Learn About Talking Plants and its Founder Michael Stuart Ani
Michael Stuart Ani has been a student of plant wisdom for almost fifty years. As a young man, the Lakota sage, John Fire Lame Deer, guided him through his first peyote ceremony and then sent him south to Mexico in search of the steps of the Ghost Dance. These steps led Michael to the Sierra Mazateca of Oaxaca, famous for its sacred mushrooms. From the 1960s through the 1970s, Ani lived in the Mazateca’s most remote cloud forest and became the only outsider who was ever allowed to collect the sacred mushroom species of the region.
Unlike the sugar cane and cow dung magic mushrooms the Huautla locals called “The White Man’s Saints” the elusive mushrooms of the cloud forest were known as “Los Pequenos” or “The Little Ones.” Ani then spent 30 years learning the language of “The Prince of Plants,” the voice behind these special mushrooms.
During the 1980s, the steps of the Ghost Dance led Ani to the remote tribes of the Amazon Jungle. With his Amazonia Foundation, Michael was instrumental in fighting the epidemics among the Yanomami in the rainforests of Venezuela. He introduced the plant Artemisia annua which proved to be a much more effective antimalarial than the WHO pharmaceutical used at the time. Ani also helped to create a school to teach local indigenous people to be healthcare officers in the emerging Alto Orinoco Biosphere Reserve.
His work in Venezuela was subsequently featured in the 1994 documentary, Yanomami, Keepers of the Flame, which won the US Environmental Film Festival’s Best Documentary of the Year. Keepers of the Flame also became the feature film at the 1994 Brazilian Earth Summit. After many years guiding explorers through the most remote parts of the Amazon, Ani was inducted into the Explorers Society under the guidance of Sir Edmund Hilary and Thor Hyerdahl.
Napoleon Chagnon, (who Ani worked within the jungle) said of him, “Michael gave a brilliant account of his work with the Yanomamo. He is extremely knowledgeable, experienced, and has their best interests at heart.”
Dedicated to helping the Yanomami survive the epidemics, Ani would periodically leave the jungle to raise money to support the medical effort. In this time he took on many different careers. He became an author, producer, university lecturer, and radio and TV guest speaker.
During the early years of the 2000s, Ani focused his attention back on the Northern States of the Americas and worked to repatriate some of the very last genetically pure Bison to the Brule, Lakota tribes on the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota. While on Rosebud, Ani responded to the requests of tribal elder Leonard Crow Dog and brought an eyeglass clinic to the reservation. Because of his efforts in South America and Mexico, and his work to build a ceremony house for the renowned healer, Grandpa Roy Stone, the Amazonia Foundation was honored by being included as an organization under the umbrella of the National Congress of American Indians.
Today Michael Stuart Ani lives in the cloud forest of the Sierra Mazateca with his partner, Heather, and dog, Gracie Goose. He is a farmer, public speaker, writer, and advocate for the protection of the environment.
About Heather Vuchinich
Heather Vuchinich was mentored in plant medicine by Asata Gabriel for over 20 years before completing the advanced level Community Herbalist program at the renowned California School of Herbal Medicine. Heather has taught both children and adults in a variety of settings, with a focus on environmental education. She has a M.A. from Sonoma State University specializing in Ecopsychology and a teaching credential from San Francisco State University. She has worked closely with Michael Stuart Ani for the last 13 years, editing his book The Ghost Dance and accompanying him on many of his more recent trips to the Sierra Mazateca.