The Shipibo are an indigenous group who live along the Amazon rain forest of Peru’s Ucayali River. They are internationally known for their traditional weavings and their offerings of “spiritual tourism” which is based on the ceremonial uses of the vine ayahuasca. Because of these two factors they have had extensive outside contact and so exist between the worlds.

When the Covid pandemic hit the Shipibo, they went to the pharmacy and found that the drugs they needed were either out of stock or very expensive and beyond their means. So, what did these world-class survivors do? They turned to their traditional healers to find a solution.

Curiously, the plant (called Matico), that the healers have been using with great success, originally came from a region 4,000 feet above them.

I have a young Cree friend from Canada, Ben, and he once asked me if I thought that it was a type of cultural appropriation for First Nation Canadians to use a plant from South America. My response was that the borders that separate the countries of the Americas were made by latecomers and at one time all the plants of all the Americas were tied together by a giant network of subterranean mycelia. This means that plant’s ability to heal does not draw these lines in the sand and create borders, people do.

A huge problem exists with large pharmaceutical companies exploiting indigenous people’s traditional plants and plant knowledge for profit which often results in the destruction of the plant’s habitat. The tribal rights of indigenous people and their plants must be protected. So, the solution that the Talking Plants Foundation is supporting, is to work with small indigenous groups to help their communities maintain control of their “plant capital” instead of the colonization of their indigenous knowledge and natural resources.