Ancestral system of knowledge of the four indigenous peoples, Arhuaco, Kankuamo, Kogui and Wiwa of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta


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Inscribed in 2022 (17.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Government of Magdalena, 2021

The Ancestral System of Knowledge of the Arhuaco, Kankuamo, Kogui and Wiwa peoples of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is comprised of sacred mandates that keep the existence of the four peoples in harmony with the physical and spiritual universe. Through many years of dedication, the knowledgeable men (Mamos) and women (Sagas) acquire the necessary skills and sensitivity to communicate with the snow-capped peaks, connect with the knowledge of the rivers and decipher the messages of nature. Based on the Law of Origin, a philosophy that governs human relationships to nature and the universe, the Ancestral System of Knowledge entails caring for sacred sites and partaking in baptism rituals, marriage rites, traditional dances and songs, and retributions or offerings to spiritual powers. This ancestral wisdom is believed to play a fundamental role in protecting the Sierra Nevada ecosystem and avoiding the loss of the cultural identity of the four peoples of the region. The Ancestral System of Knowledge is transmitted from generation to generation through cultural practice, community activities, the use of the indigenous language and the implementation of the sacred mandates. The transmission process includes the understanding of physical and spiritual relationships with Mother Nature and sacred sites.