School for Shamans to Save Culture From Extinction

amazonian shaman photo
Migrated Image

Photo via Mongabay

While environmental groups and governmental policies are aiming at reducing deforestation and development in the Amazon rainforest to help preserve the world's most diverse terrestrial ecosystem, traditional indigenous cultures in the region are being rescued from extinction as well. For native tribes of the Northwest Amazon, shamans have long played an important role in daily life, acting as spiritual leaders and medicinal healers. Throughout the twentieth century, shamans faced such intense persecution from Roman Catholic and Protestant missionaries that some feared their ancient wisdom would be lost to the ages, but a new school in the Amazon is working to make sure that doesn't happen. The school, called Malikai Depan, located in the village of Cachoeira Uapui in the northwest of Amazonas state of Brazil, was founded by the children of a renowned shaman with the support of anthropologist Robin Wright. According to a report in Socioambiental, the school is the result of years of research sponsored by the Foundation for Shamanic Studies in California, which interested in supporting the art and practice of traditional shamanism.

Robin Wright:

We create new programs (such as shamanic art courses) and to explore ways in which the Western biomedical knowledge and the metaphysics of shamanism can benefit each other.

Robin Wright, left, attends the inauguration of the school.

The curriculum at the School for Shamans aims to promote traditional medicine, especially among younger people, and to train health workers and introduce the cultivation of medicinal plants on their land. In addition, the school will help revive the cosmology and metaphysical wisdom of the shamans, which has been the source of friction among European settlers historically, and has run the risk of becoming a lost treasure of ancestral knowledge.

Malikai Dapana, built in the style of traditional huts by locals in the region, was inaugurated with a dance to honor the history of the shaman in the region and a meal of traditional dishes. Although there are only 12 students currently enrolled this season, school organizers are hopeful that more people will be connected with their traditions in the future, and that the traditional customs of the Amazonian shaman shall never be extinct.