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.”
“Indigenous peoples have a long history of food systems depending on the traditional knowledge of their local ecosystems. In addition, they play a vital role in preserving and recovering the natural environment that shaped their livelihoods and cultures for centuries, acting as stewards of biodiversity.”
“Slow Food believes that it is senseless to defend biodiversity without also defending the cultural diversity of Indigenous Peoples. The right of peoples to have control over their land, to grow food, to hunt, fish and gather according to their own needs and decisions is fundamental to protect their livelihoods and defend the biodiversity of indigenous breeds and varieties.”
“Painted robes, covered with figures and symbols and accessorized with leggings and gloves, became storyboards of oral history and epic adventure. One monumental example from the Branly collection, fittingly known as the Grand Robe, depicts, in more than a dozen episodes and with a cast of some 60 figures, the Homeric exploits of two Lakota warriors. There are debates over the gender of the artists of certain robes. But in general, paintings and drawings were done by men, and tanning, sewing and beadwork by women. And outstanding examples of beadwork, positioned throughout the show, glow with a kind of self-generated light.”
‘I am a mathematician, and I would like to stand on your roof.’ That is how Ron Eglash greeted many African families he met while researching the fractal patterns he’d noticed in villages across the continent.”
“Traditionally most sand mandalas are deconstructed shortly after their completion. This is done as a metaphor of the impermanence of life. The sands are swept up and placed in an urn; to fulfill the function of healing, half is distributed to the audience at the closing ceremony, while the remainder is carried to a nearby body of water, where it is deposited. The waters then carry the healing blessing to the ocean, and from there it spreads throughout the world for planetary healing.”
“Navajo Sandpaintings, also called dry paintings, are called “places where the gods come and go” in the Navajo language. They are used in curing ceremonies in which the gods’ help is requested for harvests and healing.
The figures in sand paintings are symbolic representations of a story in Navajo mythology. They depict objects like the sacred mountains where the gods live, or legendary visions, or they illustrate dances or chants performed in rituals.”
“Every culture is a unique answer to a fundamental question: What does it mean to be human and alive? In The Wayfinders, renowned anthropologist, winner of the prestigious Samuel Johnson Prize, and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Wade Davis leads us on a thrilling journey to celebrate the wisdom of the world’s indigenous cultures.
In Polynesia we set sail with navigators whose ancestors settled the Pacific ten centuries before Christ. In the Amazon we meet the descendants of a true lost civilization, the Peoples of the Anaconda. In the Andes we discover that the earth really is alive, while in Australia we experience Dreamtime, the all-embracing philosophy of the first humans to walk out of Africa. We then travel to Nepal, where we encounter a wisdom hero, a Bodhisattva, who emerges from forty-five years of Buddhist retreat and solitude. And finally we settle in Borneo, where the last rainforest nomads struggle to survive.
Understanding the lessons of this journey will be our mission for the next century. For at risk is the human legacy — a vast archive of knowledge and expertise, a catalogue of the imagination. Rediscovering a new appreciation for the diversity of the human spirit, as expressed by culture, is among the central challenges of our time.”
“Ancient Polynesians settled 10 million square miles of the Pacific by navigating sailing canoes from island to island. But their tremendous story was almost lost. Can a single sailing canoe from Hawaii restore the pride of the Polynesian culture after years and years decay and denial?”
“Wade Davis illuminates the need to embrace and celebrate the cultural and intellectual diversity that constitutes the totality of human experience, especially when considering fundamental questions of how we are to relate to our environment.”
“With stunning photos and stories, National Geographic Explorer Wade Davis celebrates the extraordinary diversity of the world’s indigenous cultures, which are disappearing from the planet at an alarming rate.”