Picture credit: Jethro Tanner
The third World Ayahuasca Conference, held in Girona, Spain, was a magical gathering of scientists, shamans and artists. The conference heard hundreds of talks across dozens of disciplines, complete with music, art and workshops.
What stood out for many was the representation of indigenous peoples at the conference. The Western ayahuasca movement has been guilty of cultural insensitivity in the past, and this promises to be a continuing problem as the globalization of ayahuasca spreads. So hearing from ayahuasca elders, and having their voices at the forefront of the conference, was high on the agenda.
The Indigenous Declaration
At the closing of the conference, representatives of a number of Amazonian cultures made a statement about the threats to their habitats, and the need for sensitivity around the Western use of ayahuasca.
The signatories of the declaration were members of the Ashaninka, Awajun, Huni Kuin, Inga, Kashinawa, Puyanawa, Sapara, Shipibo and Yawanawa peoples of the Amazon Basin, and the regional organizations COICA and UMIYAC.
These are the main points of their statement, in summary:
- Denouncing government actions in Amazonian territories that lead to the destruction of the land, the removal of human rights, and the deaths of environmental activists.
- Demanding an end to construction projects that would destroy Amazonian ecosystems, such as the Transoceanic Railroad.
- Recognizing the struggle that indigenous women face in highly misogynist societies.
- Honoring ancestral knowledge, particularly of the original practitioners of ayahuasca.
- Rejecting indiscriminate commercialization of ayahuasca.
- Rejecting unethical ayahuasca practices that go against the teachings of Amazonian wisdom keepers.
- Calling for a gathering of Amazonian spiritual authorities.
- Calling for the creation of a global alliance to fight climate change, and protect the basic rights of the Earth and all living beings.
The statement is endorsed by ICEERS and Amazon Watch, and was a highly meaningful and well-received way to end the World Ayahuasca Conference 2019.
What Does This Mean For Us?
The points of the statement are wide-reaching and straightforward, but may leave us wondering how we can implement them in our lives.
On a wider societal level, this means understanding how our behaviors are impacting the Earth, and what we as individuals and local communities can do to address the climate crisis.
Specifically regarding ayahuasca, this statement is relevant to us Westerners in how we conduct ourselves around ayahuasca and other sacred plant medicines:
- We must always consider the source of our medicine, and engage in Sacred Reciprocity whenever possible.
- We must never advertise ayahuasca unethically, or use it in unsafe ways.
- We must always elevate indigenous voices and listen to shamanic wisdom.
- We must appreciate the rigors that are required to call yourself a shaman.
- We must know the difference between a neo-shamanic or Western ayahuasca ceremony and one led by a traditional shaman.
As the psychedelic plant medicine movement grows, we will find ourselves encountering these issues more starkly, and we will be forced to evolve.
It’s better that we start listening to indigenous voices now, than have to catch up further down the line.