The Elder’s Project


The mission of the The Elder’s Project (TEP) is to work with and provide assistance and support to the traditional authorities (Mamos) of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia for projects aimed at strengthening their traditional practices. TEP will provide this assistance primarily through funding those projects the Mamos deem necessary for the protection and preservation of their culture and their ancestral lands in accordance with the “Law of Origin” of their ancestors.


TEP is now accepting tax-deductible donations through EarthAction, an educational and charitable organization with 501(c)(3) tax status. Donations to “The Elders Project” from US citizens are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law.

Checks payable to “The Elders Project” may be sent to:

EarthAction /The Elders Project
PO Box 63, Amherst, MA 01004


December 2014 Black Line Journey


Dear Friends and Supporters of The Elders Project,

Greetings! We send our very best wishes to you this holiday season and for the coming year. We would
also like to take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude to all of you, for your generous support of
the Kogui, Wiwa and Arhuaco elders of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (SNSM), Colombia. Your
continued participation is needed and greatly appreciated as our work continues.

2014 has been a very productive year for The Elders Project (TEP). We completed our 4th Black Line
Journey in February and are planning a 5th journey to take place in February of 2015. These annual
sacred pilgrimages have served to build a solid foundation for the unification of the Arhuaco, Wiwa and
Kogui Mamos around the traditional practices that have defined these pueblos as caretakers of “The Heart
of the World” for thousands of years.

When TEP was formed to assist the elders in 2009, there were only a few hundred indigenous people
supporting the spiritual work of the Mamos. Today there are over 5,000 people in the pueblos helping with
this work. As these numbers have increased, the appreciation for TEP has grown exponentially. The
Elders and communities increasingly express their deep trust and gratitude for the value of our presence
and support.

Given that the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta has been under siege from western incursion for some time
now, it is crucial that the communities mount a strong unified spiritual defense of their homelands. Not
doing so would in essence spell their extinction as original pueblos (in Colombian constitutional “legal”
terms), and give the Colombian government and developers greater access to the vast array of riches
within the SNSM. The fact that these pueblos have passively resisted the countless atrocities inflicted
upon them over the past 500 years in order to protect and defend the rich expression of life of our Mother
Earth, makes them most worthy of our support.

I thank you on behalf of the elders of “The Heart of The World” for your continued interest and financial
support for this essential work. (Your donations to TEP are tax deductable)

Rick Harlow
TEP Director

Make your check payable to: “The Elders Project” and send it to:
Earth Action, attn: The Elders Project,
P.O. Box 63,
Amherst, MA 01004

Click to see full report

2010 Black Line Journey

Rick Harlow and the other members of the Elders Project first embarked on the first Black Line Journey on January 15, 2010. Below is a report written by Rick, also available on the EarthAction website. Download the report as a PDF.

The Elders Project Report, Jan 2010
January 2010 Report PDF

History of The Elder’s Project

The Beginning

The Elders Project (TEP) was born out of a series of meetings between the Mamos, or elders, of the Kogui, Arhuaco and Wiwa peoples, Barbara Threecrow and Rick Harlow, which took place during the gathering of indigenous leaders in Pasto, Colombia in August of 2009.

Meeting with the mamos

Meeting with the mamos Rick Harlow and Barbara Threecrow meet with the mamos. August 2009

Rick Harlow and Barbara Threecrow meet with the mamos. August 2009.

“During the nine days in Pasto we listened to the elders expressing their desire to find funding for projects that would strengthen their traditions and support their spiritual work as “caretakers of the water and the life of the planet”. We expressed a desire to help and entered into an agreement with them; from this “The Elders Project” emerged. We all agreed that the most urgent of these projects was to help Mamo Sewkukuy (Norberto Torres) realize the [Black Line] journey, which is detailed below.”

The excerpt above comes from a letter by Rick Harlow and Grandmother Barbara Threecrow written at the project’s inception. The letter also gives an overview of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the spiritual traditions of the Mamos, and stresses the importance of realizing the Black Line Journey for Grand Mamo Sewkukuy (an Arhuaco elder in his 90s). Read the letter below, or download it as a PDF.

About The Elder’s Project and The Black Line

The Elders Project Proposal Letter
The Letter (PDF)

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (SNSM)

Located along the northern coast of Colombia, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the highest coastal mountain range in the world. Twenty four miles from the ocean, snow capped peaks rise up to altitudes approaching 19,000 feet. The mountain range is triangular in shape measuring approximately 100 miles on each side. In this region one can find almost any climate and temperature zone on the planet, from the Caribbean coast in the north, to the arid lands in the west, the dense tropical and cloud forests in the east, ascending to the glaciers of the highest mountain tops at the heart of the Sierra Nevada.

The Black Line

The Black Line forms a virtual triangular line connecting 54 sacred sites around the base of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The line marks the ancestral territorial homelands of the four indigenous groups who live there: the Kogis, Arhuacos, Wiwas and Kankuamos. They call the Sierra Nevada “The Heart of the World.” For millennia it has been the duty of the traditional authorities or “mamos” as they are called, to care for and nurture “The Heart of the World” for the benefit of all life on the planet. It is at the sacred sites along the Black Line where offerings must be made in order to guarantee the flow of spiritual forces between the different sites and the sacred mountaintop ofGonawindua (Mt. Bolivar) and in turn outward to the rest of the world. The mamos see the interrelationships of these sacred sites in the way we might think of acupuncture points on our bodies.

Photos of The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta

The Film

The members of TEP created a film during the Black Line Journey of January 2010, using footage taken at the request of the Mamos. Rick was responsible for editing the video, which is 28 minutes long. It is available on the YouTube channel for the Elders Project in 3 parts. A Spanish version will be available soon.

The Black Line


The Soundtrack: GanyArikies

The Colombian band GanyArikies wrote a song for the film titled “La Linea Negra” (“The Black Line” in Spanish).  Here is the video for “La Linea Negra” featuring footage filmed during the journey.

Below is another video for their song “¿Dónde Están?”, about the “desaparecidos” (the missing) in Colombia.