plant at the sacred site of Compañia.

A full report of both the Black Line journey, and the subsequent trip up the mountain to Mamo Sewkukuy’s village will be posted in the near future.

TEP continues to seek funding to support ongoing projects as requested by the traditional authorities. We have been asked to help with the following two projects, briefly outlined below.

The Black Line project

The mamos have reaffirmed their commitment to the spiritual work necessary to balance the damage to the cycle of water in the Sierra Nevada Santa Marta caused by widespread development. They have decided that a delegation of mamos representing the four pueblos should make four trips a year around the Black Line to make their “pagamentos” in keeping with “The Law of Origin.” The second journey will begin on April 20th 2010. The National University of Bogota has offered to fund this journey. TEP has been asked to sponsor the third journey to take place later this year, possibly in June or July.

Making pagamentos at Camarones
Guatiyna Iku Project (Arhuaco Women)

Arhuaco women under the guidance of Benerexa Márquez have reaffirmed their interest in addressing the plight of women in the villages and to take charge of their self- development. According to Benerexa, the importance of women in relation to “The Law of Origin” cannot be overstated, as they represent mother earth and hold power to balance nature in the SNSM. A project to encourage the women to take the initiative to reassert their position as AKUMAMU (female mamo, spiritual guides) has been outlined so they can fully participate in the spiritual work of the SNSM. It is also their intention that this project will open up a greater understanding of the relationship between “The Law of Origin” fundamentals and those which serve as a basis for human rights, particularly in reference to women’s human rights.

Benerexa Márquez meeting with Arhuaco women

TEP and the indigenous peoples of the SNSM are excited about moving forward with these projects and welcome your support.

All donations for this project are tax deductible.

Earth action a 501c3 organization is accepting donations on behalf of the Elders Project.
Checks MUST be made out to THE ELDERS PROJECT for the funds to go to the project.
YOu may request a tax receipt to be sent to you from your donation.
Earth Action website

Checks payable to “The Elders Project” may be sent to:

EarthAction /The Elders Project
PO Box 63, Amherst, MA 01004

Barbara Three Crow: Wonderful explanation of the Mamos, The Black line and more.

Kogi / Arhuaco The Black Line Sacred Ceremony : Film by: Frank Chavez G.

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Special Announcement

UPDATE: Oct 13-2014 Thank you to everyone who gave donations last month while I was traveling in Colombia. I was literally supported by a small handful of people, one in particular, Sam, made it possible for me to have a safe and supported trip near the end of the journey. Returning on Oct 15th to Canada after which reports will be shared on this website as well as on the great gathering site, along with private reports for everyone who donated. With love and gratitude, Miriam DONATE HERE