On Cultural Appropriation, Diversity and Ayahuasca

Trace Richardson with Ayahuasca Shaman in Peru



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I’m reminded of how tribal we can be when we attempt to hold ideas, culture and even plants hostage under the guise of “cultural appropriation”. And let’s be clear, if you value “diversity”, then cultural appropriation is where it’s at. But while it’s usually white people that gnash teeth over cultural appropriation, the indigenous in the Amazon are giving us a run for their money. And it’s no coincidence that money is at stake in the cultural, spiritual and economic gatekeeping pronounced in this Declaration about cultural appropriation from the spiritual authorities, representatives and indigenous organizations of the amazon region.

One gem that summarizes the absurdity that is this document is the pronouncement that nobody else may grow a plant or have any ceremonies with said plant, which in this case is Yagé, one of the components of Ayahuasca.

No one outside the indigenous communities can cultivate, sell yagé or officiate ceremonies.

 

If Cultural Appropriation Was a Ballot Measure

Is diversity important to you? What about in music, art, food and culture? Do you consider negative and divisive social constructs to be a bad thing? Then be sure to vote YES on Cultural Appropriation in your life, community and art! Music, art, food and even our own culture in the US as we know it would not exist without Cultural Appropriation. Virtually every culture has benefitted from and participated directly in Cultural Appropriation, it is not a bad word or thing, but an essential and natural element of growth in the advancement of art and even technology in cultures old and new. Vote YES in 2020 on Cultural Appropriation and say yes to diversity in ideas, thought and culture!

Here’s a reddit thread discussing the indigenous pronouncement and my response from reddit below:

 

This is cultural, spiritual and economic gatekeeping, nothing more. Thankfully for those seeking and in need of sacred medicines like Ayahuasca, nobody gets to call historical “dibs” on plants and medicines, dictate others how they may or may not use them and or prevent those in need from accessing them.

Ayahuasca has moved beyond a single culture, heritage or region and now walks on the world stage enmeshing itself in the many cultures, ethnicities, and heritages that have openly embraced it and that desperately need it.

Thankfully this pronouncement has no teeth, think of the devastating effect that would occur if it did. Only those wealthy enough to afford the many expenses in taking time off work, flying across the globe and paying the hefty retreat and travel expenses would be able to access this sacred medicine as it was being kept hostage within a single culture and region. Think of how much pain, suffering and exploration that could have been addressed by Ayahuasca would instead persist as those in need of this medicine would be denied access.




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