What does this article tell us about indigenous knowledge systems? Must this knowledge be written in a western style encyclopedia to be accepted as “scientific”?
“In the farthest reaches of the Amazon rainforest, the last remaining elder shamans of the Matsés tribe came together in a quest to save their ancestral knowledge from the precipice of extinction. The gathering, held in May in a remote village on the frontier divide of Perú and Brazil, concluded over two years work and culminated in the production of the first Traditional Medicine Encyclopedia ever written by an Amazonian tribe. The 500-page repository details medicinal plants used by Matsés healers for a diversity of ailments.
“For centuries, Amazonian peoples passed on through oral tradition an accumulated wealth of knowledge of the natural world. Now with cultural change destabilizing even the most isolated societies, that knowledge is rapidly disappearing. For the Matsés tribe, outside contact occurred only within the past half century and the healers had already mastered their knowledge before being told it was useless by missionaries and others. As a result of these outside influences, the remaining elders, now all over 60 years old, have no apprentices among the younger Matsés generations. Their ancestral knowledge was poised to be lost forever.”