Updated: Oct 24
"We aren't separate from our planet: what happens to our planet, happens to us. What we do to ourselves, we do to our planet." ~ T. Hübl.
Greetings from Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, in Colombia; an isolated mountain range in northern Colombia, separate from the Andes range that runs through the north of the country, where the wisdom of Nature and indigenous people converge.
One of my dreams since 2017, while I was studying to become a Ñusta initiated in the Q'ero tradition in Peru, was to be able to meet and learn from the Kogi tribe in Colombia. I had seen the movie "ALUNA" and interviewed Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo on my radio show Amancece , who had afterwards suggested I visit them.
Back then, I had no idea that through deeper listening, I would end up embarking on an independent research about Individual, Ancestral, and Collective Trauma, their relation with mental health and chronic illness, and that it would result in my own Trauma Healing approach, which includes the environment... as we follow our path, our path reveals to us.
Three months ago, my "little brother in arms", Daniel, called me with exciting news: he had been learning from a Kogi tribe last year and was planning to travel back in September to learn from them as part of his thesis in Medical Anthropology in Israel. I was welcome to join him if I wanted to. He would also stop in Peru to visit our Q'ero family in Cusco, I was welcome to join him there too. I hung up the call beaming with joy: dreams do come true.
In the following two months, I planned and organized everything to make sure I would be able to travel and learn for 2 weeks with the Q'ero and 6 weeks with the Kogi, while consistently offering online support to those of you working with me in your Trauma Healing Journey.
If you haven't yet read my previous blog post, you may want to do so before you continue reading:
Indigenous people in Colombia have inhabited the country since before the European colonization in the early 16th century; some say to date they comprise 10% of the total population, including ethnic groups called Arhuaco, Kuankuamo, Wiwa, and Kogi –I know this because Daniel's trip not only included visits to Kogi tribes, but also visits to IPS (hospitals offering western medical services to indigenous tribes) which are financed by EPS (government entities that promote health in Colombia), where he led some interviews and allowed me to tag along to listen and learn.
As I was telling you in my previous blog post, one of the main issues we speak about in Collective Trauma, is the disconnection from Nature, which is considered a fundamental developmental trauma, one I call "Primal Trauma", because we experience it both as individuals and as a collective.
Trauma, in this context, is not an isolated event. Rather, it spans centuries, starting with distant trauma experienced by ancestors and its collective impact, accumulating to the experiences of individuals today. It is a tragic inheritance and its cyclical nature shows how Ancestral Trauma includes the disastrous results of racism and colonialism present today, escalating to genocide and its devastating effects on individuals who have lived through it and their descendants.
I use the term "genocide" here, considering the traditional concept formulated by R. Lemkin as a result of the expansion of various Western European colonial powers –such as the British and Spanish empires– and the subsequent establishment of colonies on indigenous groups in the Americas, Australia, Africa, and Asia. For Lemkin, colonization was in itself "intrinsically genocidal" in its two-stage process: first, the destruction of the indigenous population's way of life; second, the way of life imposed on them.
Also, according to the European University Institute, cultural genocide is "the systematic destruction of traditions, values, language, and other elements that make one group of people distinct from another." (Novic, 1970).
Indigenous people across the world, and especially in the Americas, have experienced both traditional and cultural genocide, for centuries. For countless generations, they have had to deal with the attempted eradication of their culture, their traditions... what makes them unique has been threatened and abused.
When I think of this, it doesn't come as a surprise to me that indigenous tribes in North America are currently dealing with psychological issues like unintegrated grief, depression, and substance abuse –I know this because of a conversation I had last year with a member of the Hopi tribe in Arizona.
Much to my dismay, this seems to be happening also with the Kogi tribes we visited.
By listening to one of their Mamos –similar to P'aqos in Q'ero tribes, whose path start in their mother's womb– speak, I understood indigenous tribes like Kogi not only carry the weight of ancestors' trauma of what happened in the past, but also the ongoing trauma of what they are currently coping with, as nearby farmers take their sacred lands where they offer their "pagamento" ceremonies and keep the balance in Nature.
Daniel also explained to me that lately, drug traffickers are tricking them into loosing their sacred lands and are threatening them with killing their family members if they don't cooperate.
Coca is a sacred plant for Kogi –same as for Q'ero–, not meant for drug trafficking. They consume it with powdered lime they extract from burnt sea shells, by using a crafted element called "poporo". The poporo is a symbol of manhood, it is regarded by Kogi men as a companion, in the same way a woman would be, an element where they can deposit their thoughts in an act similar to conscious meditation. The act of initiation in poporo usage is carefully supervised by a Mamo.
Kogi live in a very simple, authentic, peaceful way, respecting their interconnection with Nature. They are Earth Keepers that have been in charge of their land in the mountains since pre-Columbian time. They believe everything in Nature has a "mother" and a "father", spirits that inhabit their land, making it sacred. The Mamo is their spiritual leader, one who teaches, leads, and practices traditional medicine, he who resembles the sun, and decides what is best for each person in the tribe. The Mamo holds a sacred pagamento ceremony for all their rites of passage, like baptism, pregnancy, etc., and when someone is sick. Also, when someone in the tribe has "hurt or saddened the Mother" with misconduct, they hold pagamento on their behalf to restore the balance in Nature and in their tribal society. As part of their lifestyle, they take care of plants and animals in Nature, including those who are most sacred to them like the jaguar, the monkey, and the condor. They believe they have the right to own their land not only because they have inherited it from their ancestors, but because they know how to respect and take care of it.
I am very thankful to Daniel and the Kogi families who allowed us in, including the loving, wise Mamo who took the time to sit and talk to us. I would like to share some of his words with you:
"If the Mother is sick, we are all sick. We want our territory back because it has sacred places, places we know, where we do spiritual work, where animals and plants are born, we don't take the minerals out of from it, we know how to take proper care of it...". ~ Mamo Luntano.
That concept of being interdependent, a living part of Nature, is something Western culture has forgotten and is very much needed in so many levels. I believe this awareness is an important part of our heritage as human beings who are here to assist as part of an interconnected ecosystem. Much of our sense of separateness and chronic ailments result from this "Primal Trauma", the disconnection of our nervous system with its prime regulator, our common mother: Nature.
We were just starting our path with the Kogi when I felt the need to go back to Lima to work on my Emergency Pedagogy thesis and subsequent supervision as part of the certification process –I have been studying Emergency Pedagogy since 2018, a Waldorf approach to work with children victims of natural disasters and armed conflicts in alleviating the consequences of traumatic experiences.
In the afternoon, Daniel came back in shock: the terrorist group Hamas had invaded his home country Israel. That day, thousands of rockets and more than 1000 armed gunmen killed 1,400 Israelis and took more than 200 hostages including civilians, children, and the elderly, in the worst massacre of Jews since the holocaust.
In total confusion, overwhelmed by emotions, my heart sank... I can now think of a hundred things I could have said to him, but in that moment I couldn't utter a word, such was my shock and grief. As I heard him speak, a word was engraved in my mind: genocide.
We decided to end our journey and go back to what life was requesting of each of us. Daniel politely explained to the Mamo what was happening, who tied "aseguranzas" on our wrists, a crafted bracelet made with two threads spun by women from a natural fiber and tied with two knots to convey protection, while I silently prayed for his safety and spiritual growth.
There are no pictures of us with the Kogi to share with you. Nor have I a picture of the beautiful rainbow that greeted us in one of the tribes, showing us its full spectrum of colors. I guess some memories are meant to be kept in our hearts.
I left with a renewed commitment to focus on my Trauma Healing work: because I can see the patterns delving beneath it all, I feel it is my responsibility to do something about it. Because I've spent years learning how to regulate my nervous system, I can create a safe place to support you in being present and co-regulating, in seeing the function in the dysfunction, in integrating the fragmentation during your Trauma Healing Journey. Because I know Nature is not around us, but in us, I can guide you while you reconnect your-Self with Nature (it feels like plugging your mobile phone to a charger), while you embody all that you are, so you can do what you came here to do to the best of your abilities.
We all need you. As you heal separation within, you heal separation around you. I will be here for you when you are ready.
May you feel loved and safe today,
~ L, x