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Sierra Nevada Indians



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Tending the Heritage
Photograph by Stephen Ferry

Frightened away for six months by violence in the area, a Kogi priest, in white pointed hat, returns to his role as spiritual guardian of Teyuna, the remains of a once great Indian city on Colombia's Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta massif. As men weed the terraces, the priest prays to keep the plants from feeling pain. The Kogi, along with the Wiwa and Arhuaco peoples—all descendants of the earlier Tayrona civilization—have made the Sierra Nevada a stronghold of traditional culture, one centered around the ritual leadership of priests. But just as the Spanish conquest razed the cities of the Tayrona civilization some four centuries ago, the region's native peoples now find their villages and lands threatened by outside forces. Left-wing guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries, and government troops have brought Colombia's long-running civil conflict into the Sierra Nevada, occupying indigenous land and even forcibly recruiting Indians to their causes.

Photo Fast Facts

Camera: Canon EOS3
Film Type: Kodachrome 200
Lens: 20-35mm f/2.8
Speed and F-Stop: 1/60 @ f/5.6
Weather Conditions: Clear day
Time of Day: Early morning
Lighting Techniques: Available light


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