Nixiwaka Biraci Yawanawa, the leader of the Yawanawa people in the Amazon, delivered a passionate speech at the Psychedelic Science conference in Denver, Colorado, which was organized by MAPS, a key player in the ‘Psychedelic Renaissance.’ His speech echoed the sentiments found in the 1854 speech by Chief Seattle of the Suquamish tribe to the first governor of Washington Territory. He emphasized the urgent need to consider the environment and indigenous perspectives in the context of the ongoing Psychedelic Renaissance.
“When you pollute the last river, when you cut down the last forest, we will also be out of this Earth”.
Nixiwaka Yawanawa did not miss the opportunity to remind that the so-called ‘Psychedelic Renaissance,’ in which MAPS is one of the main actors, is taking place without listening to indigenous peoples, “the true guardians of many medicinal plants, of sacred plants”.
In the words of Biraci Yawanawa: “There is a severe mental health crisis, but we are forgetting something: medicines are sacred plants. If you do not know the origin of these ailments, it will take you a long time to investigate. These ailments are linked to everything that Western man is doing: the destruction of the rainforest, the pollution of the rivers, the extinction of biodiversity, and this behavior is the reason why the world is sick. Every animal, every plant that goes extinct on Earth is a disease for man.“
Nixiwaka Biraci Yawanawa, an activist for the rights of indigenous peoples, is a political and spiritual leader of the Yawanawa family, a people of 1,700 individuals residing in the Brazilian state of Acre, renowned worldwide for their ancient knowledge of ayahuasca and other plants with medicinal properties.
The Psychedelic Science conference took place three months ago, with an attendance of 13,000 people, but it is only now that the organization has started to publicly share videos of the main speeches.
Below is a transcript of Nixiwaka Biraci Yawanawa’s speech at Psychedelic Science 2023:
“We, the indigenous peoples, are the only indigenous peoples who are custodians of many medicinal plants, sacred plants. Here, you are having a great debate, an investigation. Congratulations for caring about the healing of humanity. There is a severe mental health crisis, but we are forgetting something: medicines are sacred plants. If you do not know the origin of these ailments, it will take you a long time to investigate. These ailments are linked to everything that Western man is doing: the destruction of the rainforest, the pollution of the rivers, the extinction of biodiversity, and this behavior is the reason why the world is sick. Every animal, every plant that goes extinct on Earth is a disease for man. Those spirits need a home, and often they will find it in human beings, creating incurable diseases.
Indigenous peoples know this. I am not against the studies you are conducting with our plants, and I congratulate you for that. But why do you not invite us, the true plant experts? To what extent have we reached in human ignorance? We are living in a new cycle of humanity, a time of forgiveness, a time of alliance, a time of peace, a time of love. Human civilization is in decline, and if we do not reconsider the concept of humanity, its future cannot be prolonged. When they pollute the last river, when they cut down the last forest, we will also be out of this Earth. As soon as I have the opportunity, we will ask forgiveness from the Divinity. Let us, the indigenous peoples, come together with open arms for this new dialogue. Many companies are creating remedies, pills with ayahuasca and other sacred plants. Even if their active ingredient can heal, they are divine beings and they communicate. When we have them in our hands, we pray to these plants, we ask for permission so that the cure can come, so that they forgive us. Are you doing that? No! Everything you are doing is for the market, for your ego. You receive international awards for developing an incredible healing remedy. Indigenous peoples are part of the great human family. When you respect us, when you support our initiatives, that is when we can heal the planet.
Our society is suffering, and I include myself. We need to reconnect with our essence. Each of our civilizations has its ancestors, its origins; we have our father, our mother, our Divine Creator. When we understand that it is essential to reconnect, you will understand why indigenous peoples do not cut down our forests, do not put our animals at risk, do not pollute our rivers, because they are all sacred. The forest is my school, my laboratory, my masters are there, our musicians, there is a great divine civilization. That is why we are defenders of the forest. I am not an environmental activist: I am the forest, I am Nature. I hope that forums like this one, which are so important for the hope of humanity, will invite indigenous peoples for authentic discussions.'”
These are the closing words of Chief Seattle’s speech to the white man some 170 years ago:
“When all the buffalo are slaughtered, and all the wild horses tamed, and the hidden corners of the forests are filled with the scent of many men (and the views of the mountains are filled with chattering women), where will the thicket be? Gone. Where will the eagle be? Gone. In other words, farewell to what grows, farewell to what is swift, farewell to hunting. It will be the end of life and the beginning of survival.“