The discovery and rescue of four young Indigenous children, 40 days after the aircraft they were travelling in crashed in the remote Colombian rainforest, was hailed in the international press as a “miracle in the jungle”. But as an anthropologist who has spent more than a year living among the Andoque people in the region, conducting ethnographic fieldwork, I cannot simply label this as a miraculous event.
At least, not a miracle in the conventional sense of the word. Rather, the survival and discovery of these children can be attributed to the profound knowledge of the intricate forest and the adaptive skills passed down through generations by Indigenous people.
During the search for the children, I was in contact with Raquel Andoque, an elder maloquera (owner of a ceremonial longhouse), the sister of the children’s great-grandmother. She repeatedly expressed her unwavering belief the children would be found alive, citing the autonomy, astuteness and physical resilience of children in the region.
Even before starting elementary school, children in this area accompany their parents and elder relatives in various activities such as gardening, fishing, navigating rivers, hunting and gathering honey and wild fruits. In this way the children acquire practical skills and knowledge, such as those demonstrated by Lesly, Soleiny, Tien and Cristin during…