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Manawa: A Shaman’s Journey to the Big Screen: Our Mission

March 24, 2016

Manawa: A Shaman’s Journey ©:  The Sarayaku Kichwa Indigenous Community (of the Ecuadoran Amazon Rainforest) and Henry S. Cole & Associates, Inc. have joined forces to produce a fictional movie–one that will portray  the struggles of indigenous peoples to protect their their rainforest communities – from the ravages of oil, mining, agri-business and other threats.  We plan to use Sarayaku community members the cast and crew needed to produce the film–with support from supportive professionals in the motion picture industry. 


Eriberto Gualinga, Sarayaku cinematographer

I am working with Eriberto Gualinga on the movie’s screenplay which will incorporate the rich experience of the Sarayaku. Mr. Gualinga has a long record of producing and using documentaries as an effective tool in the in the Sarayaku resistance to big oil backed by the Ecuadoran government. His incredible film  Children of the Jaguar won the Best Documentary  award at the National Geographic All Roads Film Festival in 2012. Despite this victory (2011) and an apology from the government of Ecuador, the government announced in December a grant to a Chinese Oil company to exploit the oil reserves within the territories of the Sarayaku and several other indigenous peoples.

Contact:  Hank Cole at U.S. 301 780 7990,

Woman with sign

We are indigenous women …. who learned in silence and pain to say: No Contamination, No illness, No Oil. 

Clearly there is a story to tell!   In 2002 a group of Sarayaku surrounded a battalion of government troops and managed to seize a number of semi-automatic rifles. Women played a prominent role in disarming the soldiers; they agreed to return the weapons but only to the commander, one weapon at a time, and only after each woman delivered the officer a tongue lashing. It was the Sarayaku women who led the community to adopt the  “no oil, not a drop” position that it’s held ever since. that the Sarayaku community

From the first conflict with oil in the 1990’s to the present, the Sarayaku have come up with ingenious ways to protect their community and the “living forest.” They have developed considerable expertise in using technology (internet, solar energy, and aviation) but without compromising their sacred harmony with nature . Children of the Jaguar depicts the Sarayaku’s successful use of the Inter-American Court on Human Rights to challenge oil development on its territory.

Sarayaku Defense of the  Selva Squadron

The Sarayaku Defense of the Selva Warriors

My trip to the Sarayaku community.  This past February, I spent several weeks with the Sarayaku and I was able to meet with many community members, go deep into the rainforest, experience fishing, farming, and family life and to collaborate with Eriberto. Our project  and partnership received formal approval from the Sarayaku government council.


A Sarayaku mom (Cindy Gualinga) with daughter and niece peeling yucca (manioc) tubers a source of food and chicha, a fermented beverage. Children learn at an early age to contribute to the work of the community/ Photo by Henry S. Cole

Defenders of the Rainforest. While there is general recognition that preservation of the rainforests (the lungs of the earth) is essential in efforts to curb runaway climate change, neither international treaties or reforestation efforts have prevented the rampant destruction of global forests for the extraction of resources. On the other hand, the evidence clearly demonstrates that indigenous peoples are the most effect defenders of rainforests and other ecosystems.

Defenders of the rainforest

This Google Earth Image shows a developing  (light) area (west of the dashed line) and the forested area (solid dark green) including the Sarayaku territory to the east.

Guardians of Humanity:  My experience was beyond anything I had imagined. I began to see that the Sarayaku (and many other indigenous peoples) have a great deal to teach we “the developed world,” the we the “civilized.” Here is a people that with a deep spiritual belief that all life is sacred. Their livelihood depends on a harmonious relationship with nature. If you want to see true democracy in action sit in on a session of the Sarayaku governing council, open to all voices. Here is a people with great love for family and community. The fully understand that “no man is an island.” Children are taught at the earliest age to participate and contribute, to feel like they are part of something much bigger than themselves.

One of the principal goals of our movie is to give people a vision and hope that there is an  alternative to the growing economic, social and environmental dysfunction of our times.

The little girl with Canasta

Her tuber-haul basket is sized just right!

Dugout with youthful fishermen

Sarayaku teens fish for supper

Why Fiction? There are many excellent documentaries on issues related to climate change, sustainability and the the threats to indigenous peoples. Our goal is to bring the film’s messages to bring greater awareness to wider audiences using the elements of drama: suspense, intrigue, shamanism, vision quests, and romance.

The Sarayaku experience and lore provides a stunning set of circumstances for our story–the beauty and perils of the rainforest, anacondas and the jaguars, the battle of the shamans good and evil, passionate love (that may or may not happen),  the oft-veiled but pre-eminent power of women, the mysterious beings of forest and river that demand respect for nature. And there  is the courage of a people who battle the oil companies and their corrupt allies in government. Imagine a scene which re-enacts  how the women (as pictured above) were able to confiscate the automatic rifles from government troops !


Gerardo Gualinga,steadfast father, hunter, and leader revers an enormous tree sacred to the Sarayaku. (Photo by Henry S. Cole)

Manawa’s journey: The personal stories of  Sarayaku leaders also provide the ingredients for the arc of main character. Manawa is the oldest son of the community’s elderly shaman, Don Selvino. The shaman or “yachaq” (Kichwa), trains Manawa for to become a powerful shaman and leader in the battle to protect community. However, Manawa must overcome the temptations that all shamans-to-be must face, a life of lust and power offered by the evil shaman (brujo). But he must take up life in Quito in order to gain political and legal support required to fend off the pending onslaught. The capital city has its own temptations and rampant discrimination against “indios”.  What happens? Stay tuned.

Girl in hut

Final note: Living with Sarayaku families gave me something else: An intangible feeling of well-being that comes from the human heart and draws from the roots of the forest, our own human roots.

Don Sabino w flute

I am sure that my deep encounter with Sarayaku’s beloved Shaman Don Sabino helped me discover this place.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 18, 2018 1:07 pm

    Just thought of 2 friends you might want to look up and meet. Dedicated filmmakers in DC. Check out Feiga’s Choice or My Dear Children. They changed the name to the latter. Helped them fundraise. Good Folks! Dedicated and talented.

    Cliff Hackel LeeAnn Dance.



    On Thu, Mar 24, 2016 at 6:55 PM The Shamans Journey wrote:

    > Henry S. Cole, Ph.D. posted: “Manawa: A Shaman’s Journey: The Sarayaku > Kichwa Indigenous Community and Henry S. Cole & Associates, Inc. > have joined forces to produce a fictional movie–a movie that will > portray the struggles of indigenous peoples to protect their their ra” >

  2. Dorree Lynn permalink
    March 17, 2018 5:53 pm

    WOW!!! Wonderful!!!!

    On Thu, Mar 24, 2016 at 6:55 PM The Shamans Journey wrote:

    > Henry S. Cole, Ph.D. posted: “Manawa: A Shaman’s Journey: The Sarayaku > Kichwa Indigenous Community and Henry S. Cole & Associates, Inc. > have joined forces to produce a fictional movie–a movie that will > portray the struggles of indigenous peoples to protect their their ra” >

  3. chanachaim permalink
    March 31, 2016 9:13 pm

    Thanks for these Hank. I’ve been crazy busy lately.Will get around to writing a real note one of the days. Glad your project is going well. Harvey

    Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone

  4. Mildred Kriemelmeyer permalink
    March 24, 2016 8:30 pm

    Hank: Thank you for sharing your journey and insights. Millie

    Sent from my iPad, Millie K.


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