Indigenous adults who joined Colombian troops in the search efforts aided the four lost children in the Colombian Amazon to survive for 40 days by relying on their knowledge of edible seeds, roots, and plants, which had been instilled in them from a young age.
According to the National Organization of Indigenous Peoples of Colombia (OPIAC), the children’s survival in the Colombian Amazon for 40 days serves as a testament to the profound connection and understanding they develop with the natural environment, starting from their mother’s womb.
Tragically, the children found themselves in this dire situation after a small plane crash on May 1 claimed the lives of their mother, the pilot, and another adult. However, the family held onto hope, relying on the children’s familiarity with the jungle to help them endure.
During their ordeal, the children, referred to as the “children of the bush” by their grandfather, sustained themselves by consuming yucca flour from the plane and by scavenging from relief packages dropped by search helicopters. They also foraged for edible seeds, fruits, roots, and plants, utilizing the knowledge passed down to them through their upbringing in the Amazon region.
Luis Acosta of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), who participated in the search operation, emphasized the children’s resilience and spiritual strength. Indigenous leaders share this perception and have even arranged for a guardian to accompany the children on a spiritual level outside the military hospital where they are receiving medical care.
The search efforts involved a unique collaboration between soldiers and Indigenous trackers, who worked hand in hand for 20 days. President Gustavo Petro hailed this union as a “meeting of Indigenous and military knowledge,” highlighting the respect shown towards the jungle.
Army helicopters broadcasted recordings of the children’s grandmother speaking to them in the Indigenous Huitoto language, urging them to remain in one place until rescuers reached them. Acosta credited President Petro for facilitating the cooperation between soldiers and Indigenous experts, emphasizing that the army alone would not have been able to achieve the same results.
Around 100 soldiers joined forces with over 80 volunteers from Indigenous territories in various departments, collectively forming “Operation Hope.” Despite the challenges posed by armed outlaw groups and strained relations between Indigenous communities and the armed forces in other regions, rescuers in the Guaviare department set aside their differences and collaborated effectively.
Soldiers planned the logistics while native searchers performed rituals to communicate with the jungle spirits, using traditional substances like mambe (a paste made from coca leaf and ash) and chirrinchi (a fermented drink).The searchers employed machetes to clear paths and mark trees with spray paint, using them as a guide.
Indigenous medicinal knowledge played a crucial role in addressing injuries and ailments caused by the difficult jungle conditions, including scratches, splinters, insect bites, exhaustion, and physical pain.
Driven by hope and unwavering spiritual faith in the children’s discovery, the Indigenous people persevered through rain, storms, and challenging circumstances throughout the search. Eventually, an Indigenous tracker located the siblings in an unexplored area, marking the end of their arduous journey.