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We are the original people that have inhabited these ancient lands of the Amazon, cultivating medicinal plants and practicing the knowledge and wisdom of our grandmothers and grandparents to live in peace and harmony with Mother Earth. Over 500 years ago our lands were invaded in order to extract the resources and wealth in the territories where we lived in communion with Mother Nature. With the arrival of colonization, also came the religions that caused irreparable damage; by imposing the bible and the word of god outside of our spiritual and millenary cultures. They wanted to erase our sacred connections with nature, criminalize our spiritual ceremonies and mocked our botanical science.
Today we are still suffering from colonization and invasion. Armed groups, drug-traffickers, land grabbers, mining and hydrocarbons multinationals, timber traffickers and cattle ranchers continue to threaten the survival of our people, guardians of Amazonian ecosystems; which serve as the vital organs for life throughout the planet. The spiritual authorities of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin are the people responsible for preserving the spiritual traditions and knowledge of the sacred medicine of the yagé (ayahuasca). Through the practice of yagé medicine we have managed to resist the invasion and protect our autonomy. With yagé we also heal the illnesses of community members, protect our territories and protect the lives of our leaders. Thanks to the sacred yagé plant since childhood, communicating with the spirits of Mother Earth we have cultivated wisdom, and have learned which medicinal plants are useful for curing diseases. Yagé is not a hallucinogen and is not a psychedelic plant. Yagé is a plant that has a living spirit and teaches us how to live in peace and harmony with Mother Earth.
Yageceros or indigenous doctors have to comply with strict norms and adhere to spiritual laws, as stipulated in the UMIYAC document: Thought of the Elderly: Code of Ethics of the Indigenous Medicine of the Colombian Amazonian Piedmont. The learning path to be a traditional doctor is difficult and can be a lifetime process. According to our customary systems of evaluation, indigenous communities know who are the true yageceros that by their reputation, wisdom and lineage can assume the responsibility of caring for the spiritual and physical health of the Amazonian indigenous people.
There are young indigenous people who approach yagé medicine superficially, they do not possess sufficient wisdom and do not have a full understanding of the plant. Still they unethically assume the role of traditional doctors. They disguise themselves with feathers and necklaces and call themselves “taitas”, a general term of respect commonly used in communities of the Inga people. The goal of these practitioners is to seek profit. Not having real spiritual knowledge, they put the mental, physical and spiritual health and even the lives of their own patients at risk.
There are also non-indigenous people who, without possessing the knowledge of ancestral yagé medicine, appropriate and abuse our practices by organizing ceremonies, spiritual retreats, ayahuasca tourism and shamanism schools. It is a commercial use, consumption, manipulation and appropriation of our medicinal traditions, our knowledge and our image. These practices violate the sacredness of our worldviews, offend our spiritual authorities and go against the international conventions and treaties that protect the intangible, medicinal, spiritual and cultural heritage of indigenous peoples (ie: 1991 Colombian Constitution, Conventions 169 / ILO, 1989 and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007, among others).
The sacred yagé plant is part of the collective cultural, ancestral and medicinal heritage of the Amazonian indigenous peoples and its purpose is to cure diseases. Yagé cannot be used for profit or business, outside the livelihood of those who practice traditional medicine by lineage and with the endorsement of indigenous communities and organizations.
There are people and companies that in order to commercialize our medicinal traditions have appropriated our symbols, are using our image and imitate our customs and practices. Social networks are saturated with offers of alleged indigenous practices, the result of cultural appropriations. These people’s objective is to attract customers to generate monetary gains. Mixing practices; such as the use of San Pedro, yagé, peyote, kambó, Bufo alvarius, iboga and temazcal, decontextualizes and violates the sacredness of ancestral traditions, that are fundamental for the survival of the original peoples. The indiscriminate use of indigenous practices also puts the health of the people who attend these events at risk. Also of concern is the commercialization of Amazonian plant species for the preparation of yagé. This new extractive business puts the sustainability of our resources at risk and weakens communities by generating new monetary traps reminiscent of the drug trafficking economy.
The international public accesses these services without realizing that the appropriation and the commercialization of our ancestral traditions interfere with our path to self-determination. Bad practices damage delicate community balances, undermine the collective spirit of our societies and weaken our spirituality. All this reduces the resilience of our peoples in resistance, putting our lives and those of the Amazonian ecosystems we want to conserve and protect at risk.
As organizations of indigenous peoples and as political and spiritual authorities of the the Siona, Inga, Coreguaje, Kamentsá-Biya and Cofán people, declared “at risk of physical and cultural extermination by the Colombian Constitutional Court (Order 04/2009)”, we denounce the appropriation, abuse and undue commercialization of the sacred plant of the yagé, of our traditions, our practices and our knowledge. We reiterate that companies such as the European Ayahuasca School, Inner Mastery headed by Mr. Alberto Varela and/or Verein Sol Jaguar headed by Mr Antonio Valverde, amongst others, continue to market yagé medicine and disseminate bad practices, putting patients; health at risk and undermining the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples, including our right to life.
No indigenous yagé doctor, curaca, iacha, knowledgeable woman or traditional authority, has the power to certify or authorize non-indigenous people to officiate yagé ceremonies. There is no “certificate” issued by an authority within our indigenous health systems or council that endorses a person as a traditional doctor. Spiritual wisdom is a life commitment, which under no circumstances can be reduced to the issuance of a certificate.
No one outside the indigenous communities can cultivate, sell yagé or officiate ceremonies. According to our own customary systems, the only people who can perform yagé ceremonies are the yagéceros doctors, the iachas, the curacas and the knowledgeable women who have the endorsement and the recognition of the Amazonian indigenous communities, of our traditional authorities and of indigenous organizations such as UMIYAC, in accordance with the Law of Origin and Fundamental
In the face of this new scourge, we urgently call on all people of consciousness not to put their health at risk by participating in these commercial activities and to respect the cultural and social processes of resistance of the indigenous people.
Our lives and the conservation of our territories depend on the integrity of our traditional knowledge. Therefore, we also call on national and international institutions, the United Nations and the World Intellectual Property Organization (OMPI), to include the voice of indigenous people in all negotiations concerning traditional knowledge (CC.TT.). We conclude with an urgent appeal to the international community to forge alliances and build active solidarity networks to create a great movement for the defense and protection of Mother Earth and the Amazon.
TABEA CASIQUE CORONADO
Ecuador – Representante Legál COICA
LUZ MERY BECERRA JACANAMEJOY
Colombia – Representante legal ASOMI
ERNESTO EVANJUANOY CHINDOY
Colombia – Representante legal UMIYAC
FRANCO EVER PIAGUAJE
Colombia – Representante legal OZIP
HERNANDO CHINDOY CHINDOY
Colombia – Representante legal Entidad
Territorial Pueblo Inga
Colombia – Concejero espiritual UMIYAC
Presidente ASMIC – Representante Pueblo Cofán
JULIO CÉSAR LÓPEZ JAMIOY
Colombia – Representante legal OPIAC
TIBERIO LUCITANTE QUETA
Colombia – Concejero espiritual UMIYAC
Colombia – Concejero espiritual UMIYAC
This text was originally published here.
Declaration of the 3rd Brazilian Indigenous Conference
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