Ayahuasca for Americans

In another follow-up post, I offer this article from National Geographic describing the author's (Kira Salak) experiences down in the Peruvian Amazon drinking ayahuasca with an - *gulp* - American shaman. To be fair, the ceremonies were also attended by an old Indian shaman who had trained the American over the course of many years. Now the guy brings other Americans down to be healed by the powerful drink. The article details the physical experience, and offers an example of one of the many possible benefits for westerners - ayahuasca proved the most efficacious at treating the author's struggles with depression. Thanks to contributor re-mind for the heads up on this one...

A New Chapter in the Drug War

In what I see as quite a surprise, the US Supreme Court declared it legal for a group in the US to consume a mind-altering tea, a version of ayahuasca. Ayahuasca has been used by indigenous peoples throughout the Amazon for hundreds, maybe thousands of years. It is considered a sacred drink that is consumed by both shamans, and lay people in ceremonies devoted to healing. Shamans have insisted that the plant speaks to them, and consider it the voice of the vine. This 'voice' apparently has provided shamans with information concerning the vast world of plants in the Amazon and their myriad uses.
In Brazil and other places, the tea has been co-opted by religious groups who perform group ceremonies for healing/religious purposes in the modern setting of the city. This type of group had formed in the US, and the ingredients for the tea were confiscated by the DEA. According to a BBC article:

The hoasca tea is considered sacred to members of the group, O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal. In its ruling, the court said the government must allow the use of the tea under religious freedom laws. Roberts wrote that federal drug agents should have been barred from confiscating the tea.

Perhaps this signals a shift away from harsh and unjustifiable drug laws that have criminalized the use of sacred substances that have little to no possibility for abuse. Either way it is a surprise that the conservative court has ruled in favor of this group who now may continue to "understand god" without fear of the feds breaking down their doors.

Here is the NYTimes article about the decision, which goes into a bit more detail...

A Nation of Indians?

Indians in Brazil and 4 other nations joined together in a call for an independent nation of indigenous peoples. In an AP article posted a few days ago, the Indians reportedly called for a "resurrection" of the Indian nation. According to the article:

Thousands of Indians belonging to what they call the "Guarani nation" walked three hours from Sao Gabriel do Sul, 900 miles south of Rio de Janeiro, to the site where chief Sepe Tiaraju was killed in 1756 at the hands of Portuguese and Spanish soldiers.

The marchers carried signs saying "Our forefathers illuminate our path for the recuperation of the Guarani land" and "Memory and resistance." The Guarani were the dominant people in southern Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia and northern Argentina before the Europeans arrived
Today, despite the promise of land from most national governments, indigenous people throughout the Americas continue to lose their lands to the pressures of development and natural resource extraction. Perhaps the only way to stop this is to grant indigenous peoples their own sovereign nations in the varying regions of South and Central America. This would be the least modern nations could do for the original inhabitants of these lands.

The Wonders of Technology

Despite the negative aspects of the western, capitalist, technology driven culture that is slowly taking over the world, one can't deny the positive benefits that often result. A BBC article describes the use of podcasts in rural Peru to give tips to farmers. According to the article:
UK charity Practical Action has married old and new technology to podcast twice-monthly updates to eight information centres in the Cajamarca region.
These telecentres, many of which are run on solar power, automatically download the programmes onto CDs to rebroadcast them on local radio stations.
The charity has found it effective to distribute audio material to local people, who prefer listening in their own dialect to being sent the written word.

Farmers are getting tips on topics ranging from cattle husbandry to growing grapes, and apparently the local interest in the technology is high. Locals are now being trained on how to create their own podcasts, which could lead to innumerable topics for broadcast.