How 4 Children Survived 40 Days Eating Seeds & Roots Inside Amazon Forest
Posted By: Shweta Khandal
Posted On: June 11, 2023
Four Indigenous children were lost in the Colombian Amazon for 40 days, but they managed to survive by eating edible seeds, roots, and plants that they were familiar with due to their upbringing. The local Indigenous adults, along with Colombian troops, played a significant role in finding them alive.
According to the National Organization of Indigenous Peoples of Colombia (OPIAC), the children’s survival is a testament to the knowledge and connection with the natural environment that is instilled in them from an early age. The children, who were referred to as the “children of the bush” by their grandfather, survived by consuming yucca flour from the crashed plane and scavenging relief parcels dropped by search helicopters.
Additionally, they relied on their understanding of edible seeds, fruits, roots, and plants that they had learned about growing up in the Amazon region. Luis Acosta from the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) mentioned that the children possessed a “spiritual force” and Indigenous leaders agreed with this perception. They even arranged for a spiritual guardian to accompany the children at the military hospital where they were being treated.
The collaboration between the Indigenous trackers and the soldiers during the search was noteworthy. President Gustavo Petro acknowledged the merging of Indigenous and military knowledge, emphasizing the respect shown for the jungle. Army helicopters played recordings of the children’s grandmother speaking to them in the Indigenous Huitoto language, instructing them to stay in one place until rescuers arrived.
The union of forces involved more than 80 volunteers from Indigenous territories and around 100 soldiers, in an operation named “Operation Hope.” Despite challenges and strained relations between Indigenous communities and the armed forces in other areas of Colombia, rescuers in the Guaviare department set aside their differences to work together.
The search efforts included both practical planning by the soldiers and spiritual rituals conducted by the Indigenous searchers. The Indigenous individuals communicated with jungle “spirits” using traditional substances like mambe (a paste made of coca leaf and ash) and chirrinchi (a fermented drink). They also used machetes to clear paths and marked trees with spray paint to guide the children.
Indigenous medicinal knowledge proved vital in adapting to the harsh jungle conditions and treating injuries and exhaustion. Despite facing rain, storms, and challenging situations, the Indigenous people persevered with hope and spiritual faith in finding the children. Ultimately, the siblings were discovered in an unexplored area by an Indigenous tracker.
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