Posts tagged “One River”

This tired earth

After only a week in the fields listening to the farmers, we realized that the crop substitution program, a key component of the American effort to eradicate coca, was a fantasy. Harvested by hand every four months or as often as six times a year if fertilized and sprayed, coca outperformed every other agricultural product […]

Cultural destruction

The Spaniards did all in their power to crush the religious spirit of the Inca. In a manual published early in the seventeenth century as a guide for missionaries, Pablo José de Arriaga offered simple advice for priests confronting idolatry. “Everything that is inflammable is burned at once,” the priest wrote, “and the rest broken […]

Understanding comes too late

Nothing thrills the Waorani more than killing game and cutting down big trees. It’s what so many people don’t understand who haven’t lived in the forest. You don’t have to conserve what you don’t have the power to destroy. Harming the forest is an impossible concept for them. The fact that they use every part […]

Some rituals are nearly universal

Image via Wikipedia At night he gathered around the men’s circle in the long house, taking coca and tobacco, watching and listening as the voices became more and more animated.  The talk was less conversation than ritual discourse. Reviewing the important events of the day or anticipating future problems, the capitán would begin a long […]

One River

Image via Wikipedia I read Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice when I was 14.  I loved it.  Mark Plotkin‘s recounting of the years he spent in the rainforest talking to indigenous people and learning what plants cured what diseases made me want to run off to the rainforest and do the same thing.  Then I […]

Scientific and traditional knowledge

The Amazonian flora contains literally tens of thousands of species.  How had the Indians learned to identify and combine in this sophisticated manner these morphologically dissimilar plants that possessed such unique and complementary chemical properties? The standard scientific explanation was trial and error – a reasonable term that may well account for certain innovations – […]

Sacred food

From One River, by Wade Davis: “They believe,” Tim explained, “that as you move from one valley to the next, you must thank the mountain guardians for their protection. Every time they cross over a divide, they place a quid of coca on the rock cairns that mark the high passes and blow prayers into […]