Emerson Jackson, Dine Tribal Elder,
with Kogis of Northern Colombia
By Louis Mejia
The Kogi know secrets about nature that would make our
scientists rethink their ideas on the environment and the
universe. They have a presence about them that commands
respect. The power of their mind is beyond comprehension.
But few people outside of Colombia know who they are and
what they represent. Why do they call themselves the Elder
Brothers and how can we learn to live in the spiritual world
that this lost tribe lives in?
8 years ago I saw an amazing video called "From the
Heart of the World, The Elder Brothers Warning." It
was about a unique indigenous community that lived in Northern
Colombia who say they are keeping the world in balance.
I was so impressed with these people because they are still
living with the same spiritual values and traditions of
their ancestors. But the ecological warning the Kogi shared
touched a nerve and made me realize they may be right.
Who Are the Kogi?
A Kogi Family
When the Spaniards arrived in Northern Colombia 500 years
ago, the Kogi fled high into the Sierra Nevada de Santa
Marta. They believe the Sierra Nevada to be the "Mother"
and the "Heart of the World." The Sierra Nevada,
in the shape of a pyramid, rises from the sunny coasts of
the Caribbean tropics to the chilly, snow-capped peaks that
reach a height of 17,000 feat above sea level, all in only
30 vertical miles. It is isolated from the Andes range,
but can be viewed spiritually as the crown chakra of the
In 1988 the Kogi allowed a BBC journalist, Alain Ereira
to film a documentary about their culture. This was a historic
event. No western journalists has been allowed to return
since and the Kogi remained silent observing the ecological
destruction of their sacred mountain.
But the Kogi are concerned about what is happening to their
sacred Mountain. They are now ready to share their next
warning and message to the "Younger Brother."
We are the "Younger Brother" who are destroying
the Earth and causing an ecological imbalance that may affect
future generations to come.
The Kogi are the direct descendants of the Tairona civilization.
The Tairona culture flourished in Northern Colombia around
1,000 AD. They left behind stunning gold artwork, stone
and pottery artifacts and an amazing network of brick roads
covering the Sierra Nevada. Kogi society has changed little
in the past five centuries. They survived as a culture because
the Kogi focus all their energy on the life of the mind
as opposed to the life of a body or an individual. Fundamental
to that survival is the maintenance of physical separation
from their world and our own. The Kogi do not allow anyone
into their land. They are very protective of their sacred
space and the dense jungle is not kind to tourists. Very
few Colombians dare enter into their territory.
As of 1997, it is estimated there are 1,600 Kogi's left.
Where do the Kogi live?
Village, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia
The Kogi live in the higher regions of the Sierra Nevada.
Many self-sustaining communities are on the Western part
of the Mountain accessible through Valledupar, which is
located in the State of Cesar. You can also enter Kogi land
via Santa Marta, a coastal city, but it is a little more
difficult. The Sierra Nevada is the highest coastal mountain
in the world only 26 miles from the beach. It is located
near the Equator, which means it has no seasons. Day and
night are of equal length all year round. It has every eco-system
in its 17,000 km2 area (8,000 sq. miles) You can find coral
reefs, mangroves, arid deserts, rain and cloud forest, and
in the higher elevations, plains and snow-capped peaks with
temperatures close to -20 degrees. The highest peak is the
Pico Simon Bolivar at 5,775 mtrs. In 1965, archeologists
found the remains of a lost Tairona religious center and
called it the "Lost City." It is a three-day hike
in dense jungle to witness a true wonder of the past. Rumor
has it there are 2 more lost cities yet to be found.
Why are the Kogi unique?
Dressed for a ceremony.
The Kogi are unique among the world's indigenous cultures
because the Spaniards never conquered them. They are said
to have memory of the beginning of time and remember the
rampage the conquistadors brought to their region in 1498.
The Kogi represent the most complete surviving civilization
of pre-Colombian America. They are not hunter-gatherers
or a wondering tribe; they are a nation whose fields have
been continuously cultivated for more than a thousand years.
The Kogi believe they are the "Elder Brothers,"
the guardians of life on Earth. Through their mind power
and meditation they keep the world in balance. They live
in "Aluna," an inner world of thought and potential.
They are now concerned because their Mountain is dying.
Everything about their history and religion is passed down
through oral instructions and their lives are run by the
spiritual leaders or Shamans named "Mamas." The
Kogi Mamas are chosen from birth and spend the first nine
years of childhood in a cave in total darkness learning
the ancient secrets of the spiritual world or Aluna. They
are the priests and judges who control Kogi society. All
major decisions and shamanic work are done by Divination.
All is the world of Aluna, so the Mamas see a reflection
of the physical world first in the spiritual world. If Aluna
is the Mother, then the Kogi listen to the Mother by divining.
This lost technique of divination is what keeps the Kogi
world in balance and order. The Mamas are worried that the
"Younger Brother" has not heeded the first warning.
If the Sierra Nevada or the Mother dies, the world will
Of unique importance is that the Kogi are a peaceful tribe
that have never killed one of their own and rarely intermarry.
They never grow grey hair and have no facial hair. They
can spend 9 days awake without sleep during their ceremonial
They are now beginning to learn Spanish because they realize
the importance of communicating with the outside world.
They also need to understand the Colombian Government's
laws regarding the Sierra Nevada, which was named a Human
and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1986 and a National Park
by the Colombian Government in 1977.
The Kogi have a lot to teach us. The question is: Are we
ready to listen?