Miguel Evanjuanoy, B.Sc.
Latest posts by Miguel Evanjuanoy, B.Sc. (see all)

Good afternoon to all of you who are listening to this debate at the Psychedelic Liberty Summit. I want to thank my dear friend Bia Labate for inviting Riccardo Vitale (PhD, anthropologist, UMIYAC’s adviser) and me to participate in this event.

I also want to send a greeting of solidarity to all the fellow peoples around the world during the crisis we are all going through. Now is an important moment to reflect on and become more conscious about our life-giving mother, Mother Earth. I work for the Union of Indigenous Yagé Doctors of the Colombian Amazon (UMIYAC), defending indigenous territories and strengthening our culture, traditional knowledge, and ancestral medical practices.

Community Osococha, Putumayo, Colombia. Photo by Miguel Evanjuanoy

The Union of Indigenous Yagé Doctors of the Colombian Amazon is an organization of spiritual authorities, of wise men and elders in the practice of yagé medicine. Under the guidance of these spiritual authorities, the organization has been developing spiritual health brigades who perform yagé ceremonies in different communities to heal the mental, bodily, spiritual, and territorial illnesses affecting our women and men who have lived through armed conflict for hundreds of years.

For over 500 years, our peoples have not been able to relax or live in peace and harmony with Mother Earth and our loved ones.

Our peoples are in a state of struggle and resistance against the imminent physical and cultural extermination that the Colombian constitutional court has declared on us with Order 004 of 2009. For over 500 years, our peoples have not been able to relax or live in peace and harmony with Mother Earth and our loved ones. Territory invasions, land grabbing, gas and oil drilling, drug trafficking, commercial agriculture, megaprojects, cultural appropriation, aerial pesticide spraying, territorial disputes over drug and arms trafficking by illegal armed groups in the service of large landowners, and confrontation between the national security forces and illegal groups in our territories have caused us to be displaced or confined, generating serious violations of human rights as well as violations of the rights of Mother Earth.

And yet, faced with all these situations, our organization is also very concerned about the emergence of yet another threat: the exploitation of our knowledge and cultural appropriation by foreign people who retreat to the Amazon forest only to take advantage of local peoples and extract information that is later commercialized. It is very worrying to see how some people misuse medicinal plants that are sacred to us indigenous peoples.

Still, we have resisted all these forms of extermination, as well as new threats that continue to appear, and we are concerned about the coronavirus pandemic that has put all humanity in danger. We hope that this worry and fear will calm down soon. And yet, faced with all these situations, our organization is also very concerned about the emergence of yet another threat: the exploitation of our knowledge and cultural appropriation by foreign people who retreat to the Amazon forest only to take advantage of local peoples and extract information that is later commercialized. It is very worrying to see how some people misuse medicinal plants that are sacred to us indigenous peoples.

When colonization and evangelization came to Latin America, we indigenous peoples experienced the genocide of our culture. These outside people came to impose a culture very different from ours; they forced us to profess a religion based on statues. In those times, our grandparents who practiced their spirituality with the medicine of yagé were persecuted, mistreated, and punished by a God who designated them as practitioners of an evil witchcraft. They were called “wild Indians,” as if they did not have the knowledge and wisdom that our grandmothers and grandfathers indeed maintain to this day. These were tremendous and serious errors that “civilization” made in ignoring an ancient culture that understood how to live a life taking into account the principles of good living with Mother Earth.

Taita Tiberio Lucitante, his nephew and Miguel Evanjuanoy

The indigenous peoples of Colombia have been fighting tirelessly to be recognized as peoples and be granted our rights. With the Colombian Constitution of 1991, the government recognized that it must protect indigenous cultures and their ways of life.

I want to make it clear to all of humanity that the yagé plant and other medicinal plants of the Amazon Basin belong to indigenous peoples. It is we who are responsible for taking caring of and protecting our plants.

It is very curious what is happening currently with the medicine of yagé and other medicinal plants of indigenous peoples. People from outside our communities have wanted to generalize, saying that the sacred plant of yagé belongs to everyone. Making these irresponsible claims is disrespectful of our cultures. I want to make it clear to all of humanity that the yagé plant and other medicinal plants of the Amazon Basin belong to indigenous peoples. It is we who are responsible for taking caring of and protecting our plants. Many have wanted to prostitute these sacred plants, acting in bad faith and disrespecting ancient cultures.

for indigenous peoples, spirituality through the medicine of yagé under the supervision of wise grandmothers and grandfathers is our guardian and fundamental tool to protect ourselves from imminent extermination.

In closing, I want to say that, for indigenous peoples, spirituality through the medicine of yagé under the supervision of wise grandmothers and grandfathers is our guardian and fundamental tool to protect ourselves from imminent extermination.

People have used and abused the plant’s stem, but they have not been able to touch the roots, and those roots are us. We have continued, and will continue, fighting and resisting in defense of our rights.

Art by Mariom Luna.

Recommended readings:

Cultural Appropriation and Misuse of Ancestral Yagé Medicine

Declaration from the Spiritual Authorities, Representatives and Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Region




A Conversation with Ismail Ali, Adele Getty, Mariavittoria Mangini and Tessa Vita Wednesday, September 30th from 12-1:30pm  REGISTER FOR THIS EVENT HERE The modern psychedelic community...

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