Modern Shamanistic Practice in a political context: reflections on indigenous struggles.

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This entry comes from a post to a thread on that became much too long winding – perhaps even for the blog, haha, well, not really – this should give some political ideas that might be useful for anyone performing shamanic practices (the links, abbreviated by Tribe, look funny but work 🙂

These statements are interesting (and the comments they afforded long):


Someone wrote…..

“irish people are “indigenous” ( though i preffer to say aboriginal) to ireland, spanish to spain basque to basque land greek to greece.. these people are born of the land. to be native is to be from a place, to be off a place… these people
are also native to these places… you are native to where you were born. my skin is white but my ancestors were native to many places in europe as well as north america, includeing aboriginal ancestors ( my great grandmother was fully of aborignal north american decent)…”

.. because they are based on a certain biological and bioregional determinism with an apolitical spice: if your body is born in some place, then you are of that place. But that misses quite some substantial aspects, particularly to do with shamanism and certainly from a political perspective; and a shaman is always a politician and what s/he does is always a socio-cultural act with political implications. (Nowadays, many non-indigenous people are born on indigenous land, such as in Amazonian towns, and within a culture that is anything but indigenous, a culture that is very oppressive and repressive and, to put it plainly, very racist towards indigenous peoples or those that traditionally lived/lives in those places). Irish people are not _Irish_ people, Irish people – all people are poets and punks, racists, fiddlers and anarchists and idiots and social workers – children, adults, capitalists pigs or wage slaves – and many of them are composed of segments from across all of the categories of human beings that you could possibly conceive of, including the sexes!

Back to the actual indigenous affairs (and away from a discussion of whether *it* exists or not).

Look at, for instance, countries like England or France that had (and to some extent, as some of the few North Western European countries, still do have) what you could call an indigenous culture. Think of peasants in any country, those outside the castle, the poor against the rich when you think of what it means to be indigenous. It is life with plants versus liberal-conservative “freedom & democracy”, in essence today.

People living on the land (and often (always?) suppressed and taxed by The Man in The High Castle, always included whenever the centre of things needed “a helping hand” (read: slave, whether bonded or waged); always excluded when economic conditions (the uni-directional quest for more profits that is) dictated that so be it.

As the centres of power (literally clans, families in castles and big farms and so on) grew stronger and technology advanced the divisions grew as well. The forms of inclusion and exclusion performed in the name of improvement or simply/simple self-interest are always becoming more and more orchestrated – more effective and nowadays they even operate from within (there was some French bloke, Foucault, who went on about stuff like that). See…of_tension for some extremities.

There is always an inside and an outside – the people who have wealth and power and those who have shitty jobs. They have names and addresses, the people that run the world, someone said once. “There is a war between those who say there is a war and those who say that there isn’t..”

Back to history – once were witches and magik everywhere (which does not mean happiness or socially just relations, at all!), then came the witch hunts and the enclosures and the general transition into capitalism and the indigenous cultures were almost destroyed and generally, at any rate, outlawed — all of which continues today: whenever there is an attempt to threaten the capitalist law and (dis-)order and re-place the culturally destructive forms of that mode of production or economic system (just one in a million of examples):…r_Act_1994

The colonialists (read: capitalists, if you like) came from the big estates, from the cities and the castles (but notably also from within the indigenous/peasant cultures, because when powerful, exploitative (black magik?) ideas slipped into the commoners’ minds, some of them (the big, bold, beautiful and ambitious**) embraced these competitive, survival-of-the-fittest ideas to get richer than their fellow beings) and imposed a new culture – indigenous to their own twisted imaginations, if you want, but certainly not indigenous to the ways of the land (**see the work of E.P. Thompson, especially “Customs in Common”, “Whigs & Hunters” and “The making of the English working class” for great historical insights that are also – more than – relevant in today’s (indigenous) context). The conquest of land continues unfettered, highly accelerated in the Amazon and elsewhere, -in the time it takes you to read this post (if you can be bothered) the space equivalent to thousands and thousands of football pitches will have been turned into wasteland – this edition of a rather conservative and questionable publication speak of some crazy numbers and show some horrific pictures, see the animated images on the cover of:….html

We cannot really say that those (or for that matter any other) invading people were/are indigenous, even if they were/are born in a given place, as they destroyed/destroy what was/is indigenous; hence, neither can we really say that the modern consumer (of any country) and mall-rats are indigenous to *land* (now they might slowly become indigenous to urban, consumer space, but I think that is another (sad?) matter to discuss!). Behaving like a twat has no place.

This reflects back to Richard’s suggestive comments (I speak not of his actions!, but of his fiction above) about the benefits of aya-tourism: if you come with a consumer intent and if you think that greed and envy are “natural” and that the dollar (read associatively: small-pox blankets!) is a good thing to spread – then you are totally out to lunch – another insensitive conquistador! Capitalist (or any other fundamentalist project, such as the dominant forces within the christian or most other religions) ideas should not be spread to anywhere – and this is not to say that “they can’t do it, only we can”, because neither we should obviously behave as rational self-interested agents with no morality!!

<slightly on a tengent>
As a reaction, for instance, to the horrific violence of the imposition of capitalism, in particular, in this case, the violence towards nature, a Romantic movement emerged and they came to (re-)colonise the countryside with an altogether different intent. Nowadays there is an anarcha-primitivist movement recolonising the country side with different intentions. There could be an “anarchistic” ayahuasca and there thankfully are some embryonic forms in this direction, but at the moment we see mainly a consumer/supermarket ayahuasca.

In other words, to be born in a place does not really make you indigenous to the land – your ways of being and your intentions and sensitivities to its energies make you indigenous to a place or land (and I don’t think that it is very helpful to get caught up in some nomenclature rigidities – all words will have their limitations or problems-, what is important is that one defines or makes some suggestive remarks as to what one means when using a word, and in this case my use of indigenous should hopefully not be too obscure or idiosyncratic, but rather a useful container or vessel in which to communicate important political issues to do with tribal/shamanic/indigenous/indio/aboriginal/primitive/ancient/traditional/etc/etc ways of life.)

Now, what follows, as a sort of conclusion, might be a slight leap of faith for someone who has not been involved in the political philosophy and grass-roots organising of indigenous struggles.

—— I think that we need to get it “from the horse’s mouth”: because there is a widespread misunderstanding of what it means to be indigenous and hence a serious misconception (based, of course, also on ill will) of how such indigenous cultures can be protected (another contentious term!) there is in emergence a global movement (or network) of community-based indigenous peoples’ organisations who are developing their own (_intellectually_ indigenous, perhaps :)) concept that they call “Collective Bio-Cultural Heritage” – to reflect that biological life and cultural life are bound up together (put briefly, without a forest to roam there can be no shaman practices in the way they used to be) and that therefore political strategies and cultural tactics ought to reflect that. Here is a photo series of a shamanic journey down the threatened Napo River:…img-18.html – for information about the threat to the Napo River, see:…-rivers/

Back to this Collective Bio-Cultural Heritage thing- it is a concept that has been developed in some groundbreaking, global-scale collaborations between different indigenous grass-roots oriented organisations, mainly Peru, Africa, India and Australia (quoting here from memory), in a response to the new tactics of enclosure that are being imposed through such institutions as WIPO and treaties such as TRIPs. They are, by and large, all impositions, even when presented as “protective measures”). You can read more about these issues here, if you’re interested in how the “indigenous” peoples themselves construe their defences and want to protect their bio-cultural heritage: – and get an idea of how they operate with stealth in this blog entry:…r-et-al/ – about indigenous affairs and volunteering in the Ecuadorian Amazon. This “folleto” (booklet) explains some basic stuff in Spanish:…FOLLETO.pdf (its layout is for double-sided booklet print!).

What can be preliminarily concluded is that once the indigenous ways and cultural forms have been articulated by those people that they are meant to be for (themselves) then they are incommensurable (incompatible) with the forms of Euro-American legal systems; they throw them into doubt – reveal their foundations. Capitalism exhibited.

You might find potential resonances in a reading of the jurisprudential *justifications* (as opposed to articulations, that is, the actual letter of law (and possibly its socio-psycho-cultural implications) of Euro-American law with anthropological and ethnographic observations of indigenous cultures, but articulations and practices or like day and night; and that makes the very legal entity of indigenous peoples a central player (located in the periphery) of globalisation dynamics. Amazonian studies, moreover, has numerous accounts of “somewhat egalitarian societal forms” (that would be a googling (perhaps google scholar) for those terms and anthropology to know more).

Studies of law in the context of indigeneous peoples’ struggles reflect back on, shed new light on, the very foundation of our own societies. There are many good anti-capitalist ideas inherent in the indigenous struggle. We can work with them and we can work with their ideas in our own practices, politically as well as spiritually (not that they I ever understood how anyone could separate these basic forms of life).

It is not that we need to have a cemented idea of indigenous peoples as, say, naked or noble savages, or to be preserved or kept in a specific state, but we ought, I really think, if we take the idea of shamanism seriously, align ourselves with the political and legal struggle of the existing and still forming and growing global movement of indigenous peoples who are fighting to maintain their – Life? All cultures, all traditions, have liquid architectures that don’t live or die, they just float – and we’re all in the same boat (if we want to save the planet and the people from greed and ignorance … If we don’t want to be “human slaves in an insect nation” 🙂

There is no doubt about it: if we want to work with and protect and defend indigenous and shaman cultures we have to listen to how they do it – and what they think – else, it is just another imposition from the outside, from the better-knowing, the well educated and the rich and the smart. We don’t want that, now do we?

The struggle will always continue! Hasta la Victoria Siempre!

——–sorry to be so long winding, but I could not contain my reactions to this thread within less letter space.. :-/

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