Amazonian indigenous societies in my experience — and certainly all Andean indigenous societies — are fundamentally based upon reciprocity. Not profit. Profit and reciprocity are fundamentally different values.
This is an edited transcript of a series of conversations between Howard G. Charing, author of The Ayahuasca Visions of Pablo Amaringo, and Steve Beyer, author of Singing to the Plants: A Guide to Mestizo Shamanism in the Upper Amazon. These talks took place during the summer of 2010, at the kitchen table and on the front stoop of Steve’s house in Chicago. Some drinking and cigar smoking was involved. Howard: I read Singing to the Plants several times, and I found it not only an extremely well researched book but also inspirational; it came through to me as a true labor of love. I understand that you originally envisioned the book to address more of an academic, anthropological audience, which is the reason that you wanted it to be published by the University of New Mexico Press; but you have created much more than an academic work. When you talk about your teachers, doña María and don Roberto, your warmth, humanity, and respect for them shines through. You asked them to describe their history, …
An interview with Martin von Hildebrand, founder at head of Gaia Amazonas describes his work with indigenous groups in Colombia, and their quest towards the reclamation of over 260,000 square kilometers (100,000 square miles) of Amazon rainforest.
Only the most controversial of President Alan García’s legislative decrees, which triggered the uprising, have been overturned. These decrees-promulgated under special powers granted to García by Peru’s congress in 2008 to ready the country for the new U.S. free trade agreement-would undo a generation of progress in protecting indigenous territorial rights in the rainforest, opening indigenous lands to oil drilling, logging, and other forms of resource extraction as never before.
Following the Inambari Hydroelectric Project, the Peruvian government would build a dam that would flood 41000 hectares of rainforest. 75% of the hydroelectric energy produced by the dam would be then sold to Brasil.
Arequipa: “informal” miners speak of six deaths and several disappearances during yesterday´s night and this morning´s protests in Arequipa.
Gold Miners in the jungle of Peru are protesting against a new law that would force them into controlled, limited mining.
Steve Beyer’s Singing to the Plants, writes Morgan Maher, is “a wild ride out and across the jungles of mestizo shamanism. The book, and its wonderful cast of characters, curanderos, animals, plants, spirits and stories presents honest, accurate, respectful, levelheaded and, at times, outrageously marvelous descriptions of the environments and climates of mestizo shamanism in the Upper Amazon.” Morgan interviews the author.
One of the most profound and humbling lessons that ayahuasca teaches – one that we thick-headed humans have the hardest time grasping – is the realization that “you monkeys only think you’re running things.”
The region of traditional Ayahuasca use is the Upper Amazon, that is, the western part of the Amazon Basin, and the western part of the Guiana Shield. (The Guiana Shield, which encompasses much of Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Surinam, and French Guiana, is not technically part of the Amazon Basin, as its rivers do not drain to the Amazon River, but ecologically and culturally it is considered as part of the Amazon rainforest, and we will hereinafter use the terminology that includes the Guiana Shield as part of the “Amazon.”) “Ground zero” of Ayahuasca usage is the northwestern region of the Amazon Basin where Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil come together (see red-outlined area on map). Close to 100% of indigenous ethnic groups here traditionally use Ayahuasca (and this also contains the centers of mestizo traditional usage, Iquitos and Pucallpa in Peru). Beyond that (see fuschia-outlined area on map) Ayahuasca is used by a large majority of the indigenous peoples. Ayahuasca is also used by several indigenous groups outside of this area of traditional usage: the …