Amazon tribe creates 500-page traditional medicine encyclopedia
Acaté and the Matsés developed an innovative methodology to protect their ancestral medicinal plant knowledge from extinction while safeguarding the sensitive information from theft by outside parties. The Encyclopedia is written only in Matsés. It is by and for the Matsés and no translations will be made into Spanish or English. No scientific names are included nor photographs of flowers or other easily identifiable characteristics of the plants to outsiders.
Each chapter of the Traditional Medicine Encyclopedia was written by a renowned elder shaman chosen by the community. Each elder was paired together with a younger Matsés who over months transcribed his knowledge in writing and photographed each plant. The photos and text were compiled and typed up on laptop by Wilmer Rodríguez López, a Matsés who is an expert in a written transcription of their language.
At the meeting, the compiled Encyclopedia, the draft of which exceeded 500 pages in length, was collectively edited and reviewed by the tribal shamans over several days. The completed Encyclopedia is now being formatted and printed for the Matsés, at their direction, and will neither be published nor disseminated outside of their communities.
We expect that the non-controversial success of the methodology pioneered by Acaté and our indigenous partners will open the door for similar efforts across the Amazon and beyond. We are already seeing efforts by other organizations eager to replicate it.
In Phase II, the Apprentices Program, each elder shaman—many of whom are also Encyclopedia chapter authors—will be accompanied in the forest by younger Matsés to learn the plants and assist in treating patients. The apprenticeship program was initiated in 2014 in the village of Esitrón under the supervision of elder shaman Luis Dunu Chiaid. Due to the success of the pilot in Esitrón, it was unanimously agreed by the Matsés at the recent meeting that this program should be expanded to as many villages as possible, with priority given to villages that no longer have traditional healers.
The ultimate objective of the initiative is Phase III, the integration and enhancement of ’Western’ health delivery with traditional practices. Wilmer, a health promoter in the small clinic in Estirón and one of the apprentices from the pilot program provides a role model for other Matsés health care workers. He understands that the future health of his people depends on the creation of dual, vibrant systems of health that allow the community to draw upon the best of both worlds.
#médecine #encyclopédie #santé #indigènes #Amazonie #forêt
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