They stood on the stage at the Karina Cultural Center in the Kalinago Territory.
It was a meeting of two indigenous traditions.
A shaman and a healer from British Columbia, Canada are face to face with Miranda and Manley, cultural leaders in the Kalinago territory in Dominica.
The hand over moment was brief, yet profound as the two men embraced.
Miranda of Dominica’s Kalinago territory said, “ I saw you coming in a dream “
Everyone nodded and understood that this moment was significant.
The group agreed they would be interested in holding ceremonies together in the future.
On April 2 2014, a shaman with 20 years of training in Plant Medicine with the Shipibo people of South America visited the Kalinago Territory in Dominica and handed over a gift of Sacred Mapacho tobacco from the Amazon, along with Ayahuasca. Ayahuasca comes from the rainforest and is known as the ‘vine of the soul’.
Grown from seeds, these plants are used as medicine. Ayahuasca, a bush tea, in particular has healing qualities, which when used in supportive ceremonies, has been very successful in treating addictions such as alcoholism, drug abuse and anti-social behavior. Ayahuasca has been used as a healing medicine in the Amazon for over two thousand years.
The traditions of plant medicine have long been part of Dominica’s rich cultural heritage, growing from our African roots.
The Kalinago people in particular have always been connected to the plant traditions of South America and the Caribbean.
It is quite likely that this plant Ayahuasca, also known as the caapi vine in the Amazon, may have been part of the Indigenous traditions of Dominica in the past.
Unfortunately, much of the traditional medicinal knowledge of plants in Dominica and in the Caribbean was suppressed or destroyed by religious and colonial powers who viewed plant medicines as a threat to their own understanding of the world.
This prejudice and fear of traditional cultures and medicines is still wide spread throughout the western world. Attitudes towards plant medicine and the connection between the mind and the body is only now becoming more important and accepted in the treating of illness and addiction in modern, western medicine.
The Kalinago Territory in Dominica is the last refuge for the Indigenous peoples of the Caribbean. Today the Territory is home to about 3,000 people of Indigenous decent. Formally known as the “Carib Reserve”, it was established in 1903 on a piece of land that the British no longer wanted.
Following hundreds of years of extensive genocide of the indigenous peoples, the British crown allowed the last remaining Kalinago peoples of the Eastern Caribbean a place to live. Their numbers had gone from the millions throughout the Caribbean down to only 400 individuals. The Kalinago language and much of their culture has been systematically destroyed by successive groups.
Today the Internet and face-to-face meetings are empowering people to work together across the world. With the revitalization of native cultures and the ability to share knowledge across great distances, Indigenous groups are beginning to share and rebuild their sacred knowledge of the natural world.
Similar plants, whose traditional usage has been lost, can still be found growing in Dominica. The Yopo tree is an example of a sacred plant whose usage in the region dates back thousands of years and can be found growing in upper Canfield, Dominica. Pipes used in traditional Yopo ceremonies have been found in Grenada and St. Kitts and date back 800 years. These snuff pipes were carried up from the Orinoco Valley in South America and traded throughout the Caribbean. Gerard explained that a Cassava brew was also used as a ceremonial ingredient for healing among the Kalinago peoples of the Caribbean, but it is not practiced anymore.
“With our world changing so rapidly perhaps there is much to be learned from our ancestors and their plants.” Cary Wright, B.C. Shaman
Cary Wright, a Shaman from British Columbia, Canada was on Island this week. He has been trained for the last 20 years as a plant medicine healer by the Shipibo-Conibo Peoples of the Amazon. The Shipibo Shamans specifically asked Cary to be a bridge and bring the knowledge of the many Amazonia plants out to the rest of the world, to meet with indigenous and non-indigenous people and to share the knowledge of the healing plants. Cary has also worked extensively with well-known psychologist and medical doctor, Gabor Mate, on addiction healing in Canada.
Kalinago Cultural Leaders, Manley and his wife Miranda have traveled extensively representing the Kalinago people, performing ceremonies for educational as well as for healing purposes. They are part of the Karina Cultural Group based in Dominica and are integral to the revitalization of Kalinago culture.
Dominica’s award-winning filmmaking team, LINK International Productions.com has been documenting the handing-over ceremony and the story of plant medicine spreading out around the world.
This film will be released later this year by LINK International.