Declaration about cultural appropriation from the spiritual authorities, representatives and indigenous organizations of the amazon region

//Declaration about cultural appropriation from the spiritual authorities, representatives and indigenous organizations of the amazon region

Declaration about cultural appropriation from the spiritual authorities, representatives and indigenous organizations of the amazon region

To: Academics, researchers, NGOs, humanitarian and development agencies, the
United Nations, the World Intellectual Property Organization (OMPI), students, workers
and the international civil society.
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
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
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
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
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.


Ecuador – Representante Legál COICA
Colombia – Representante legal ASOMI

Colombia – Representante legal UMIYAC

Colombia – Representante legal OZIP
Colombia – Representante legal Entidad
Territorial Pueblo Inga
Colombia – Concejero espiritual UMIYAC

Presidente ASMIC – Representante Pueblo Cofán

Colombia – Representante legal OPIAC

Colombia – Concejero espiritual UMIYAC
Colombia – Concejero espiritual UMIYAC

2019-12-05T17:38:04-05:00 November 1st, 2019|Declaration|