"The Death of Healing": Shamanism in the Modernizing Ecuadorian Amazon
Zaebst, Emily Jean
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This began as an investigation of shamanic practices and natural medicines, specifically medicinal plants. I did an extensive literature review shamanism, collecting information from the writings of religious historians and anthropologists. My intentions were to augment this information through my own anthropological research. However, through my experiences in South America I realized that I was learning about something of a much more pressing nature. The rainforest in which I was living, the peoples I intended to study, and the very medicine I was interested in was being destroyed before my very eyes. In late August, I arrived in a Secoya community several weeks after they had signed a over full rights to their land to a 'petrolero' (an ail company). The Secoya live in a virgin rainforest where there are still monkeys, tapirs, and toucans. They are located four hours downstream from the nearest road along the Aguarico River. There is no cement here, very little pollution or garbage, and there is abundant plant and animal life. Signing their land over is the end of all that and it will likely be the end of them, the Ecuadorian Secoya. Possibly the most difficult aspect of this to swallow is the fact that they signed over rights to all their land for a measly medical supply kit and two gas burning ovens. They have unknowingly made a pact with the devil in exchange for nothing but destruction. There are enough stories like this from the Amazon to fill several volumes. My close interaction with all of this and the increasing awareness that this destruction is occurring from all sides at a terrifying rate propelled me much further into an investigation of myself, my country, the Amazon, our cultures and the interrelatedness of all these things. I learned much more that I planned and what I have learned has changed me forever. My hopes with this paper are to share my experiences and the understandings I have gained, in hopes that you will change as well. I ask that you draw from your own experiences in order to understand the greater implications of this paper in regards to your life and to the situation we are presently encouraging in America.