Last Wednesday, April 24th 2017, CIIS held a small, sweet event: the launch of the book The World Ayahuasca Diaspora: Reinventions and Controversies. The event was attended by CIIS faculty, students, psychedelic therapists, Santo Daime followers, political activists, musicians, scientific researchers, and survivors of the great marathon of Psychedelic Science 2017. Leopardo Yawa Bane, a young indigenous leader from the Brazilian Amazon who holds a BA in anthropology, spoke in Portuguese and was translated by Chris Dodds, his journalist friend and travel companion.
Bane started by clarifying: “Ayahuasca is not from us, the Huni Kuin, only. It’s from many indigenous people of the Amazon.” He shared his life story, how his grandfather was a pajé (shaman), and how he came to live in São Paulo and attend high school and university and how he dreamed of being a political leader for his people.
When asked by the audience about what he thought of ayahuasca being used by Westeners, he said: “Who am I to say?” Perhaps contradicting the public’s expectations, he did not have radical solutions. Instead, he spoke gracefully and full of subtleties: “Ayahuasca has it’s mysteries. But we can’t keep this only to us. It is out there. A lot of people want, need, and have experienced this healing. This is not for indigenous people only. But we are not sharing everything with outsiders. There are some things that we still keep to us.” He also shared that Santo Daime people were their “friends and allies,” and that his father had been “fardado” (an official member) of that tradition – perhaps surprising to those expecting “purity” in the indigenous use of ayahuasca.
The audience kept posing similar questions: “What is the best format or way to use ayahuasca?” “With respect,” he finally answered.
Regarding the production of scientific knowledge and the role of indigenous people in it, he asked me: “How can anthropologists incorporate the voice of the shamans in their writings? What about their knowledge? I do not see many indigenous authors in the books from anthropologists.” Good points, Bane!