La fondation pro herencia Tairona (The Tairona Heritage Trust)
The Trust was established by Alan Ereira in 1990 under Colombian law,
in order to give the indigenous people of the Sierra the opportunity
to benefit directly from world-wide interest in them, arising from his
film From the Heart Of the World: The Elder Brothers' Warning and
book, The Heart of the World.
'Tairona' is a generic term for the civilization which occupied the
Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia, at the start of the sixteenth
century. Unusually, this civilization survived the initial contact with
Spanish settlers, and did not experience a shattering military defeat
That event produced a massive flight of refugees into less accessible
areas of the mountain. Here the Tairona priests were able to construct
an ordered society along traditional lines, devoted primarily to caring
for the fertility and health of the Sierra, which they regard as the "Heart
of the World". The descendants of the Tairona still live there, regarding
the rest of humanity as their "Younger Brothers".
Of the three surviving indigenous groups in the Sierra, Kogi, Arhuaco
(or Ika) and Asario (or Sanka), the Kogi are the least acculturated.
They have maintained the purity of their religion, culture, political
structures and pattern of life to a degree unequalled in any other known
indigenous group in the Americas. They have done this by rigidly excluding
external influence and artifacts as far as possible and practical. The
priests ("Mamas") have complete control of the daily life of the people.
In recent years, the Kogi have suffered encroachment from Colombian
peasant farmers, who have deforested the lower slopes of their region
and cut them off from the sea at the mountain's foot. They need that
access in order to obtain fish as protein, and shells to make lime for
their ritual gourds (poporos). As the peasant farmers pushed higher,
the Kogi were also being excluded from regions of the mountain which
produce the staples of their existence, such as cotton and plantains.
At the same time, the Kogi have observed significant ecological changes,
such as the rapid melting of snowfields and glaciers on the peaks, and
declining water tables.
They associate these changes with the final stages of colonisation -
the occupation of "The Heart of the World" by the Younger Brother, the
total despoliation of the earth by deforestation, mining and drilling,
and the destruction and theft of Tairona artifacts in ancient cities
and burial sites. These artifacts, combined with the Mamas' metaphysical work in the spirit world of "aluna", are believed by the Kogi to be essential in maintaining the harmony and balance of life.
The Kogi not only represent a unique survival from pre-Colombian America,
but, as a society whose ethical values are drawn from ecological concerns,
have much to teach us at a time when we are becoming aware that the balance
of life cn earth may indeed be in danger from our civilization. The Mamas
are people of profound traditional learning, who value contemplation,
meditation and clear thinking, whose religious thought is highly developed
and sophisticated. This too is unusual in a political leadership.
The film and book were projects arising from the Mamas' desire to warn
the Younger Brother that, if he does not behave more responsibly towards
the world, all life is urgently threatened. Part of any profits made
by the film and book go to the Trust.
The Trust has three objectives a). The purchase of ancestral lands.
b). The support of medical projects requested by the people of the Sierra.
c). The stabilization of the frontier between the indigenous people of
the Sierra and the outside world.
All the Trustees are indigenous people of the Sierra, except for one
(Alec Bright, an Englishman living in Bogota) who is a member of the
Banco de la Republica. The projects they support are nominated to the
Trust by Gonavindua Tairona, a legal body representing the Mamas, which
is recognised under Colombian law.
Donations to the Trust may be made C/o Alan Ereira, 90 Summerlee Avenue,
London N2 9QH, England.
Find out more about the Kogi
and the Tairona Trust.