Last autumn, a delegation from the Kogi people travelled from Colombia to the Rhône River to put a new environmental cooperation project into practice. The aim was to assess the health of the Rhône and draw up an unprecedented inventory of the river.

Kogis et fleuve Rhone

The Kogi, an age-old indigenous people

The mysterious Kogi people have recently forged surprising links with the Rhône. Although geographically distant, these people and the Rhône are in fact closely interconnected in their quest to preserve the environment and ensure a sustainable future for our planet.

Originating in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia and descended from the Tayronas Amerindian group, the Kogis are an indigenous people whose culture and traditions date back over a thousand years. Their unique relationship with nature has enabled them to develop an in-depth knowledge of the environment and conservation techniques. Their spiritual beliefs place great importance on respect and balance between all the elements that make up‘Mother Earth‘.

For the Kogi, the earth is a living being and humans are its children. They believe that rivers are the veins that irrigate the Earth’s body and that they play an essential role in its balance.

The knowledge of this people, particularly in terms of the environment, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Rhône river tour

Initiated and coordinated by the Tchendukua association, the encounter between the Kogi and the Rhône river began in 2009 with the geographer Eric Julien. This organisation supports Colombia’s indigenous peoples in protecting and promoting their ancestral territories, with the support of the French Embassy andUNESCO.

Working in partnership with local players such as theINSA (Institut National des Sciences Appliquées*), the association aims to facilitate dialogue between two worlds and look forward to the future with joy by observing nature in a different way, as a whole.

The Kogi representatives travelled to the confluence of the Rhône and Ain rivers, which they call Munkulaxka, the “place that must be allowed to grow”.

  • Cross diagnosis, video presentation:

The Kogi diagnosis

The aim of this project is to share their knowledge of natural environments in order to establish a diagnosis of the river’s health.
The Kogi used their traditional knowledge to observe the Rhône and its environment. They observed the quality of the water, the presence of pollution and the state of the riverbanks, taking a global view that included climate change.

The methods used by these people to assess the health of the Rhône are based on ancestral techniques passed down from generation to generation. By combining observation and intuition, the Mámas Kogi, or wise men in other words, have been able to draw up an unprecedented inventory.
Their diagnosis highlights the impact of modern human activities on the river and underlines the urgent need to take action to preserve this sensitive ecosystem.

At the end of their visit, they concluded that the Rhône is a sick river. They found that the water is polluted, the riverbanks have been damaged and biodiversity is in danger. They stressed the urgent need to take action to preserve this sensitive ecosystem of rivers, both here and around the world.

Far from being content with simply making observations, the Kogis are sharing their knowledge and experience of environmental conservation with local French players. Their lessons are invaluable in understanding how to effectively protect watersheds and the biodiversity that surrounds them.

They have also proposed the creation of an international network of indigenous peoples to protect the world’s watercourses.

By building on this intercultural dialogue, the initiatives carried out jointly make it possible to combine traditional indigenous approaches with contemporary scientific solutions to tackle the environmental challenges we face together.

Kogi people
Kogi people / source: Wikimedia

In connection with the Rhône river

  • INSA welcomes the Amerindian people to Lyon 
  • The Amerindian people, Wikipedia
  • “C’est la montagne qui décide”, France3 
  • Diagnosis in the Diois 
  • About the Rhône river