The life principles of indigenous communities, an alternative for communication


Written by Ronal Cubeo, Climate Change Mitigation Consultant


Out of the issues that trouble us as humanity, the most visible one nowadays is the COVID 19 pandemic. Certainly, the expansion, magnitude, and impact that it has had on countries at different stages of industrial and technological development have created great challenges, perhaps one of the most important being communication.

I was asked to write a short piece on “The importance of communication in the time of COVID” and relate it to the concept of MALOCA. In this sense, it is necessary to specify the concept and meaning of MALOCA in the indigenous populations of the Colombian Amazon. The MALOCA has at least three functions: first, as a physical space where families live; second,  as a vital space for culture and worldview of the indigenous community, it represents par excellence the space for transmission of knowledge through orality —from the origins of each living being, the relationship between man and the creatures around him, as well as the relationship with creative entities who live in other spaces healing rituals and traditional dances are performed in this space—; third, as a political space, it is also a space for discussion on issues that affect the community organization and lifestyle.

Regarding communication, it is worth mentioning that the indigenous peoples of the Amazon, although they present particularities in their worldview, also present common elements. One of them is that in order to communicate among themselves and with others, the first thing that must be done is to “order one’ s thoughts” in order to be able to transmit words that have real content, life content.

How can indigenous communities contribute to communication in the face of the current pandemic crisis? The first thing we should mention is that, in the worldview of indigenous peoples, the land and the living beings and other elements that constitute it are intimately related. In the beginning, when the Creator Being assigned each element a function, it was up to man to “administer” those elements in a harmonious manner in order to maintain the order that was given to him. Diseases are a consequence of the human transgression to those principles: when men look at nature as resources and resources as commodities that can be exploited, this rationality disturbs the indigenous world’s principles of life, and therefore changes are produced, along with its consequences.

In this sense, what indigenous peoples can contribute in terms of communication is linked to life itself, and refers to the principles of life, to retake the channels of communication with nature and other elements that compose it, in a holistic manner and under the principle of responsibility on behalf of the preservation of humanity. This is based on the principle that the earth and its entire composition was given to us by the Creator Being to be “managed” in a responsible manner, without altering its natural cycles.

ALLCOT, which aims to contribute through environmentally responsible projects to the reduction of GHGs, is expected to explore channels of communication with local communities, aware of the challenges involved in carrying out projects with diverse local actors, in a country whose territorial realities make up what Uribe de Hincapié (1999) calls “mixed sovereignty”, that is, the practice of local governance as a confluence of different actors.

Approaching indigenous peoples will allow us to explore other forms of organizations specific to each people, other ways of understanding the world, of understanding nature and, above all, other ways of communicating and relating to the land, to life itself. Understanding the principles of the life of each society is the unavoidable step to assume the challenge of assertive communication.

The invitation is to learn these “other” forms of understanding life, to seek this knowledge in the “other” that will enable spaces for discussion and decision-making regarding the environmental aspects. For indigenous communities, “what is not in the indigenous knowledge is in the other knowledge” (Palma, 2019), the other knowledge is outside the indigenous world, but it is not beyond their understanding, the discoveries should be complementary, not excluded. Exploring and comprehending these “other” ways of understanding life can contribute a great deal to the environmental agenda, national and global.