Kalinago cultural leaders receive healing Amazonian plants

The shaman and Gerard of the Kalinago Territory
The shaman and Gerard of the Kalinago Territory

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.

Mapucho Tobacco a gift of great significance between indigenous cultures
Mapucho Tobacco a gift of great significance between indigenous cultures

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.

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14 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    October 30, 2014

    :lol: :) :-D

  2. David Aponte Resto
    July 8, 2014

    Would love to see something on the union of the Tainos from Borincan better know as Puerto Rico with the Kalinago tribe in there Territory celebrating our traditional way of life. Still alive and well in the caribbean Mabrica to our brothers on Dominica Thank agin for a wonderful experience !!!

  3. Native & indigenous
    April 9, 2014

    We the indigenous people came to he eastern Caribbean region for more than 5000 years and we brought with us our all our domestic plants whether for food medicine, or spiritual and cultural practices you children of the slaves were no where in the picture, when the Europeans came more plants were introduced including breadfruits a main staple that we all enjoy, in both instances there was no plant quarantine, yet there was no danger to the environment and the Eco system, now we have quarantine in place the sea is polluted with all kinds of dangerous chemicals that affect our fish life that is being passes on in our food chain and we keep silent on those issues, we now have every agricultural crop that is now growing on island suffering from some dreaded diseases, such as plantains and bananas suffering with black sigatoka, coconuts suffers from mites, bud rots and red rings, tannias burning disease citrus tristaza and , avocados also and the list goes on no one cares, why is it that you should be so concerned now.

    • Simply the Truth
      April 11, 2014

      We are being civilized as we always have been specifically in the past hundreds of years to today.

  4. Frank Talker
    April 9, 2014

    Look at how de Shaman watching Gerard in the first pic! As though something not right with him. Just an observation!

  5. patriot
    April 9, 2014

    DNO i placed a comment yesterday inquiring if the plant protection unit of the Division of Agriculture was informed of the the inclusion of this plant in our ecosystem and if the necessary procedures were followed. To date i have not seen this comment.

    • Rational
      April 9, 2014

      The article states the plant was grown from a seed. I understand that the plant has been in Dominica for many years and the seeds came from one of these Dominican plants.

  6. Simply the Truth
    April 8, 2014

    In bygone years those plants were used for medicinal purposes. Consider that many people lived longer then. Today with the amount of medication – pills on the market, it is obvious that these plants and their healing will be suppressed to the point of denial.
    A few years ago I was informed that the Canadian government, the department responsible, would not give the health stores a license to operate. Reason for this is we know that the pharmaceutical companies make good money from dispensing doctor-prescribed pills.
    The plants serve a good, health purpose. There are some adults who continue to take them. Ginger is another one. A few people have told me that every night, the last thing they drink is ginger tea. It is also good for digestion.
    I do believe in and endorse these plants for medicinal purposes. However, today, in these modern times, if they are taken and the health problem exists, it would be wise to see a doctor. Doctors serve a good purpose.
    All in all, God gave us these plants and we should make the most of them, using them for their intended use. We should not scoff at these medicinal plants nor allow them to die.
    Let us get back to basics with our ancestors in mind who eagerly took them for their health. I reiterate many of them lived to be a ripe old age, some beyond 100 years.

  7. patriot
    April 8, 2014

    Was the plant quarantine unit of the Ministry of Agriculture informed of this plant and was the necessary procedures followed ?

  8. April 8, 2014

    The begining of real cultural tourism – well done my family and friends well done!

  9. Pedro
    April 8, 2014

    DNO. Thanks for another great article. Glad that we are doing what we can to promote and preserve the heritage and culture of the Kalinagos!

  10. Anonymous
    April 8, 2014

    Extremely interesting article……. something not to clear as to the legality of the action so did some research, here is what I came across.. And they say that there is a case for thee other plant!!!
    Mapacho tobacco: (Nicotiana rustica) locally known as high leaf!!! nothing new…… BUT ……….
    Ayahuasca: A psychedelic brew of various plant infusions prepared with the Banisteriopsis caapi vine. It is either mixed with the leaves of dimethyltryptamine (DMT)-containing species of shrubs from the genus Psychotria or with the leaves of the Justicia pectoralis plant which does not contain DMT
    (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT or N,N-DMT) a psychedelic compound of the tryptamine family. When ingested, DMT acts as a hallucinogenic drug!!!!

    • Rational
      April 8, 2014

      To clarify: The vine Caapi or Ayahuasca vine does not contain any DMT. DMT is actually in many other plants in Dominica and it is even in your body. Your body produces DMT when you dream. The Ayahuasca plant actually contains the same alkaloids that are in the passion fruit vine. Ayahuasca vine and passion fruit are not illegal. You would have to brew the passion fruit vine or the Ayahuasca vine with other plants for a very long time in order to produce the type of experience you are describing. There are many uses for this plant, as there are for other plants.

    • Nudibranch
      April 9, 2014

      Class A hallucinogen and not endemic to Dominica….. and please, what was the line about “plant medicine going back to African roots”? Yes you’re trying to include as many groups as possible in your speech, but weren’t the Kalinago here 1000 years before any Africans?

      since the USA has now leveled the playing field with respect to Cannabis, why not add another drug to the mix.

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