A Report by Farrah Garan
December 27, 2017
The participants in the December 2016 Colombian Journey, led by Daniel Koupermann and John Perkins, collectively raised $9515 USD to support the Kogi indigenous people. The primary goal for these funds was to purchase land for the community of Tayku.
I (Farrah) was the only representative from our group able to return to Colombia to oversee the distribution of our funds and participate in the pilgrimage with the Kogi. Daniel arranged the logistics for the pilgrimage, caring for all the details of transportation, accommodations and meals. Our friend and local guide Jaruen also played an important role, coordinating directly with the Kogi to prepare the paperwork and make arrangements for gathering the Kogis for the pilgrimage.
PURCHASING LAND FOR TAYKU VILLAGE
On December 13, 2017 the four joint owners of the land and a representative of the Kogi community, Juan, met at the notary office in Santa Marta, Colombia to transfer the deed of ownership to the Kogis. Daniel, Jaruen and I were also there.
Two plots of land were purchased using the money raised by the 2016 group. One plot will be used primarily for agriculture. The second plot of land sits at the base of a hill that is sacred to the Kogi community. The Kogis will use this land to gather materials to build a ceremonial structure on the hill, and also as a buffer so that no other construction can compromise this sacred area.
Our funds enabled the Kogi to acquire 19.77 acres of land in total (8 hectares).
KOGI PILGRIMAGE TO SACRED SITES
According to tradition, it is important for every Kogi Mamo—trained spiritual leader—to do ceremonies at particular sacred sites a certain number of times in their lives. Unfortunately, in these modern times, it has become very difficult for the Mamos to fulfill this obligation.
The Kogis expressed that they would like to enable the Mamos of several communities to visit these sacred sites. With our financial support, ten Mamos were able to embark on this pilgrimage. The Mamos were of various ages, from late 20’s to 60’s.
On December 14, 2017, the Kogi pilgrimage began. We rented a large van to transport the Kogis and another Jeep to transport the organizers, as well as drivers for each vehicle.
The first sacred site was on the northern coast of Colombia in the city of Riohacha. We parked the cars and crossed the street to walk towards the mouth of a river. To reach it, we walked through a homeless camp with trash strewn all over the ground. We gathered together under a bridge to do the first Pagamento (payment). It seemed an ironic place to begin this pilgrimage to sacred sites, and yet it was rich with meaning. For me, it was a reminder that sacredness is all around us, even in the most unlikely places, and that the beauty of this earth always remains, despite the degradation imposed by modern society.
Mamo Manuel (maybe some of you remember him from our visit to Tayku?) passed out small, woven cotton pouches to each person. Inside the pouch were several balls of cotton. Holding the pouch in our right hand, we put our thoughts and intentions into it. After a few minutes, we removed half of the cotton and passed both the pouch and the cotton back to Manuel. He then released the cotton into the river, completing the transfer of material from the mountains to the sea, as well as the release of our thoughts. To close the ceremony, we spun in a complete circle first to the left, and then to the right.
This Pagamento ceremony was repeated at each of the nine sites we visited together. Despite its simplicity, the Pagamento, or Payment, is a powerful transfer of energy, intention and appreciation. Through the ceremony we acknowledge our gratitude for the earth and all she provides for us, offering a reciprocal payment in the form of our focused thought and the material released at the site.
Subsequent sacred sites included the mouth of the river at Dibulla, large “Guardian” rocks on the beach in Tayrona, the stone of Duanama (or creation stone), Bahia Gayraca, the mouth of the Gaira River, and the hot springs at Volcan.
At the Gaira River, the Kogis looked in silence at the several cranes and machinery above us on the hill. A large building was actively being constructed, despite the Kogis having won an order in court to halt the construction. It is being built directly on what they call “Father Lightning” or Jate Matuna. The Kogis are deeply concerned that the disrespect with which the builders are treating nature will ultimately harm the site and that it is not safe. So far, the builders are not heeding the warning.
The Kogis are deeply committed to continue to honor the earth and all its inhabitants. They live lightly and make offerings to help heal her of the damage being inflicted. The Kogis carry their message to us, the Younger Brothers, through their actions, their example and their relationship to nature.
On the final day, each of the Mamos were presented with a gift, which was chosen by Juan. The gift included white cloth for new clothing, white thread, panela (sugar cane), salt, oil, rice and batteries. They also received a large quantity of shells, which were collected by the Wayuu tribe on the coast. The shells are ground up and used in the poporos (the special gourds that the Mamos carry and work with meditatively).
In our closing circle, the Kogi expressed their appreciation for being able to participate in this pilgrimage. For those that had grown up hearing the stories about these sacred places, it was powerful to finally be in those places, just as their ancestors had been. Several said that they learned a lot through this experience and they are grateful for our generous support. They expressed that this fulfills part of a prophecy that says that the Younger Brothers will support the Elder Brothers in doing their ceremonies and that the Younger Brothers will start to participate with them, side by side.
In closing, one Mamo also said that each of you that contributed your money (which is your energy and your time) were also there with us. When we put our intentions into the cotton, your intentions were there as well. We released all these intentions as an offering to the earth, so that we all may heal.
A Solar Panel for Duanamake
At this point, our fundraising initiative was already a huge success. We purchased land for Tayku. We enabled ten Kogis to do ceremony at their sacred sites on a pilgrimage. But we still had funds left over. Daniel communicated with Juan about what else would be beneficial for the Kogi community. What other projects to do they wish to accomplish?
Juan explained that the village of Duanamake, which we visited last year by 4-wheel drive, wishes to build a school. The school would also be used by the women at night for their crafts. The women are very busy during the day, so it is mainly at night that they have time to weave the bags and make the clothes for the village. Because light is needed for this, a solar panel would be very helpful.
And so we purchased a solar panel and the necessary cables and inverter for it. We rented another jeep and drove it up to the village. It could not be installed at that time, but we are very fortunate that Jaruen has experience with this work and agreed to return a few days later to do the installation. Thank you Jaruen!
The Children of Nueva Venezia
Even after the purchase of the solar panel, $1000 USD remains. This will be the seed money for another beneficial project that is taking shape.
Some of the participants of the 2017 Colombian Journey with Daniel and John are affiliated with a school in Washington state. They expressed that it would be wonderful to facilitate a cultural exchange in which children from the US would visit with Colombian children. Daniel wholeheartedly agreed and already had a particular community in mind—Nueva Venezia.
Nueva Venezia means “New Venice”. We went to visit this community to discuss the possibility of such an exchange next year. It took one hour by boat to reach the community, which is entirely built on the water. Every building is on stilts and city “streets” are traveled by canoe. The young children can be seen kneeling on what looks like large garbage can lids and paddling themselves to school and back. It is a poorer community, and yet the joy and energy of the people and the children there were remarkable.
I can imagine what a life-changing experience the American children would have seeing this other way of living and interacting with these children, so different from them, yet so much the same.
What a beautiful experience this was! I am honored that I was able to play a small role in helping the Kogi community. The help we provided feels real and I believe it will make a difference in their daily lives. I am also so grateful that I was able to participate in these ceremonies and experience the message of the Kogi’s.
And I wish to express a deep, heartfelt gratitude for Daniel Koupermann. He is the bridge that enabled these projects to manifest. He was the foundation that this could be built upon. Without him, none of this would have been possible.