"Here we have inherited what our elders left us, our terrain, our traditional medicine, traditional arts, and mother language, in this way what we are looking for is the health from our own knowledge, guided by the work with medicine plants, likewise the health is in the teaching of those in the community who follow the road of our elders."
Juan B. Agreda Chindoy
Kamentsa Yentsang, Kamentsa Biyang: “People from Here with Their Own Thought and Language.”
The Sacred Valley of Sibundoy serves as the ancestral homeland for the Kamentsa Biyang Indigenous People. Nestled in the southeastern Andes of Colombia, within the Amazonian Region of the Alto-Putumayo, Sibundoy, known as Tabanok in the Kamentsa language, embodies a special blend of natural beauty and cultural significance. The high mountains enveloping the valley play a crucial role as Colombia's most important water source, featuring thousands of water bodies, and is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. Tabanok, Sibundoy Valley, often referred to as the Doorway to the Amazon and the Valley of Shamans, serves as a bridge between ancient traditions and modern life and also connects Andean and Amazonian cultures.
People and Ancestral Medicine
At the heart of the valley resides the Kamentsa Biyan, a community known for their kindness, humility, and strength. They are hard-working, family-oriented, and enjoy celebrating life. Their way of life revolves around an ancestral cosmology deeply rooted in health, harmony with nature, and a sacred reverence for all forms of life.
The Kamentsa Biyan's renown stems from their cherished ancestral medicine ceremonies and traditional wisdom, passed down through generations within their family lineages since time immemorial. Revered as traditional medicine women and men, the Kamentsa possess remarkable healing practices, particularly their work with Yage (ayahuasca). As a result, people from across the globe journey to the valley seeking to participate in and benefit from these ancient healing practices, which have become synonymous with their land. Besides Yage, the Kamentsa also work with 160 other traditional medicinal plants, many of which are unique to their territory, crafting herbal remedy baths and tonics tailored to address individual needs.
Ancestral Art and Chagras
Their artistic talents shine brightly as master artisans, using their craft to weave a rich tapestry of ancient geometry and storytelling, intricately incorporating their cosmology and relationships to the natural world. Mamitas, the women, skillfully create elaborate weavings and vibrant beaded work infused with ancestral geometry, while the Taitas, the men, skillfully produce paintings and sculptural wood carvings, telling tales of their ancestral heritage and medicine visions.
Additionally, the Kamentsa have a long-standing tradition of cultivating food and medicinal plants in their ancestral Chagras. Mamitas have traditionally preserved these practices. Over time, some aspects of this practice were lost due to colonization, but the community has been working diligently to regenerate and preserve this essential aspect of their culture, especially after facing food shortages during the recent pandemic.
Overcoming Colonization and Forgiveness
The Kamentsa's history has been marked by 500 years of colonization. Once secluded in the high mountains surrounding Sibundoy Valley, they eventually reclaimed their ancestral territory 40 years ago. Today, guided by their ancestral medicine and cultural heritage, they are actively restoring health and vitality to their lands and community. An annual Carnival serves as a vibrant celebration where they practice forgiveness towards their past oppressors, an expression of their unyielding cultural identity.
Population and Visions of Health and Beauty
With councils in various municipalities, including Sibundoy, San Francisco, Mocoa, Orito, Villa Garzón, San Miguel, and Bogotá, the Kamentsa People maintain a significant presence in Alto Putumayo. The municipality of Sibundoy houses their primary tribal administrative center, Cabildo de Sibundoy, with a population of 6,029 indigenous Kamentsá, distributed among 1,476 families, constituting 58% of the total Kamentsa population and 42% of the municipality's inhabitants, according to the Cabildo's data from 2014.
Through their resilient spirit and deep-rooted cultural heritage, the Kamentsa Biyang continue to thrive, preserving their traditions and way of life, while forging connections with people worldwide through their sacred practices and artistic brilliance. They carry visions and work towards advancing health and beauty for their children and the future generations of humanity.
Ayahuasca, Yage, is an ancient word in the native language of the Amazon, Quechua, and Kamentsa.
Traces of the use of this tea have been found through geographic and anthropological traces for more than 10,000 years; its initial use was based on the study of the men and women of knowledge of the medicinal plants of the territory for the spiritual, mental, and corporal healing of the community.
This sacred tea is an encyclopedia of knowledge of all the medicinal plants, in this spiritual realm, the women and men of knowledge could find answers to the roots of the diseases and the specific plants to use for healing, as well as the causes of the diseases and the necessary treatments.
Beyond this, this important healing tool of the indigenous leaders of the Amazon, these sacred plants bring the powers of divination, to see in the past and the future as a guide to humanity.
More recent studies have shown how Ayahuasca/Yage has effects on the human psyche, memory records, and the reconnection of brain synergies, curing mental illnesses and bringing clear instructions for better living.
In these modern times, we have seen how these medicinal plants are all allies of humanity, bringing a clear guide to all in a process of spiritual evolution.
The Ancestral Kamentsa Biyan people have worked with Yage(ayahuasca) for thousands of years.
With the knowledge of the plant spirits, we experience the interconnectedness and interdependence of all life as a sacred vehicle with the potential to lead us toward living a life of beauty.
Walking this path takes courage. It's a holistic spiritual learning that enables us to heal our minds, bodies, and spirits. When we listen and do the work to balance these different aspects of ourselves, life can become like a dance. When we know how to live our lives in a good way life is beautiful.
When we commune with the sacred plants, we learn about life:
What helps us to grow, and what doesn't serve us.
How we can heal and become more connected to ourselves and our environment.
Commune and learn from the indigenous perspectives of life and healing.
Connecting to ourselves and the present moment.
Finding our internal power.
Work on limiting beliefs and healing traumatic incidents.
Learn techniques and ways to live a better life.
Practice the importance of daily rituals.
Kamentsa Yentsang, Kamentsa Biyang: “People from here with their own thought and language”
Mountains, rivers, valleys, and biodiversity — what Western observers consider natural resources — all have their own spiritual significance. But for the Kamëntšá, Tabanók, as they know their place of origin, has its own spiritual meaning, and each of these elements and actors has a specific and symbiotic function in the territory.
Taita Juan Bautista Agreda Chindoy is a Kametsa indigenous, a traditional healer from the Sibundoy Valley, in the Alto Putumayo of Colombia. He is the son of Taita Martín Agreda, a man of knowledge of the Kamentsa tribe and comes from a recognized family of traditional yageceros.
Taita Juan is a well-established leader in his community and has more than 40 years of experience working with Amazonian medicine, including yagé (Ayahuasca) and other plants. He has been recognized by the Minister of Health in Colombia as a traditional healer and in recent years he has traveled to various countries to share his knowledge and treat patients with different diseases.
"I belong to the Kamëntšá community of Sibundoy Putumayo, Colombia. I started my journey on this path from the time I was child, learnings the traditional medicine inherited by my father Taita Martin Agreda."
Teacher and Leader
Kamëntšá Biyá Projects
Medicinal Plant Garden and Medicine making
In the healing center, we have been work on a project for planting and conservation of endemic medicinal plants, from the indigenous Kamentsa community, which for year, Taita Juan has been collecting and conserving important plants and knowledge of the healing properties, and transformation of these plants, ways of using them, chemical properties and remedy making so that more people can benefit from these
Support and conservation of traditional arts
The Kamentsa community is in its great expression a community of artists; carvers, weavers, painters and craftsmen with millenary techniques that have been passed down for generations by oral tradition, which have suffered the colonial system and have lost strength. With this project we seek to support and strengthen artisans so that the work and the passing of these traditions to the new generations continue., through the teaching of the arts to the children of the community.
Seeds of Life
project led by Taita Juan, for the cultivation and harvesting of vegetables from the Kamentsa territory for the environmental education of children and young people, on the importance of organic production, native seeds and the production of organic fertilizers and herbicides.
we have already planted over 1000 crops that have been shared with the community and hope to continue this effort for the resilience and sovereignty of the Kamentsa Nation.
The children represent the seeds that we are planting on the earth, it is of great importance in the growth process to share the traditional ways of Good Living, in the Shanayoy Multicultural School we share the experiential experiences of ancestral traditions, music, art, culture and the traditional language Kamentsa, for young children to learn more about the culture and continue the legacy of this ancient tradition.
Project, Abuelo Kamentsa. This project seeks international support for the Elders of the Kamentsa Biyan reservation, 12 Elders live in conditions of great poverty, alone, with nutritional deficiencies and houses in poor conditions, which maintain general health problems. With this project we seek to help these Elders to have a decent home and to plant their chagra (food groeth), in an effort to have a more dignified life.
The Ancient Weaving School
Training, rescue and community strengthening project in the ancestral techniques of wool weaving, for the elaboration of traditional products of cultural identity and diversification of the supply of products as a contribution to the economic strengthening of the Kamentsa Biyan indigenous community of the municipality of Sibundoy, Putumayo , Colombia.
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