Indigenous protectors of these sacred peaks have kept others out—till now

The Arhuaco invite National Geographic to the upper reaches of their Colombian homeland to reveal threats we all face—and remind us of our roots in nature.

The Arhuaco, an indigenous group in northern Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta massif, consider their home to be a sacred place that they must protect for the good of all humanity. Here, at nearly 16,000 feet along the shore of glacial Lake Naboba, Amado Villafaña infuses pieces of cotton fiber with reverence on a 12-day pilgrimage. A spiritual elder will deposit the fibers and other sacred materials into the lake as a payment for the life-sustaining functions provided by the natural world.
Photograph by Stephen Ferry, National Geographic

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