Sumac Kawsay (Kichwa)

Sumac Kawsay is a way of life of Andean tribes and stands for the importance of sustaining reciprocal relationships between all living beings. It can be translated as “good life”  and describes a nature-focused worldview, community, an economy based on solidarity, and ancestral knowledge. In his interview Kurikindi described the concept to me as “to live in harmony with everything around you.” It expresses itself in their lifestyle in that they live a “simple life” and only take what they need. For example they rotate the location where they take something from the forest to ensure equilibrium. They ask Pachamama (universal mother) before they take something. “The relationship with nature is very authentic, very real. That relationship, that friendship with nature is like….when we talk about the forest, monkeys and lakes it’s all alive. We are part of this nature…if we cut some branches it’s like cutting our arm… this is our relationship with nature.” In their traditions dancing and singing is part of enjoying their relationship with nature.

Sumac Kawsay was integrated into the preamble of the Ecuadorian constitution in 2008:

Preamble of Ecuadorian constitution:
“We women and men, the sovereign people of Ecuador
RECOGNIZING our age-old roots, wrought by women and men from various peoples,
CELEBRATING nature, the Pacha Mama (Mother Earth), of which we are a part and which is vital to our existence,
INVOKING the name of God and recognizing our diverse forms of religion and spirituality,
CALLING UPON the wisdom of all the cultures that enrich us as a society,
AS HEIRS to social liberation struggles against all forms of domination and colonialism
AND with a profound commitment to the present and to the future,

Hereby decide to build
A new form of public coexistence, in diversity and in harmony with nature, to achieve the good way of living, the sumak kawsay; A society that respects, in all its dimensions, the dignity of individuals and community groups ….”

Kurikindi doesn’t blame people for their unsustainable lifestyles. “People lost their connection to nature little by little.”…”We are an evolution but we need to know how to cross the evolution.” He refers to the use of technology and the importance of considering the application and use of it.

He also emphasised the urgency of action. “Pachamama is shouting: What is happening with you children?” “We need to wake up and understand how to live with respect for nature….to maintain the harmony.”


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