The life of Ojigkwanong, the Algonquin leader who worked to reconcile…
The Shaman's Apprentice
For more than twenty years Dr. Mark Plotkin has searched the Amazon for plants that heal. He is an ethnobotanist, a scientist who studies the relationship between indigenous people and plants. He set out on a mission to find a cure for diabetes, a disease that killed both of his grandmothers. THE SHAMAN'S APPRENTICE charts the story of Mark's discoveries, and looks at the astonishing ability of native people to manage their environment.
People of the forest have become sophisticated chemists by necessity, utilizing plants for every aspect of their lives. Often, the entire knowledge of a tribe resides in the mind of the shaman - the tribe's doctor and spiritual leader. But the shamans are also the most endangered species in the Amazon. Marooned in time by the loss of traditional ways, many of the native healers have no apprentices. Most are old, and each shaman's death is a kind of extinction. It is these shamans that Mark seeks out, hoping to save their precious knowledge, for it may be vital to the world's future.
THE SHAMAN'S APPRENTICE is a story of survival against the odds. It interweaves the luminous rainforest world of phenomena and legends with western science and the grim realities of extinction. In the story of one man's quest to preserve the ancient wisdom of our species, we find intelligence, cooperation and hope that could save one of the most glorious places on Earth.
'Superb, compelling, definitive.' Edward O. Wilson, Honorary Curator of Entomology, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, and author of Biophilia and The Diversity of Life
'Recommended without reservation. The message is important, and the film is a sensory treat with substantial entertainment value. The life and contributions of Plotkin are quite remarkable. It is a story that is well worth watching.' John Pezzuto, Pharmaceutical Biology
'In The Shaman's Apprentice, renowned ethnobotanist Mark Plotkin makes a powerful case to save both the Amazon rain forest and the indigenous shamans...The video, with its high production values, is packed with facts and is designed for grades ten through adult; highly recommended.' Library Journal
'A thoroughly captivating journey into the heart of the rainforest in pursuit of the Shaman's secrets...an unusual and successful blend of the shamanic and the scientific.' Dr. Tom Lovejoy, Biodiversity Adviser, The World Bank
'Dazzling visuals, cutting edge science and a compelling story make The Shaman's Apprentice a feast for the eyes, the heart, and the mind...one of the most stunning rainforest films ever made.' Ken Cook, President, Environmental Working Group
'No one has done more to popularize the field of ethnobotany than Mark Plotkin. Plotkin takes the viewer into an exotic landscape where only the shamans, or medicine men, have the cures for a variety of tropical ailments. This film will surely introduce countless viewers to an area of immense interest within ethnobotany: the study of medicinal plants.' John R. Stepp, founding editor of Journal of Ecological Anthropology
'Interspersed with mythical, dream-like folktales, splendidly retold by Susan Sarandon, this film is a pleasant blend of the mystique and the reality of the pursuit and understanding of indigenous medicinal plant usage...It illustrates a success story about a man who recognized the importance of what he was doing not only for his own benefit but for the benefit of those from whom the information originates.' Dr. Patricia S. De Angelis, Ph.D. Ethnobotany
'Rarely does one find a documentary that has such universal appeal and applicability. At the same time this film is educational, inspiring, thought-provoking and entertaining--a true gem of the new millennium.' Joseph D. Hoffman Ph.D., Professor of Medicinal Chemistry and Arid Land Resource Sciences, University of Arizona
'One of the most profound and inspiring films you are likely to see, The Shaman's Apprentice is a documentary no one should miss...combines extraordinary footage with remarkably insightful commentary.' Simeon Herskovitz, Taos Talking Picture Festival Program
'The Shaman's Apprentice is an informed and informative documentary which is very strongly recommended viewing for students of ethnobiology, anthropology, rain forest ecology, and Native American studies.' The Midwest Book Review
'After viewing the film... a student posted the following to the online discussion:
'I thought this video was great in that it made me look at some things differently. I always made fun of treehuggers and never saw any point in dedicating one's life to the preservation of the rainforest. But after watching this video I think differently about the whole thing. One thing that struck me the most was that the shaman had found a tree that cured the HIV 1 virus. But when they went back to get more off of the tree, it had been cut down! We are killing ourselves as we destroy nature. Who knows what we could have found cures for by now if we had preserved more? It boggles me.'
...I was struck by The Shaman's Apprentice film's ability to bring about such a radical shift in attitude.' Henry D. Delcore, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, California State University, Fresno
'Beautifully produced...suitable for a public audience, upper-level high school classes, or college courses in cultural anthropology, indigenous peoples, development, fieldwork methods, Native American studies, and ethnobotany/indigenous knowledge.' Jack David Eller, Metropolitan State College of Denver, Anthropology Review Database
Smith, Miranda (Director)
Smith, Miranda (Producer)
Wright, Abigail (Screenwriter)
Wright, Abigail (Producer)
Sarandon, Susan (Narrator)
Editor, Leslie Getty; music, John Kusiak; camera, Gary Griffin, Ken Bailey.
Distributor subjectsAnthropology; Biology; Death And Dying; Earth Science; Ecology; Environment; Forests and Rainforests; Geography; Global Issues; Habitat; Humanities; Indigenous Peoples; Latin American Studies; Sociology
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Long ago a man went into
the forest to hunt.
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He had no luck and it grew late.
On his way home,
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he met Aware the old person.
Aware said better stay with me.
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A snake might bite you. Let\'s
go to sleep and let us dream.
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\"What are you talking about,
grandfather?\" said the man.
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You see long ago there were no dreams.
People never had dreams.
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Dreaming is giving yourself
a soul said, Aware.
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Now go to sleep.
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Soon the man began to dream.
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Help, he moaned, a Jaguar. Help. He
woke up and cried, \"Oh, grandfather,
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I saw myself being caught by a Jaguar.\"
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Now you have a Jaguar soul said, Aware.
Now you are the master of dreams.
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One of my earliest memories was being a child
in Louisiana sitting on the linoleum floor
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staring up at my grandmother injecting
herself with insulin to combat her diabetes.
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This was not a cure. Western medicine
at that time had no effective cure.
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Still doesn\'t. This worked
for a couple of years,
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and then the diabetes took over,
and she died a miserable death.
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There was nothing Western medicine
could do. Absolutely nothing.
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Watching someone close to you die of a disease, which the
most modern medicine cannot cure or treat successfully
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I think has an impact and makes you want to
look for things that may hold a solution.
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Diabetes is on the
increase around the world.
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I have kids. I\'m worried about diabetes.
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When I came to this village
and found out that
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these people claim to be able to treat diabetes
using local plants, I realized it was something
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that needed to be followed up.
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In the Amazon, I\'m a plant hunter.
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I\'m an ethnobotanist. I\'m studying
how people are using plant
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for medicinal purposes. I\'m studying how
people relate to the plant kingdom.
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I learned ethnobotany from the
great Harvard ethnobotanist
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Richard Evans Schultes.
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Well, I had dropped out of college and
was working in a museum at Harvard.
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And a friend of mine said as long as you\'re working at a university,
you might as well get an education. So I got the night school catalog
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and opened it up and there was a course on the
botany and chemistry of hallucinogenic plants.
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Well, this being the end of the 60s,
it had a certain appeal at that time.
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The course was taught by Professor Schultes known
as the father of the science of ethnobotany,
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a Harvard professor who went
down to the Amazon in 1941
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and stayed there for 14 years living
with the Indians as an Indian.
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He was a legend in terms of understanding both
the plants and the peoples of the rainforest.
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It was this incredible lecture
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the very first night at these extraordinary
scenes of these nearly naked people
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under the influence of these powerful
hallucinogens doing these incredible dances.
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You had pictures of these ancient shamans performing these
bizarre rituals, working with these incredible plants
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from a man who had been there, who\'d
lived there, who\'d worked there.
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It was opening a door to another world
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and it was one slide that did it for me.
And he said
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here you see three Indians of the Yucuna tribe.
All of them are doing the Kai-yah-ree dance
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to keep away the forces of darkness.
All of them are totally intoxicated
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on a hallucinogenic potion. The one
on the left has a Harvard degree.
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Next slide please.
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I remember very vividly
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professor Schulte standing in front of the class pointing his finger
us and saying you will be the last generation to see these forests
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in a pristine condition. You
will be the last generation
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to see these people in their
true aboriginal setting.
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Now is the time to see it. Now is the
time to document it. And it\'s your job
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to get down there, work with these people, learn this
knowledge, and try and protect these forests and these cultures
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before they forever disappear.
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Well, they got me hooked… hooked on plants,
hooked on people\'s, hooked on the Amazon.
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Long ago before humans, before birds even,
the rainforests grew like green velvet
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all around the Earth\'s
middle, warm and moist,
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a womb for the planet. The earth shook
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and the ice came and went and the greatest
forest of all was born, the Amazon.
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She filled her trees with bedazzlement.
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And humans came to live
with her, millions of them.
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But those were the old days.
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Today, I speak of death, not life.
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In a 100 years, over half
the ancient rainforests
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have vanished. In India 80,
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Bangladesh all gone.
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In Thailand, Guatemala, Madagascar, West
Africa, Oceania, China near to die.
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The Amazon\'s people consumed
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in a Holocaust of war, starvation and
disease until only a handful walked
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the lonely glades in sorrow.
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Each year a forest the size of Florida
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lives only in the dreams of the newly
homeless. Each year, another tribe
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leaves no trace.
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Each day 10 million trees breathe
their last into the choking air.
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How many have died while I am speaking?
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My first trip to the Amazon was in 1977.
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I was really interested in following in my
mentor\'s footsteps in the northwest Amazon
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and Richard Schultes who came back from Columbia and said there\'s a drug
war that\'s broken out in that River Valley. He says, why don\'t you go
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to the Northeast Amazon? Nobody\'s ever
worked there. So I came down to Suriname.
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I went to the local airstrip
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and found a pilot and I asked him if he could fly me
to the closest Indian village to the Brazilian border?
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He said if you got the money,
I\'ll make space for you.
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My first trip to the
rainforest struck me as
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what a magical, mysterious and spiritual
place the rainforest truly is.
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It was like entering the sixth dimension because
everything I had heard, everything I\'d seen on TV
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or read in books didn\'t
begin to really capture
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the majesty and wonder of these forests.
The colors, the sounds, the smells
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was just mind expanding.
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Kwamala is one of the most isolated
villages in all the Amazon
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and you can only get there by bush
plane flying for several hours.
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There\'s no roads. The rapids make the
river impassable. So it is a paradise
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cut off from the outside world.
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I was greeted by a lot of
Tiriyos and Redbridge class,
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some of the most friendly,
wonderful, magical, generous people
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I had ever seen or ever would see.
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It was one of the happiest
times of my life.
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Well, you know, the old Jaguar Shaman was one of my first
mentors down here, the Jaguar Shaman who was described as
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the greatest healer. It was a very ambivalent
relationship because he resented the fact that
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I\'d come to learn his secrets. In
fact, he called me the pananakiri,
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which means \"The alien.\" I was another
species as far as he was concerned.
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Shaman is a medicine man or a woman who combines
different skills. He or she is a doctor,
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a philosopher, a singer of
songs, a keeper of legend,
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even the person who conveys
souls to the underworld.
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It\'s fashionable amongst the scientific
community to sort of look down at Shamanism.
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It\'s not scientific. It\'s not really valid. It\'s
an outdated worldview. But I prefer to think of it
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as a parallel worldview, one which is internally
coherent, makes a great deal of sense,
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which allows us to explain phenomena that we can\'t
understand before the prism of Western science.
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Professor Schultes wrote that Shamanism is the oldest
profession in the world contrary to popular opinion.
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Once shaman\'s and shamanistic
medicine dominated the planet,
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but through a variety of different
factors, shamanism has been extinguished
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either intentionally or by accident. Now we
have to go to the far corners of the world
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to find shaman\'s practicing
their sacred craft.
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As a saying I learned in Suriname which is Na boesi, ingi
sabe ala sani, in the bush the Indian knows everything.
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And that really struck home with me because that paraphrase
something that Professor Schultes taught all of his students
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which is that in the forest these people
are the teachers and we are the students.
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People dismiss these Native American
cultures in the rainforest as primitive,
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but I challenge anybody who thinks that to be
dropped in the rainforest and eke out a living.
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These Indians can find their food. They can make their weapons.
They can make their musical instruments. They can make their boats.
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They can make their houses. They can make their
hammocks out of local plants and we cannot do that.
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Schultes said that these native healers
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were nature\'s greatest geniuses when it came to
understanding plants and their healing abilities.
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This plant is used as a snakebite medicine.
I\'ve only seen it three times in 20 years.
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It\'s never been examined in the laboratory.
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This is the We-de tree, a tropical
nutmeg found throughout the Amazon.
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Schultes found the Indians using it to paint on fungal
infections of the skin. It seems to be very effective.
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80% of the world\'s population relies
on plants in primary healthcare.
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That is four out of every five people living on planet
Earth use plants for medicine. Not the drugstore.
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Not the hospital. Not the medicine chest.
It\'s plants around the world.
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The Amazon is the largest, most
wonderful, most mysterious,
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least explored terrestrial
ecosystem in the world.
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The rainforest is the result of 3 billion years
of evolution and we destroy it at our peril.
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When I was a kid going to school
in New Orleans, Louisiana,
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we learned that the rain forests were the bread baskets
of the future. They had all this great vegetation
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and they were gonna feed the world. Well, if you look at
the soils of the Amazon, they\'re amongst the most ancient,
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the most weathered. They\'re almost sand.
So when you destroy that forest,
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you\'re left with a sandbox. Nobody wants
to try and grow their crops in a sandbox.
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The life is locked into the forest.
When you remove the forest,
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it does not come back.
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Rainforests everywhere are under siege. Colleagues
at Harvard found the bark of a tree in Sarawak
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that had a compound which seemed to
knock HIV-1 right out of the test tube.
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When they went back to get more of the bark, they were
unable to do so because the tree had been cut down.
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Extinctions do happen and
everyone that does happen
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that we know about probably represents
100 more that we don\'t know about.
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That\'s how ignorant we are of the natural world
and that\'s how we are in a very real sense
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fouling our own nest.
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The first shamans stood in the doorway
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between the worlds. The little
spirits of the rainforest plants
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spoke to him from the other side.
Tamo, they said,
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\"Grandfather, your people are hungry and
sick. We will teach you how to live.\"
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That\'s how the people learned.
They passed on the knowledge
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from parent to child. The river of light
flowed through the years without seasons.
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When the white man came to the forests,
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he took the gifts of the plant spirits back
across the ocean. There were wonderful new foods.
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Chocolate, food of the Gods,
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cassava, which feeds millions
of humans every day,
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chilies, pineapples, papayas,
peanuts and more, much more.
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The Indians showed the newcomer the
white blood of the forest, rubber,
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which made the wheels that drove the
engines of the strangers noisy world,
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and gifts of healing, flowers for fever,
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roots for parasites, fungi for infections,
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the bark of the cinchona tree made
bitter quinine to treat malaria
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the greatest man killer of them all.
From the poison called Curare
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made from a twisting vine, the
white man made a medicine
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that transformed his surgeries
and the plant spirits
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speak to the shamans still. They say,
Tamo, we bring you the energy of the Sun.
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We bring you gifts of things unknown.
Heal your aching soul with our beauty.
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Fritz Van Troon has been
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a friend, a mentor, a teacher,
a father figure for me
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for much of the past 20 years.
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Fritz\'s the maroon, a bush Negro. The Maroons
are brought over as slaves from Africa.
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They looked around and said hey, this is equatorial
rainforests. We\'ll see you white boys later.
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They set up these African cultures deep
in the jungles of the northeast Amazon.
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Fritz is the greatest botanical
genius I\'ve ever met.
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Fritz is somebody who
when you show him a tree
00:20:40.000 --> 00:20:44.999
gives you not only the maroon name for the tree,
he gives you the Indian name for the tree,
00:20:45.000 --> 00:20:49.999
the Dutch name, the English name, the
scientific name, the ecology of the tree,
00:20:50.000 --> 00:20:54.999
the pollination biology of the tree, the soil preference
of the tree, when it fruits, when it flowers,
00:20:55.000 --> 00:20:59.999
and when animal distributes the seeds.
00:21:00.000 --> 00:21:04.999
Botanists are trained to identify plants
by looking at the fruits or the flowers,
00:21:05.000 --> 00:21:09.999
essentially the reproductive part.
There\'s so many species in the Amazon
00:21:10.000 --> 00:21:14.999
it can be hard to tell these things apart especially since
they only produce fruit of flowers maybe one week a year.
00:21:15.000 --> 00:21:23.000
00:21:25.000 --> 00:21:29.999
Fritz can identify thousands
of plants to species
00:21:30.000 --> 00:21:34.999
just by looking at them, and not only identify them,
but tell you where they grow, how they\'re used,
00:21:35.000 --> 00:21:39.999
who uses them and for what purpose.
I\'m fond of saying
00:21:40.000 --> 00:21:44.999
who needs computers in the rain
forest when you have Fritz Van Troon.
00:21:45.000 --> 00:21:49.999
00:21:50.000 --> 00:21:54.999
We estimate that about 90% of the flowering plants
of the Amazon have already been identified.
00:21:55.000 --> 00:21:59.999
That means they have scientific names. Less
than 5% have been looked at in the laboratory
00:22:00.000 --> 00:22:04.999
in a really in-depth way and very few
of those have been studied to see
00:22:05.000 --> 00:22:09.999
what local peoples were using them for.
00:22:10.000 --> 00:22:18.000
00:22:25.000 --> 00:22:29.999
When you read the accounts of what
the Colonials here in Suriname did,
00:22:30.000 --> 00:22:34.999
it\'s pretty gruesome. Clearly,
these people had to flee
00:22:35.000 --> 00:22:39.999
the forest to survive, and it wasn\'t a
happy-go-lucky Garden of Eden existence
00:22:40.000 --> 00:22:44.999
because they didn\'t have that ancient tradition
to draw down on that the Indians had.
00:22:45.000 --> 00:22:49.999
So they had to use their own devices,
their own resources to learn new things.
00:22:50.000 --> 00:22:54.999
And it\'s just an absolutely incredible human experiment
if you think about it. But if they hadn\'t been so smart
00:22:55.000 --> 00:22:59.999
and they hadn\'t been so tough and they hadn\'t been
so resourceful, there wouldn\'t be any maroons today.
00:23:00.000 --> 00:23:05.000
00:23:25.000 --> 00:23:29.999
The great advantage of working with native peoples in the
forest is they understand these plants better than we do.
00:23:30.000 --> 00:23:38.000
They know these plants as living beings.
00:23:55.000 --> 00:23:59.999
Shamanic wisdom comes about in many ways.
00:24:00.000 --> 00:24:04.999
Clearly, they learn from watching the animals.
Clearly, they learn from generic experimentation.
00:24:05.000 --> 00:24:09.999
You slash the bark of a tree with your machete and sap
comes out red. It turns orange and it turns yellow.
00:24:10.000 --> 00:24:14.999
You know there\'s some wild chemistry happening there. Clearly, they
learn from the concept of bitters which is found in all cultures.
00:24:15.000 --> 00:24:20.000
If it\'s bitter, it may be good for you. Bitterness
often indicates the presence of alkaloids.
00:24:35.000 --> 00:24:39.999
Their medicine differs quite
a bit from the Indians.
00:24:40.000 --> 00:24:45.880
They may use the same species. They use it for a different purpose. They
use a different dosage. They use it to treat different medical conditions.
00:24:50.000 --> 00:24:54.999
For instance, the Indians don\'t get sickle-cell anemia.
So if you want to find new leads in the laboratory
00:24:55.000 --> 00:24:59.999
for treating sickle cell anemia in the United States of America,
you don\'t go work with the Indians. You work with the Maroons.
00:25:00.000 --> 00:25:08.000
00:25:30.000 --> 00:25:35.000
00:25:40.000 --> 00:25:44.999
Western medicine does not have good cures
for fungal infections of the skin.
00:25:45.000 --> 00:25:49.999
If you live in the rainforest, the hottest most humid environment
on earth, and you cannot cure fungal infections of the skin,
00:25:50.000 --> 00:25:55.000
you are a fungal infection of the skin.
00:26:25.000 --> 00:26:33.000
00:27:05.000 --> 00:27:13.000
00:27:25.000 --> 00:27:29.999
The great thing about ethnobotany is like the Chinese
box puzzle most of us had as kids where you open it up
00:27:30.000 --> 00:27:34.999
and there\'s another box inside, and you open it up and there\'s
another box inside. You open it up, there\'s another box inside.
00:27:35.000 --> 00:27:39.999
And just when you get to the smallest
box possible which you think
00:27:40.000 --> 00:27:44.999
holds the ultimate answer to the question, to the quest
you are on, to the question you\'re trying to have answer,
00:27:45.000 --> 00:27:49.999
you open it up and there\'s another box inside.
That\'s what working with shamans is really like.
00:27:50.000 --> 00:27:54.999
00:27:55.000 --> 00:27:59.999
Well, the Wayana Shaman once told me that
00:28:00.000 --> 00:28:04.999
we all have a sort of invisible blindfold over our eyes
and that\'s what keeps us from seeing into other worlds.
00:28:05.000 --> 00:28:09.999
To become a Shaman, he said, one simply
has to learn to remove that blindfold.
00:28:10.000 --> 00:28:14.999
00:28:15.000 --> 00:28:19.999
Shamans often attribute illness to the invasion of the body
by an evil spirit. But if you think in terms of analogy,
00:28:20.000 --> 00:28:24.999
couldn\'t that evil spirit be a bacteria?
Couldn\'t it be a virus?
00:28:25.000 --> 00:28:29.999
We shouldn\'t be so quick to dismiss
things we don\'t understand.
00:28:30.000 --> 00:28:34.999
Our system of medicine is as puzzling and baffling
to shamans as their system of healing is to us.
00:28:35.000 --> 00:28:40.000
And it\'s our arrogance which is denigrated
and even wiped out the shamanistic medicine.
00:28:45.000 --> 00:28:49.999
The shamans of European
culture in the Middle Ages
00:28:50.000 --> 00:28:54.999
were female herbalist who
applied moldy bread to wounds.
00:28:55.000 --> 00:28:59.999
If we hadn\'t labeled them as witches, we might have
had antibiotics long before Fleming\'s so-called
00:29:00.000 --> 00:29:04.999
discovery of penicillin
in moldy bread in 1929.
00:29:05.000 --> 00:29:09.999
What else would we have learned if we hadn\'t burned
them at the stake? And what else might we learn
00:29:10.000 --> 00:29:14.999
if we don\'t burn down the rainforest that
these modern herbalists are working in today?
00:29:15.000 --> 00:29:19.999
In the age of high-tech medicine,
in the age of new technology,
00:29:20.000 --> 00:29:24.999
there\'s many people who believe that this
technological approach has all the answers.
00:29:25.000 --> 00:29:29.999
But I don\'t believe that. I don\'t
see Western medicine able to heal
00:29:30.000 --> 00:29:34.999
all of our ills. Where\'s the cure for AIDS?
Where\'s the cure for diabetes?
00:29:35.000 --> 00:29:39.999
I believe that these shamans may hold
some of the secrets that can lead to
00:29:40.000 --> 00:29:44.999
new and effective cures.
00:29:45.000 --> 00:29:49.999
Nobody has a good scientific explanation of how the
Indians can mix together very different plants
00:29:50.000 --> 00:29:54.999
to create a hallucinogen and
arrow poison, a medicine?
00:29:55.000 --> 00:29:59.999
What we find now is that these combinations
00:30:00.000 --> 00:30:04.999
which have been dismissed in the past like curare
are actually very sophisticated chemical mixtures
00:30:05.000 --> 00:30:09.999
where plants that are inert when added to these poisons potentiate
the poison. That is they make them in effect more poisonous.
00:30:10.000 --> 00:30:14.999
So we now have to go back and re-examine
all of these shamanic potions
00:30:15.000 --> 00:30:19.999
because these guys in breach cloths and penis strings turn
out to be better chemists than we are in certain instances.
00:30:20.000 --> 00:30:24.999
00:30:25.000 --> 00:30:29.999
The rainforest is the greatest medical school on the planet and it\'s
only having the greatest teachers who know this University well
00:30:30.000 --> 00:30:34.999
who are the shamans themselves that allow you to understand
their system of healing and what it may offer to us
00:30:35.000 --> 00:30:39.999
here in the Western world.
00:30:40.000 --> 00:30:44.999
There are over 80,000 species of
flowering plants in the Amazon.
00:30:45.000 --> 00:30:49.999
How would you know what species
to use for what illness
00:30:50.000 --> 00:30:54.999
at what dosage level and what part of the
plant without the guidance of the shamans?
00:30:55.000 --> 00:30:59.999
Every useful plant
00:31:00.000 --> 00:31:04.999
that\'s come from the Amazon was first learned
of from medicine men and medicine women.
00:31:05.000 --> 00:31:09.999
00:31:10.000 --> 00:31:14.999
Ethnobotany unfortunately has been
something of a rape and run exercise,
00:31:15.000 --> 00:31:19.999
whether it\'s medicinal plants like quinine
or industrial plants like rubber,
00:31:20.000 --> 00:31:24.999
we took these from the Indians without compensating
for their knowledge or the use of these plants.
00:31:25.000 --> 00:31:30.000
This is no longer an acceptable
way of doing business.
00:31:50.000 --> 00:31:54.999
You know these are secrets. These… this is sacred.
I\'ve been criticized in the academic establishment
00:31:55.000 --> 00:31:59.999
for not publishing this stuff.
Well, I don\'t care.
00:32:00.000 --> 00:32:04.999
My job as I see it is to talk about the importance of it and if the
Indians want to share it, if the Indians want to have it analyzed
00:32:05.000 --> 00:32:09.999
in a laboratory, that\'s completely
up to them. What I want to do is
00:32:10.000 --> 00:32:14.999
help them make an informed choice to know the value of
what they have and to get them to do something about it.
00:32:15.000 --> 00:32:19.999
But unless they realize the
value of what they have,
00:32:20.000 --> 00:32:24.999
which many of them don\'t, unless the outside
world realizes the value of what they have,
00:32:25.000 --> 00:32:29.999
it\'s all gonna go up in smoke.
00:32:30.000 --> 00:32:38.000
00:32:40.000 --> 00:32:44.999
When the world began,
there was only one man.
00:32:45.000 --> 00:32:49.999
He had three pets a howler monkey,
00:32:50.000 --> 00:32:54.999
a parrot, and a vulture.
00:32:55.000 --> 00:32:59.999
One day, he returned from hunting to find
that someone had made cassava bread.
00:33:00.000 --> 00:33:04.999
In the morning he hid, and he watched
as his pets turn themselves into people
00:33:05.000 --> 00:33:09.999
and began to prepare the bread.
The monkey changed itself
00:33:10.000 --> 00:33:14.999
into a beautiful woman, and
she and the man were married.
00:33:15.000 --> 00:33:19.999
One day in the forest, a harpy eagle
showed the man his talons and said,
00:33:20.000 --> 00:33:24.999
\"This is my Curare.\" He showed
the man a vine and said,
00:33:25.000 --> 00:33:29.999
\'This is your Curare.\' The eagle
taught him how to prepare the poison
00:33:30.000 --> 00:33:34.999
and place it on his arrows.
00:33:35.000 --> 00:33:39.999
In the forest, the man killed all the
howler monkeys with his new arrows
00:33:40.000 --> 00:33:44.999
until there was only one left, a female.
Please don\'t shoot me, she begged.
00:33:45.000 --> 00:33:49.999
But the man killed her anyway.
00:33:50.000 --> 00:33:54.999
When she fell to the ground dead, the monkey
turned into the body of the man\'s beautiful wife.
00:33:55.000 --> 00:33:59.999
Oh, it was a high price to pay
00:34:00.000 --> 00:34:04.999
for such powerful knowledge.
00:34:05.000 --> 00:34:09.999
00:34:10.000 --> 00:34:14.999
Well, we hear a lot about the disappearance of the rainforest has been on
the cover of Time magazine. It\'s been on the cover of The New York Times.
00:34:15.000 --> 00:34:19.999
But what is less widely realized is
that the peoples of the rainforest
00:34:20.000 --> 00:34:24.999
are disappearing much faster
than the rainforest itself.
00:34:25.000 --> 00:34:29.999
In the 20th century, over
90 tribes of Indians
00:34:30.000 --> 00:34:34.999
went extinct in Brazil alone that we know
about. Who knows how many others disappeared?
00:34:35.000 --> 00:34:39.999
Every one of these tribes had a
knowledge about medicinal plants,
00:34:40.000 --> 00:34:44.999
and that knowledge is gone.
It will never be recaptured.
00:34:45.000 --> 00:34:49.999
The Tiriyos were missionized
00:34:50.000 --> 00:34:54.999
in the 60s by American missionaries.
They were essentially taught that
00:34:55.000 --> 00:34:59.999
their religion was backwards primitive and wrong
and they needed to accept Western religion.
00:35:00.000 --> 00:35:04.999
They were taught they couldn\'t sing their songs. They
couldn\'t wear their dress that their culture, their medicine,
00:35:05.000 --> 00:35:09.999
their language, their dress was
something to be ashamed of.
00:35:10.000 --> 00:35:14.999
When the Explorer Farabee made contact with the Tiriyos in
the 1800s, he wrote that he didn\'t speak a word of Tiriyo.
00:35:15.000 --> 00:35:19.999
But they danced these dances off
all the animals of the forest
00:35:20.000 --> 00:35:24.999
and they were so good at it that he
recognized every animal immediately.
00:35:25.000 --> 00:35:29.999
Well, here we are now over a century later
00:35:30.000 --> 00:35:34.999
and the last few old men who remember those dances are still
there, but they haven\'t done those dances for over 30 years.
00:35:35.000 --> 00:35:39.999
They were discouraged or
even forbidden to do so
00:35:40.000 --> 00:35:44.999
either by missionary activity or by the chief who was
convinced that they shouldn\'t be doing that anymore
00:35:45.000 --> 00:35:49.999
by the activity of outsiders.
00:35:50.000 --> 00:35:54.999
00:35:55.000 --> 00:35:59.999
Well, the Indians really suffered from a two-fisted
assault. We introduced diseases like tuberculosis,
00:36:00.000 --> 00:36:04.999
which as far as we know the Shaman\'s cannot
cure and then we gave them Western medicines
00:36:05.000 --> 00:36:09.999
to treat some of the diseases we introduced.
But the fact of the matter is we undercut
00:36:10.000 --> 00:36:14.999
the belief in the ability of the Shaman to
heal. We undercut many of the belief systems
00:36:15.000 --> 00:36:19.999
that held these cultures in place and then these cultures
were in essence cut adrift. And it\'s hardly surprising that
00:36:20.000 --> 00:36:24.999
they think that we have all the answers.
00:36:25.000 --> 00:36:29.999
00:36:30.000 --> 00:36:34.999
It\'s very seductive Western civilization,
00:36:35.000 --> 00:36:39.999
boom boxes, electricity,
electric razors, VCRs.
00:36:40.000 --> 00:36:44.999
And I don\'t think we should be denying people that I don\'t think
it\'s right for us to decide what people get and what they don\'t get.
00:36:45.000 --> 00:36:49.999
But seeing people trade an entire culture
for the geegaws of Western culture,
00:36:50.000 --> 00:36:54.999
trading in all their traditional music for
Madonna, it shouldn\'t be an either/or situation.
00:36:55.000 --> 00:36:59.999
00:37:00.000 --> 00:37:04.999
I fear for these people.
00:37:05.000 --> 00:37:09.999
I fear for the future of all people.
00:37:10.000 --> 00:37:14.999
We turn the planet in one giant cesspool. When I hear
these pinheads say, well, extinction has always happened,
00:37:15.000 --> 00:37:19.999
well, excuse me, but I don\'t want to live in a world
which is populated only by roaches and pigeons
00:37:20.000 --> 00:37:24.999
in terms of wildlife. And
that\'s the price we pay
00:37:25.000 --> 00:37:29.999
unless we have better practices at
managing and protecting the Earth.
00:37:30.000 --> 00:37:34.999
So, yeah, I fear for these people. They\'re on the cutting
edge. They\'re likely to disappear a lot faster than we are.
00:37:35.000 --> 00:37:39.999
But I believe that our culture, our
future, our heritage, our medicine
00:37:40.000 --> 00:37:44.999
is intricately intertwined with their future.
So it\'s not them or us. It\'s both of us.
00:37:45.000 --> 00:37:53.000
00:38:10.000 --> 00:38:14.999
The basic first step of botanical research in the
rainforest is collecting a plant, putting it in your press,
00:38:15.000 --> 00:38:19.999
drying out the specimen and storing it in
a herbarium with the name of the plant
00:38:20.000 --> 00:38:25.000
where it grows and perhaps
what the people use it for.
00:38:30.000 --> 00:38:34.999
Herbaria are in a sense
00:38:35.000 --> 00:38:39.999
This is where people store dried specimens from around the
world. And when you want to do research on a particular specimen
00:38:40.000 --> 00:38:44.999
or in a particular country, you go
into the herbaria and find the plants
00:38:45.000 --> 00:38:49.999
that come from the area in
which you want to research.
00:38:50.000 --> 00:38:54.999
Schultes collected somewhere in the
neighborhood of 24,000 different species
00:38:55.000 --> 00:38:59.999
of flowering plants, many of which were new to
science. When they tested them in the laboratory
00:39:00.000 --> 00:39:04.999
some of the active principle, some of the chemicals
that made them medicinally valuable didn\'t work.
00:39:05.000 --> 00:39:09.999
Technology has in a sense caught up with him because
we can now find, analyze and manipulate molecules
00:39:10.000 --> 00:39:14.999
from these plants in ways that weren\'t
possible when he was doing the research
00:39:15.000 --> 00:39:19.999
in an age where we don\'t have a cure for schizophrenia,
deep depression, impotence, most viruses,
00:39:20.000 --> 00:39:24.999
drug-resistant bacteria, it makes all
the sense in the world to go back
00:39:25.000 --> 00:39:29.999
to those riches that he collected
and documented so many years ago.
00:39:30.000 --> 00:39:34.999
When I started in 1982
00:39:35.000 --> 00:39:39.999
the chief said, \"Why do you want to learn this stuff?\" He said,
\"This is old-fashioned. We don\'t use this stuff much anymore.
00:39:40.000 --> 00:39:44.999
We now have Western medicine.\" And I said, \"Well, I
heard that you almost died of malaria.\" And he said,
00:39:45.000 --> 00:39:49.999
\"Yes, that\'s true.\" And I said, \"Well, what… what… what did
you do?\" He says, \"Well, the missionaries gave me quinine.\"
00:39:50.000 --> 00:39:54.999
And I said, \"Really.\" I said, \"Do you know that the quinine
is an Indian medicine? It was taught to the white man
00:39:55.000 --> 00:39:59.999
by native peoples to the west of here.\"
Well, nobody ever told him that.
00:40:00.000 --> 00:40:04.999
And I knew that he was a religious man. I
said, \"Well, you know, chief, I\'m Jewish.
00:40:05.000 --> 00:40:09.999
Jesus is from my tribe. \" And I said,
\" If my ancestors hadn\'t written down
00:40:10.000 --> 00:40:14.999
Jesus\' sermons and if my ancestors hadn\'t written down the Bible,
you wouldn\'t have these things to read in church on Sunday.\"
00:40:15.000 --> 00:40:19.999
And I said, \"If we don\'t work together write down your
wisdom, then your grandchildren and my grandchildren
00:40:20.000 --> 00:40:24.999
won\'t be able to learn from it in the future.\" Well, that made a pretty
good impression on him and he gave me permission to work in the village.
00:40:25.000 --> 00:40:29.999
Well, I kept my part of the bargain
00:40:30.000 --> 00:40:34.999
and after year eight, I presented him
with a manuscript of 300 different plants
00:40:35.000 --> 00:40:39.999
that his people had used traditionally for medicinal purposes.
He called a meeting in the jungle to which I was not invited.
00:40:40.000 --> 00:40:44.999
And the next day my friend (inaudible) came out and said chief
says this stuff is important. He says I\'m to work with you
00:40:45.000 --> 00:40:49.999
in the Jaguar Shaman to translate
this into our language.
00:40:50.000 --> 00:40:54.999
So we will have it to use on our own to perpetuate
our own traditions. Up until then they had one book
00:40:55.000 --> 00:40:59.999
in their language. Well, now they
have two books in their language:
00:41:00.000 --> 00:41:05.000
the Holy Bible and the (inaudible)
the Tiriyo plant medicine handbook.
00:41:35.000 --> 00:41:43.000
00:41:55.000 --> 00:41:59.999
This diabetes medicine seemed to work. I worked with a
physician on this. He said her blood sugar level was 536
00:42:00.000 --> 00:42:04.999
and the potion dropped it to 136 in 12 hours. But
when I took it back to the laboratory in the States,
00:42:05.000 --> 00:42:09.999
they couldn\'t figure out how it worked
because they tested chemical one,
00:42:10.000 --> 00:42:14.999
then chemical two, then chemical three,
they couldn\'t find the magic bullet.
00:42:15.000 --> 00:42:19.999
When I asked the Shaman, he said, \"There is no magic bullet.
It\'s all of those different things working together.\"
00:42:20.000 --> 00:42:24.999
Western medicine, Western science isn\'t
geared up to deal with that complexity.
00:42:25.000 --> 00:42:29.999
And so in looking for that magic
bullet, we may have lost everything.
00:42:30.000 --> 00:42:34.999
Maybe in the future, we\'ll have the technology that will
allow us to replicate all of these natural products
00:42:35.000 --> 00:42:39.999
in the laboratory. But at this point the Shaman
understands things that I believe we do not.
00:42:40.000 --> 00:42:44.999
00:42:45.000 --> 00:42:53.000
00:42:55.000 --> 00:42:59.999
Perhaps the hardest for Westerners to fathom
understand accept are the language of dreams.
00:43:00.000 --> 00:43:04.999
I\'ve had Shamans say to me uh… they took a hallucinating
plant and they dreamed a cure for something.
00:43:05.000 --> 00:43:09.999
I\'ve had Shaman say to me they took a nap and they dreamed
about a plant and that\'s a successful treatment for something.
00:43:10.000 --> 00:43:14.999
Well, if you think about the history of Western
science and Kekulé was trying to figure out
00:43:15.000 --> 00:43:19.999
the structure of the benzene molecule, he couldn\'t figure out,
couldn\'t figure out, couldn\'t figure it out. So he went to sleep
00:43:20.000 --> 00:43:24.999
and in his sleep he had a dream and in his
dream he saw some snakes. And in his dream
00:43:25.000 --> 00:43:29.999
the snakes started chasing each other and he
woke up and said Eureka, Benzene is a ring
00:43:30.000 --> 00:43:34.999
as indeed it is. So when witch
doctors dream of things,
00:43:35.000 --> 00:43:39.999
we say, \"Oh, that\'s mumbo-jumbo.\" When Westerners
dream of something, we say, \"Oh, scientific process.\"
00:43:40.000 --> 00:43:44.999
00:43:45.000 --> 00:43:49.999
I had a particularly unnerving experience
once with a Shaman and a dream.
00:43:50.000 --> 00:43:58.000
00:44:25.000 --> 00:44:29.999
00:44:30.000 --> 00:44:34.999
In the morning when I
saw Tamo and said that
00:44:35.000 --> 00:44:39.999
I have had this incredible dream about the
Jaguar, he broke into a big smile and said,
00:44:40.000 --> 00:44:44.999
\"That was me.\" I think
that was a turning point
00:44:45.000 --> 00:44:49.999
in our relationship. It really broke through the
barrier between the different realities we lived in
00:44:50.000 --> 00:44:54.999
and gave me a glimpse, just a glimpse into the fact that,
you know, people who could turn themselves into Jaguars,
00:44:55.000 --> 00:44:59.999
people who could roam the jungle at
night or as real to them as lawyers
00:45:00.000 --> 00:45:04.999
and mortgages are to us. And dismissing something
I couldn\'t understand, dismissing something
00:45:05.000 --> 00:45:09.999
that may seem strange or weird or silly to me
would have been the absolute worst thing to do.
00:45:10.000 --> 00:45:14.999
Just by accepting something I could not explain and
understand through the prism of Western science
00:45:15.000 --> 00:45:19.999
I think created something of a bond uh… and has facilitated
a relationship which continues 17 years later.
00:45:20.000 --> 00:45:28.000
00:45:30.000 --> 00:45:34.999
Nothing breaks my heart more than to walk into these
villages and see these ancient shamanic geniuses possessors
00:45:35.000 --> 00:45:39.999
of 50,000 years of healing wisdom who\'ve
been marginalized and shunted aside
00:45:40.000 --> 00:45:44.999
because the kids have been taught that
Western culture is where it\'s at.
00:45:45.000 --> 00:45:49.999
When you teach people that everything they know in terms of
healing is wrong and backwards and primitive and stupid,
00:45:50.000 --> 00:45:54.999
it\'s hardly surprising that the kids don\'t
wanna follow the sacred path of the Shaman.
00:45:55.000 --> 00:45:59.999
00:46:00.000 --> 00:46:04.999
It\'s not too much of an exaggeration to
say that the most endangered species
00:46:05.000 --> 00:46:09.999
in the Amazon is the Shaman himself.
00:46:10.000 --> 00:46:14.999
00:46:15.000 --> 00:46:19.999
When the shaman dies, in a preliterate
culture, it\'s like a library burning down.
00:46:20.000 --> 00:46:24.999
In fact, it\'s worse because everything that\'s
in the Library of Congress is found elsewhere.
00:46:25.000 --> 00:46:29.999
There\'s Gutenberg Bibles found elsewhere. There are
transcripts of the Declaration of Independence
00:46:30.000 --> 00:46:34.999
found everywhere. So if the archives burns down, it would
be a terrible loss, but we still know what\'s in there.
00:46:35.000 --> 00:46:39.999
We have copies of it. When these oral
traditions are gone, they are gone for ever.
00:46:40.000 --> 00:46:44.999
There\'s no bringing them back.
00:46:45.000 --> 00:46:53.000
00:46:55.000 --> 00:46:59.999
We\'re standing at the edge of a precipice.
Here we are scrambling
00:47:00.000 --> 00:47:04.999
to save the rainforest, scrambling to find
new medicines for diseases that plague us,
00:47:05.000 --> 00:47:09.999
and thousands and thousands and thousands
of years of accumulated human wisdom
00:47:10.000 --> 00:47:14.999
is gonna disappear over the edge of
that precipice and the next generation
00:47:15.000 --> 00:47:19.999
unless we work to protect it.
00:47:20.000 --> 00:47:24.999
00:47:25.000 --> 00:47:29.999
I realize that not only could I not collect all of this
ethnobotanical wisdom, but then an army of ethnobotanists
00:47:30.000 --> 00:47:34.999
wouldn\'t be sufficient to collect all this wisdom. I had
to work with the Indians to come up with another plan.
00:47:35.000 --> 00:47:39.999
The Shaman\'s Apprentice Program.
00:47:40.000 --> 00:47:44.999
The Shaman\'s Apprentice Program works to get the young kids in
these tribes throughout the Amazon to take on the task themselves
00:47:45.000 --> 00:47:49.999
of learning from the ancients and
being able to transmit that knowledge
00:47:50.000 --> 00:47:54.999
on to the next generations from there.
00:47:55.000 --> 00:47:59.999
In the case of the Jaguar Shaman, I was the only one who wanted to work
with him. Everybody else thought this information was old-fashioned,
00:48:00.000 --> 00:48:04.999
but by starting the Shaman\'s Apprentice Program and
getting the young people of the tribe interested,
00:48:05.000 --> 00:48:09.999
he\'s not only considered once
again a cherished wise elder,
00:48:10.000 --> 00:48:14.999
but his grandson is now working with him as
are other kids in the village to collect, use
00:48:15.000 --> 00:48:19.999
and pass on his ancient healing wisdom.
00:48:20.000 --> 00:48:24.999
The Shaman\'s Apprentice Program works
00:48:25.000 --> 00:48:29.999
throughout the Amazon by giving the shamans
a stipend to cover the cost of their time
00:48:30.000 --> 00:48:34.999
to put aside their labors to work with the
young people to transmit this knowledge
00:48:35.000 --> 00:48:39.999
and by giving the apprentices a small stipend
so they can afford to focus on their studies,
00:48:40.000 --> 00:48:44.999
which are very rigorous, very demanding. And I might
add that not all of the apprentices make the cut.
00:48:45.000 --> 00:48:49.999
Hey, not everybody gets
into med school either.
00:48:50.000 --> 00:48:54.999
00:48:55.000 --> 00:48:59.999
It\'s not just about whether they have the cure for cancer, AIDS
or… or whether they don\'t. That\'s not gonna save the culture.
00:49:00.000 --> 00:49:04.999
Every human culture has an inherent worth.
00:49:05.000 --> 00:49:09.999
There\'s something we can learn from it. There\'s something
that can benefit us and if it\'s not in material terms,
00:49:10.000 --> 00:49:14.999
that\'s not the ultimate measure of it. And the
point of the Shaman\'s Apprentice Program is
00:49:15.000 --> 00:49:19.999
to help them realize it.
00:49:20.000 --> 00:49:24.999
I would say the great
success of my research
00:49:25.000 --> 00:49:29.999
and of my work has been learning from
these people and being able to help them
00:49:30.000 --> 00:49:34.999
to seize control of their environmental and
cultural destiny and to make sure that
00:49:35.000 --> 00:49:39.999
the world into which their kids and their grandkids,
and my kids and my grandkids are born into
00:49:40.000 --> 00:49:44.999
is hopefully as rich and as interesting
as the world that we were born into.
00:49:45.000 --> 00:49:49.999
I\'ve seen so much in terms of opportunity
00:49:50.000 --> 00:49:54.999
and I\'ve seen so much in terms of destruction
and loss. Having seen both ends of the spectrum
00:49:55.000 --> 00:49:59.999
pushes me on to try and make a difference.
Individuals do make a difference,
00:50:00.000 --> 00:50:04.999
but not by themselves. These
Indians need our help
00:50:05.000 --> 00:50:09.999
in protecting their lands
and their culture.
00:50:10.000 --> 00:50:14.999
But we need their help in protecting our
culture, our medicine, our world as well.
00:50:15.000 --> 00:50:23.000
00:50:35.000 --> 00:50:39.999
The first Tiriyo went for a walk in
the forest. Old Aware stopped him.
00:50:40.000 --> 00:50:44.999
\"You can speak to a rock\" he warned.
\"But if a tree talks to you,
00:50:45.000 --> 00:50:49.999
don\'t answer.\" In the forest
00:50:50.000 --> 00:50:54.999
the man heard a big sound. He thought it was
a rock calling to him. So he answered it.
00:50:55.000 --> 00:50:59.999
But there in his path was a tree
00:51:00.000 --> 00:51:04.999
which had just fallen.
00:51:05.000 --> 00:51:09.999
Aware said to the Tiriyo, \"Now you
will be like the trees. You will die.
00:51:10.000 --> 00:51:14.999
If only you had waited to speak to a rock,
00:51:15.000 --> 00:51:19.999
you would be immortal like the spirits.\"
00:51:20.000 --> 00:51:25.000
00:51:30.000 --> 00:51:35.000
Distributor: Bullfrog Films
Length: 54 minutes
Grade: Grades 7-12, College, Adult
Closed Captioning: Available
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