1. The Trust: A New Remit
It was decided that a new remit was needed for the Trust. As a small charity we should no longer be engaged in land purchase; other, deeper pockets have been very active. We decided to work alongside others with the same objective.
Jean-Paul Mertinez, our Chairman and Trustees Felicity Nock and Graham Townsley discussed the new remit with the Kogi Mamas themselves in Colombia during the summer. The Kogi asked us to continue our work to make the world more aware of their message and understand it, as the planet is in crisis. It was suggested that as many trustees came from a media background, we had the skills and expertise to concentrate on communication rather than land purchase. Therefore, we could assist the Mamas in spreading their message concerning the health of the environment which was a natural follow on to the 2 films Alan Ereira had made with them.
"We are fighting for understanding of the world to be heard. We know where and how the trees and water and animals all began. The Mamos say everything – fish, plants, animals, water have their place – in contrast the younger brother notices but does not see or respect this natural order, less do they respect other people or themselves."
José de los Santos Sauna, Kogi Cabildo governor, Santa Marta, 2018.
Having accepted the challenge, we also met with with representatives of Tchenduka in Colombia, a French NGO which has been successfully buying back Kogi land and initiating with the Kogi on the ground sustainable ecological development projects. We had already been exploring with Tchendukua ways to engage the Kogi with scientific experts and work to feed their indigenous knowledge into our academies.
The first joint initiative with Tchendukua was a project in Drôme, southern France last September.
2. The Drome project - September 2018
With the financial support of the Trust, Tchendukua arranged for a small group of Kogi Mamas and Sagas to come over from the Sierra to meet with eminent European environmental scientists and take part in a cross diagnosis of the land in the Drôme valley.
Both parties would carry out an independent examination then they would come together to discuss the results. The aim was to find a way of integrating indigenous knowledge with Western science to better understand how to care for the environment physically and if it was damaged anywhere to identify ways to regenerate it, and so develop a code of conduct that could be adopted globally for future land management. We put out an appeal to Trust supporters for funds to invest in this project and as always, we got a most positive response so a big thank you to all of you who donated to make this diagnosis possible!
You can read Alan Ereira’s field diary of the event in our updates section.
3. Follow up Event - November 2018
A follow-up meeting in Lyon was organised by one of the scientific representatives - Patrick Desgorge - an academic philosopher from Lyon and Paris and an ex-civil servant in the Dept. of the Environment in France. He arranged the event in association with the University of Lyon and it was attended by many of the participants in the Drôme diagnosis with the specific purpose of developing spin-off projects.
Some of these projects have been taken up by Tchendukua and they have just sent us an action plan to take these forward.
4. Next Steps - March 2019
Project 1: Helping with Invasive Bees in the Sierra
Mama Shibulata has agreed to start the bee project and introduce it to their community. The work team will have access to the high parts of the Sierra, in the valleys where African, non-native bees are located. The Kogi are concerned about the introduction of African bees which are attacking humans and affecting agriculture. They are beginning to mutate and become accustomed not only to their new habitats, but also to higher and colder areas so need to be eradicated or moved from the area.
Project 2: A Full Translation of the Cross-Diagnosis Dialogues
One problem with dialogue is translation. During the Drôme meeting we relied on ad-hoc two-way translation which was obviously a huge strain on the single Spanish-speaking Kogi present. The recordings and now being carefully translated and analysed in the Sierra in order to establish accurately everything that was said during the 10 days of cross-diagnosis, whether during the field work or the discussions in the conference room.
The Trust is directly supporting Tchenduka with funding for these translations so if you would like to make a donation towards this vital work it’s easy to donate here.
There are three steps planned:
Step 1 / March 2019
Arregocces (the Kogi translator) works on his notes, proofreads and corrects them. He will then provide us with a first complete online document.
Step 2 / May 2019
On the basis of this document, in collaboration with his father, who speaks fluent Spanish, Arregocces will work with Mama Shibulata and Mama Bernardo in order to clarify, complete and develop the points that are unclear or incomplete in the first document. A second online document will be produced.
Step 3 / July 2019
Arregocces will listen to the full audio recordings in order to identify the points which might have been forgotten or insufficiently developed or translated. He will proofread the document. If necessary, a third version of the online document will be drawn up.
The estimated time required is 6 months, with possible delivery of a final document in July 2019. The money needed to complete this project is 3500 euros.
Project 3 Cross Diagnosis in Geneva (2020)
Following the first diagnosis event Tchendukua has received several proposals to repeat the process in other French regions. A proposal from the city of Geneva particularly stands out for the following reasons:
a) The city has a particular and very interesting "geological" history
b) This history seems to have been largely concealed and marginalized
c) Tchendukua has a good network of contacts in the region
d) Geneva is fairly high profile having many international institutions. This will help create publicity for the process which the Mamas and the Cabildo Governor Santos would welcome.
Both Mama Shibulata and Mama Bernardo have agreed in principle to this project provided they are informed in advance so the proposal will now be submitted to the Bureau and Board of Tchendukua in order to take things forward. Should the project be confirmed, Tchendukua say it will be interesting to build on the first collaboration with the Trust and plan this future event together.
5. Committee to streamline Future Collaborative Projects
Tchendukua is also suggesting that given the diverse range of subjects, contacts, processes, issues and the number of people involved not to mention the miles between us, it would be a good idea to set up a committee or alliance of contributing academic organisations and partners to co-ordinate future projects.
This committee could meet twice a year (once in the UK, once in France) and bring together representatives from the organisations involved to:
- coordinate actions
- share information
- make decisions
- pool ideas, technology and skills
- clarify roles and responsibilities
We will keep you informed as this collaboration develops.
6. STOP PRESS: Present threat in the Sierra - March 2019
The political situation has suddenly deteriorated on the Caribbean Coast especially on the North side of the Sierra, where both the Trust and Tchendukua has been working for 30 years. Several social leaders and an employee of the Sierra Nevada National Park have been assassinated in broad daylight. José de los Santos Sauna, Kogi Cabildo governor, has been directly threatened, which has led him to withdraw to high-altitude villages for protection.
The Colombian political situation has not helped, as the peace treaty with FARC has been repudiated. The return of armed paramilitary groups makes the region once again unsafe. Two field workers were directly threatened leading Tchendukua to suspend their field missions in the northern Sierra to focus on the South.
There has also been a major fire in two villages near the peaks, with the total destruction of homes, traditional and household materials and crops. We are responding to an emergency appeal for help. We are checking more details about what has happened and will post more information as soon as possible.
The Mayor of Santa Marta is deeply concerned by the worsening situation and has appealed directly to the Ministry of Interior to deal with this worrying increase in violence. We will keep you updated.
Again if you would like to help by making a donation please click here.
7. Nature Walks
We had an excellent response to our nature walks request, which was intended to encourage supporters of the Trust to get outdoors with friends for a walk in nature to help raise funds to bring the Kogi Mamas to France.
One of our supporters Petra Gomersall invited friends to walk with her barefoot on her birthday in support of the Kogi. She says ‘the Kogi walk barefoot everywhere and that’s what inspired me.' They did a small walk through the park behind her house. The ground was still warm and soft and people were surprised how comfortable and refreshing it can be walking without shoes! Her objective was for everyone to step into a connection with the earth, feel the grass between their toes and come to their senses in their bodies.
She said 'We live such busy lives and often forget even to take a proper breath. Raising awareness of our bodies leads to more awareness of our surroundings and of nature in general. My son said it was a birthday to remember! I received a cake shaped like Sierra Nevada and so many lovely messages afterwards and donations instead of presents which was brilliant because I really don’t need any more stuff. We raised around £250 and over 20 people took part. Fantastic result!’
Thanks to everyone who walked for nature. We plan on organising this again later in 2019!
Would you like to organise your own nature walk? Message us to find out more
8. Planned Events 2019
Each year the Trust likes to work on a new project. Since we began working more closely with Tchenduka we visited Arles in the South of France to view a photo exhibition showing indigenous Kogi life in the Sierra. This year we are beginning work on bringing that exhibition of photographs to the UK as a way to continue to share the extraordinary lives and message of the Kogi Mamas. If you are interested in that project please do get in touch with us or donate below.
The photographs will be accompanied by a talk from our founder, Alan Ereira, who directed the two Kogi films. We will keep you informed as this idea develops and let you know about venue and tickets.
That's all for now.
Thank you for all your support and please do keep in touch.
The Tairona Heritage Trust