June 6th, 2022

Episode #55


Ayahuasca Medicine: A Pillar for Spiritual Resilience for Indigenous communities Facing Cultural Extinction with
Ricardo Vitale

I speak with Ricardo Vitale about plant medicine conservation and include the context of the symbiotic relationship between people, sacred territories, land, community, culture, and the biocultures that are facing extinction.

“Reciprocity is when you restore something that has been taken away. So something has been taken away from this environment. And what we need to restore is trust.”
Ricardo Vitale
Riccardo Vital Bio


About This Episode:

From being kidnapped in Mexico for his human rights work, to advising the largest organizations across the world and allying with the Union of Indigenous Yagé Medics of the Colombian Amazon and advocating for indigenous movements, Ricardo Vitale has had an extraordinary path. As a self-defined ‘liberation anthropologist’, based in Colombia. He earned a PhD from Cambridge University with a thesis about the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico. 

His expertise covers human rights, anthropology in armed conflict, social movements, indigenous politics, gender relations within social movements, sustainable development, resilience, climate change adaptations and indigenous practices of yagé medicine, spirituality and resistance. He is a former adviser of a plethora of international humanitarian and development bodies such as: Oxfam America, the UNHCR, the Norwegian Refugee Council, ICG and GIZ, amongst others. Since 2016 Riccardo works as a fulltime adviser for the Union of Indigenous Yagé Medics of the Colombian Amazon (UMIYAC). 

His tasks within UMIYAC range from fundraising to advocacy, to capacity strengthening, and non-extractive (“the-other-way-around”) anthropological research, aimed at “reinforcing indigenous communities, rather taking from them”.

In this episode we expand the conversation around plant medicine conservation and include the context of the symbiotic relationship between people, sacred territories, land, community, culture, and that there are people that are facing extinction who also hold knowledge. And when those cultures go extinct. Loss of knowledge is embedded in that. Part of supporting plant medicine conservation is supporting biocultural diversity. Not because we want to ensure that we can replant what we need to consume to ensure our future needs are met. But because we actually want to live in a world where indigenous peoples can be living on the land that is their birthright.

Core Themes

Explored in this episode:
  • Multicultural organizations
  • Reciprocity
  • Benefit Sharing
  • Interconnectedness of people and land
  • Anthropology
  • Indigenous led conservation
  • Indigenous traditional knowledge
  • Biocultures
  • Cultural knowledge preservation
  • Ayahuasca
  • Spiritual Authorities
  • Essentialization
  • Indigenous movements of resistance

Links &

useful resources
Grow Medicine

Grow Medicine is an easy-to-use platform that empowers the psychedelic community to step into right relationship with indigenous cultures


Episode Transcript

Episode #55 Full Transcript: 

My name is Laura Dawn and you’re listening to episode #55 of the psychedelic leadership podcast featuring my conversation with a liberation anthropologist, and an activist for Indigenous human rights, Ricardo Vitale. He is a  fulltime adviser for UMIYAC Union of Indigenous Yagé Medics of the Colombian Amazon (UMIYAC) – which is an Indigenous-led organization featured on our newly launched platform Grow Medicine. 

Riccardo Vitale defines himself as a  ‘liberation anthropologist’. He is Italian, living in Colombia for many years. 

He earned his PhD from Cambridge University focusing his thesis on the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico. His expertise covers human rights, anthropology in armed conflict, social movements, indigenous politics, gender relations within social movements, sustainable development, resilience, climate change adaptations and indigenous practices of yagé medicine, spirituality and resistance. He has been an adviser to a plethora of international humanitarian and development bodies such as: Oxfam America, the UNHCR, the Norwegian Refugee Council, amongst others. 


Since 2016 Riccardo works as a fulltime adviser for the UMIYAC Union of Indigenous Yagé Medics of the Colombian Amazon (UMIYAC). – This is an Indigenous-led organization made up of spiritual authorities from 5 different ethnic nations in Colombia. 

And as Riccardo shares in this episode these 5 ethic nations, indigenous peoples that rely on yage / ayahuasca for spiritual resilience, they  face cultural and physical extermination and they are asking for our support. 

And as I mentioned, UMIYAC is an organization we are featuring on Grow Medicine. 

And as many of you know, we just launched Grow Medicine, which is a mobile friendly donation and education platform that makes it really easy for the Western psychedelic and medicine communities to contribute toward plant medicine conservation, indigenous sovereignty and biocultural diversity with the click of a button. 


And if you’re able to in this moment, I encourage to grab your phone and check out Grow Medicine.com – it’s really easy website to remember.


And you’ll see 5 keystone medicines pop up on the screen and if you click on the ayahuasca button you’ll be able to learn more about UMIYAC, make a donation to support their very important projects and initiatives which includes supporting the intergenerational sharing of traditional knowledge so their wisdom can be passed on to the next generation. 

UMIYAC is dedicated to strengthening indigenous community peacebuilding and the reconstruction of lacerated social fabrics in war-torn rural Colombia. 

Through traditional yage /ayahuasca medicine, UMIYAC helps communities transcend the trauma and suffering of war and loss, through practices that are local, ancestral, and resilient. As an interethnic rural, indigenous organization, they work incessantly to protect the Amazon rainforest vis-a-vis extractive practices, narco-trafficking and unsustainable, short-term oriented economic models.


UMIYAC revitalizes cultural identity and helps children and adolescents reconnect with spirituality and Mother Earth. It strengthens ancestral, botanical knowledge, along with women’s interethnic and autonomous community networks. The revitalization and strengthening of local knowledge, social dynamics and interethnic networks are key self-help and resistance strategies for communities that have been historical victims of the Colombian armed conflict.


Now, I’ve learned an enormous amount this past year, stewarding this project and the launch of Grow Medicine which is a project of the Indigenous Medicine Conservation fund, and if you haven’t tuned into the last episode, I interview Miriam Volat and Cody swift where they spoke more about the IMC fund. And you can also learn more about the fund by visiting imc.fund 


And I think it’s really important to emphasize that plant medicine conservation is so much bigger than the simply replanting what we consume. And that if we just think of it in that way, we’re actually perpetuating an extractive mindset. 


And although some may argue that Ayahuasca does not face a conservation threat, although I know in some areas in Peru for example, it is being overharvested due to increased but even beyond that we need to broaden our perspective and understand that supporting the conservation of ayahuasca is about supporting indigenous sovereignty and biocultural diversity, which are topics we explore in this conversation. 


And the way I think about it, is that When you choose to drink Ayahuasca, you become a part of a global Ayahuasca community.

And so many of us have received so many incredible benefits from this sacred medicine, it’s enriched so many of our lives. 


And Being a good steward of this medicine, and being a good community member means we show up to support other communities around the world, and especially, first and foremost the traditional knowledge holders of this medicine, where this medicine is still embedded in their way of life, it’s part of their cultural identity,  they rely on these medicines for spiritual resilience, and it’s heart breaking to hear about what these people have to endure on a daily basis – and these communities are asking for our help. 

And I feel very grateful to have just spent time with Ricardo and other team members from the Indigenous medicine conservation fund, in Davos Switerland where we announced the launch of the imc fund and grow medicine. 

And I feel honored to be in support of this initiative, and all that I’ve been learning along the way has been truly humbling to say the least. 

So, I hope you will join me in holding the vision and the prayer that grow medicine can become an integrated part of western psychedelic and medicine communities. So please help us spread the word. And my hope is that every time someone in the west engages with a sacred medicine they also choose to engage with grow medicine, by going to grow medicine.com and making a donation to an indigenous led initiative. 


And after you make a donation, you can scroll through the page and learn more about the risks and threats that medicine and that bioculture faces so we can become more informed about the impact of our choices to engage with sacred medicines in our personal lives. And all the medicines face very different challenges and complex conservation threats, so please learn more about the impact of your choices by going to grow medicine.com 

Please follow @supportgrowmedicine on instgram. 

I’m going to leave this episode off with a song by Ayla Shafer called Silent Voices, I love her music, it’s been such an inspiration for me in my life, and you can find her links and access to all the resources mentioned throughout this episode visiting lauradawn.co/55

I’m going to be taking a few weeks off after this episode for some much needed down time. This launch of Grow Medicine has been a huge lift and I need to recalibrate on a lot of different levels right now. So I’ll be heading to CR for some time but you can expect another episode the end of June / beginning of July – ish. Stay tuned. 

Ok friends, that’s all from me, without any further ado…here’s my episode featuring liberation anthropologist and advisor to UMIYAC – Riccardo vitale

Laura Dawn: Welcome 

Ricardo Vitale: Ricardo Vitale. 

Laura Dawn: It is such a joy and pleasure to have you on the show here today. I’m really looking forward to this conversation. Thank you so much for taking the time. Yeah. Thank 

Ricardo Vitale: you so much, Laura, for having me, 

Laura Dawn: I would love to just dive right in. You are working with an incredible organization umiat and I’d love for you to share a little bit about the mission of the work that you’re doing and feel free to share a little bit about your background and how you came to be working with umiat.

Ricardo Vitale: No, it is. First of all, I think we should define it. It’s the, in an explain the name. It’s the union of indigenous yeah. Hair, healers doctors, medics of the Colombian hammers. Uh, it’s a, it’s a multicultural cultural organization in the sense that it includes. Our forties. And in this case, our spiritual authorities and that’s the language we use within the organization.

Yep. Spiritual authorities from five different ethnic nations, mostly living in Columbia, but not only because we do span a little bit over to Ecuador, I think it’s important. We should, we should name the peoples and nations. And so it’s this Yona, the Inga, the they come and they eat. Co-fund. The other five nations that make up may make up the organization was, was formalized.

Uh, about 20 years ago with the help of an ecological Institute and international corporation. He kept alive with ups and downs for, for almost 20 years. And in 2016, He went through a little bit of a revolution and what we can get into this a bit later, myself, I’m an anthropologist. I was born in Italy, Rome to be precise.

I lived in working Latin America for most of my adult life came from, came via the us and via Cambridge university where I studied anthropology. Both places did biology, anthropology, and then anthropology at Cambridge, focusing on trade agreements, bilateral and international trade agreements. And now those affect Latin American peasants.

And I was looking mainly that was my doctoral work at Cambridge. I was looking mainly, uh, Chapman’s indigenous communities within the context of the Southeast uprising. And that was my, my first encounter with, uh, indigenous movements. It was somewhat for Twitter. Uh, that wasn’t my intention. I, I was taking time off and I have to, I had to do some volunteer work for, for my CV in university.

And I was always inclined to human rights. I had an interest in human rights and almost by chance ended up in Mexico. And, uh, and then I started working in volunteer work with peasant communities, right? When they stop at this, the moment was our main, most vibrant moment. And, uh, in a way captured my attention.

Uh, I was supposed to do a doctorate on north Africa and immigration into Europe, but then when I went back to my post graduate Alma mater, I asked my supervisor, if I could switch to. Uh, by then I spent a year in Mexico, graduated from university and thought he was very, very interesting from the fascinating, at the moment I got, I was really young, so I get captured by the vibrancy and the excitement, but then I ended up working 10 years.

On that, on that subject. Yeah, I’m a serial intellectually. I mean, I’m a serial monogamist.

I had an interest. I had some interesting experiences within, within the, the framework of that, that, that work. I was kidnapped in Mexico for input, doing human rights, work with communities that were close to this up at the moment. And then I, I was expelled actually the first time I had to leave for my own security, uh, that the human rights movement and my embassy at the moment that wasn’t very cooperative.

But with the embassy at the moment said that I had to leave. I left, uh, spent some time somewhere else in another country near, and then. Later I’d actually went back to Mexico, worked for another year. I was already doing my doctorate. I wasn’t a student research visa actually. And then the second time, yeah, that was when I actually was, the technical term is kidnapped.

I was approached by an unidentified people on the street thrown to a beaten old car with a weird license plate in the stake in somewhere. And I was taken for a ride for a day or two, uh, because I guess they were trying to avoid the immigration lawyers and human rights or human rights lawyers from, from inter intervening with that was actually last time I, I was in Mexico, but then I continued working and following the situation for almost 10 years.

So I kept in touch and I wrote about, I spoke about. And I think that a little bit of a contribution from me was that I was one of the first to plant the seeds of WhatsApp. These monsters are Batiste movement and indigenous movement meant in the broader spectrum for the planet, for, for, for social movements elsewhere at Cambridge university.

That wasn’t, that wasn’t a thing actually before, before that was, you know, we did, we did a bit of work when I finished. I quite soon I did some human rights work on a few countries, but eventually joined a human rights organization in Colombia. I was with, with this agency for, for a year. Then I, I felt that, uh, didn’t feel very comfortable.

We didn’t w been with international organizations. I always liked civil society. Grassroots feel better. It goes with me with my personality and I started working for women organization in a, in a very interesting or oil production. In Magdalena may have you. That’s the Madalena river. That’s a biggest river in the middle of the country.

That was an incredibly formative experience. I got, I got acquainted to Columbian feminism, uh, activists. Uh, it was really rewarding. It was tough. It was tough because these women were doing some really incredible human rights work, right. Where paramilitarism was active and at its peak that we’re literally saving lives every week.

It was really, really motivating. And then after that, I, I started doing consulting for international agencies, development, human rights. And then in 2016, actually in 2014, I decided to take a break. I was a little bit mentally burned out spiritually, physically tired of, of, of, of many, many years of human rights work.

It’s it can be tough for some of us. I got acquainted and close to lots and lots of big things of war visited, lots of communities that suffered massive. I spoke to the families. And that was years of year after year after year, I decided to take a break and I did and did my own studying. I actually get closer again, since there’s more parenthesis, I don’t talk about this much, but I got closer to the psychedelic movement.

Something that I got acquainted with in my early years in university, I, I did my university in Santa Barbara, California, and I started doing research reading. And eventually it was actually through that. I decided to go to . I, I knew Columbia quite well for work. I traveled everywhere, especially conflict areas.

And, uh, and then through some serendipitous circumstances and through a friend, I ended up in Putumayo looked up communities that were. Working with because me, myself, I wanted to experience that. I tried it before, like 10 years earlier, uh, with friends with, uh, with a, with a traditional doctor who was also a politician, but it was a like one off experience in 20 14, 15.

I actually felt that it was something that I wanted to get to know and experience a little bit more profoundly. And that is where I actually started meeting with traditional healers in Putumayo. We became friends with the people, started talking. We realized that we are a lot of affinities, uh, in terms of worldview while we so alive political affinities as well.

And that those friendships eventually in 2016, turned into, uh, a permanent engagement because a very dear friend was proposed as president. And he’s he’s is, is from the Inga nation that said next door. When he was when he was actually named, I didn’t know that I was the, the naming, the naming ceremony, the appointing ceremony.

I was actually working in Bolivia. He asked me to go out to . We actually, we were lucky because my flight back into Columbia coincided with the, with the event I was invited to. And the event was actually, a nest was appointing as present as it happens often within indigenous organization, you are not a candidate.

You don’t propose yourself. It’s actually the collective that chooses you and often to cover an office like that. It’s a duty, it’s a little bit like jury duty in the state. It’s something you have to do because the collective disaster, it’s not necessarily something you seek. And that was a little bit the case with Ernesto.

He was known amongst the elders amongst traditional years in the area and the region. Because he’s a follower of your head and a great friend of people in the network. And so nothing that was that, that, that, that, that ceremony, a group of elders, some of me and asked me if I give him my experience working in human rights with international agencies, the fact that I spoke a couple of languages, as you know, Ricardo, we think that we want to restructure these organization.

We want to become more autonomous. We are now strictly dependent on one conservation organization, which we’re not going to name. We want to transcend this. Uh, we want to become more like the organizations. We are accustomed to what surrounds us. So we want to be stronger. We want financial independence and we need to do advocacy.

And most of all, we need to protect this medicine because we feel that it’s getting weaker and weaker every day. Uh, we have no help or on our own, and we’ll join this. And a bit of responsibility. I said, yeah, yes, count me in. It was just, it was a billet. I thought, my God, what have I done?

And at that moment, 2016, I was dividing my time between at that, at that time, I was with Oxfam dividing my time between Oxfam and medioc, it was literally 50, 50, like half a day and half a day when I was doing their sports, so to speak. But then I realized later that that wasn’t going to work and I took a risk many ways, and we decided that I was going to just do that.

And that’s, and here we are seven years down the line still. 

Laura Dawn: Wow. That’s amazing. Yeah. I’d love to know more about the work that is doing. And you just said that these elders came together and they feel that their medicine is getting weaker every day. What does that mean? Can you unpack that a little bit?

Ricardo Vitale: Sure. That’s very potent. Um, thank you, Laura. The, okay. I think it’s important to make a heavy didn’t explain for some people might not know that within the indigenous perspective, health culture, mother nature, food sovereignty, what you eat, your family life, your individual life, your community life.

Everything is connected. Okay. So the, I think the crash. If you want to call it something. Yeah. The cry from the elders was not only specific, but it was specific was not only specific to the medicine, to a tradition that an identity in a tradition that is getting lost every time that we lose bit of the Amazon rainforest, we lose species.

But we also know when we lose oxygen, we lose air and we also lose knowledge because historically, traditionally indigenous communities have been, we know we’ll repeat it, but nauseous all the time are the stewards of these environments. That’s been proved and calculated. If you take a map of Latin America and you look at indigenous nations, you will see that the level of deforestation are much, much, much lower than other areas.

Okay. And that’s not a coincidence that has to do that’s related to a way of life. So I think the cry and the need to strengthen an organization like have to do with the need to protect a way of life. Yeah. The medicine, which is a spiritual instrument that has been passed on through generations. It’s important also to save that.

And that’s what I noticed working alongside clarified. I’m not a healer. I will never be a healer. I know nothing about healing. I’m friends with healers. Like I’m friends with neuroscientists. One of my best friends in the world. She’s a neuroscientist. That’s the person I called when I needed to decide up a box.

I called her and then I call and I speak to the healers in Puma for other things. And, but I’m not in. I’m friends with experts, but I’m not an expert. So yeah. So go back to your question that I think the cry had to do with something that it’s broader. Okay. Broader than just the medicine. But of course, the medicine, the sacred medicine in the sacred tradition is that some people refer to it.

It’s definitely part of it. And then we will get back eventually to this indigenous organization. I realized throughout the years, working close to rural communities and indigenous communities, indigenous organizations are not just formal judicial entities. Okay. Like NGOs, so to speak. Okay. Yeah. Legally we are legally, we are NGOs, but, but what’s very, very important.

And I remember one elder saying this distinctly a while ago, every collective organization we give birth to. And then, and then we nourish is an expression of divine law. Yeah, it’s an expression of our becoming in existence. I thought was very, very interesting, profound as well, because in a way it shows an approach to life, you know, a higher responsibility towards your peers and yourself.

And that includes nature in the eyes of indigenous communities, more people as well, not only indigenous communities and that includes nature. So I think the cry was about, you know, are we going to protect this system, these life, these organism, you know, and, and that includes, and that includes sacred medicine, culture, language land, of course, the land we live in, the rivers, the mountains, the skies, and so on and so forth.

It’s important to underline that in Columbia, I think there are 102 indigenous nations, right? 34, which have been declared by the constitutional court at risk of cultural and physical extermination. Okay. That, that’s a very important sentence. We must not take it as something that’s been cascaded upon communities, quite the opposite communities, the indigenous movement and the human rights movement helped building the case.

Yeah. So that the piece of legislation like this could be used by us and by governments and by companies to help and transcend the status of cultural and physical extermination. Um, that is just one of many important pieces of transitional justice legislation, transitional justice, as in transitioning from work to.

That’s all we’re hoping here. And, uh, that’s just one piece of transitional justice, but it’s a very, very important one. We mentioned it every time and he comes with a, with a series of other instruments. Okay. And that is why often when you hear, for example, Miguel company teammate, uh, it speaks of do no harm and, uh, and in a webpage and I CF we do talk, do no harm, do no harm.

It’s a very important concept because when you work alongside on, into, or interact with communities that they belong to peoples, there are at risk of cultural and physical extermination. Yep. Where are you? Are government international agency. You need to think different that you need to think that you’re entering a scenario, which can be very easily altered.

Is undergoing a very, very delicate phase in its life cycle and can be ruptured or changed by anything. Okay. So that’s that, that’s very, very important. And that’s the thing, what the embraces like most indigenous organization, transits, transitional justice embraces own justice, so their own, their own tradition.

And that’s interesting because it’s multicultural because we’re five different people, the five, five different indigenous peoples. And I guess I didn’t say it, the five peoples that made up Boomi me are part of the 32 indigenous nations declared our risk of cultural and physical extermination. Wow. 

Laura Dawn: Wow.

And so why are they facing. 

Ricardo Vitale: Y, eh, okay. That’s great question. Um, long as well, let’s say let’s go for the short form speak hands, right? I think part of it has to do with the location okay. Where our communities live. Those are, I remember that we did an Oxford study in many 30 many, many years ago. We defined them as disputed territories, or you can call them many things.

What you have a place in, in the Amazon indeed in the Columbian, Amazon is a serious of extractive industries. You have the compete for resources constantly, and that doesn’t start 20 years ago. This is historical. And it’s part of the historical memory and legacy of indigenous communities in this part of the world.

I mean, from colonialism, we have this, you know, 500 years of resistance evangelism, colonialism, and then we. Into a very, into a very vibrant, vibrant, and very violent as well time, which is certainly the modern era when the, when, when resources and the Amazon are seen as extremely palatable. And so do you have a list?

You know, you can start from Tina, which is what they used for malaria, and then you go into rubber and that was disastrous. That was tragic. That was terrific. The accounts of the rubber boom in the Amazon rainforest, not only Columbia, but also Peru are just another chapter of genocide. Okay. Then when we transcend that and let’s say, let’s make a leap when we go into the modern times, so to speak.

So we go from, from, from rubber, from the Robert Bonanza into logging mining. Different minerals, mining, hydrocarbons oil. Of course, the methane and very, very important is this it’s strong menace as well. Mono cultures, such as Coca for the alkaloid cocaine. That’s a big one. It’s uh, it’s Columbia. It’s between the three main exports in Columbia.

And it’s been for the last few years, I think the last year, if I’m not mistaken or the year before that it was actually number one, followed by oil and charcoal magic and yeah, so monocultures and all that comes with a trafficking cocaine use that that’s a whole story in itself. And then of course, of course, both Sinatra knows a lot about it.

The president of Brazil, cattle ranching, right. Calla ranching, which she needs self implies deforestation considered that the cattle ranchers is one of the main enriches political lobbying Colombia. And so there you have it, you, those have been ingredients for a very, very difficult life when you live in territories and lands and you’re claiming lands and territories that are disputed by such powerful interests.

And not to mention that, we just mentioned that in fact, that we’re also one of the epicenter. Of the famous war on drugs Willow that comes with it. And from our end war on drugs means fumigation. We glyphosate. 

Laura Dawn: What does that mean? Why fumigation? Can you say more about 

Ricardo Vitale: this? Yeah, well fumigation is because, uh, the war on drugs, I think has two main fronts.

Okay. Micro trafficking in European and us series and producers, producers at the, at the production of the production spots. Aloma is one of the, or is now it’s almost always been sometimes, sometimes Bolivia when, when, when, before, but Columbia is the number one producers of alcohol and cocaine in the world.

Okay. We don’t know what the revenues are, but I know that 10 years ago, the U N D P United nations development program did a study and calculate. That that was like over 10 years ago, calculated that the drug, the cocaine business was, was making three times what Coca Cola made in a year. And that’s very, very, very, very approximate.

And that was over 10 years ago. We think that now it’s more and more, more, more than, much more than that. Okay. So generally the way we understand the war on drugs, when we seen the war on drugs, implies police work at the, in the receiving company. Which often and zapping, just police operations, having to do related to medium and micro trafficking.

And that’s, you know, we know we have armies of small dealers and in the U S mainly black and Latinos incarcerated for selling small portions of whatever illegal substance they’re there that they’re selling. And in our areas that translates into fumigation with pesticides, mainly glyphosate used to be produced by Roundup.

And Monsanto, I think, has been bought by Pyre right now, but mainly aerial fumigation with pesticides, glyphosate, which by the way, there are lots of studies and controversies. And we do believe that actually causes cancer, not only to indigenous peasants, also to European and us consumers, because it is a pesticide that is actually wildly used.

Okay. Of course not in the quantities though. They use to eradicate cocaine because when they flat fee. Via air. That’s not contained that the quantities it’s really up to the get to particular specific parcel of land are mainly up to the winds lack. And then there’s been a lot of reports of people, you know, getting poisoned rivers, animals, livestock, when that happens.

Thank God at the moment that’s being suspended. We’ll see in the next few months, depending also the government in place we’ll know if that resumed or not. Okay. It’s very important that that doesn’t happen for us. That’s another element, you know, you ask, why are we at risk of cultural and physical? The communities we represent and yak represents and is made off?

What, because we, people, communities do live in disputed areas where lots of resources are considered very, very palate palatable. And, um, our solutions. Our answer to that. But I think that what we have, there’s many things here at play, but one essential perspective has to do with how do we envision development if you want to call it that the development doesn’t mean industrialization.

It means developing. For example, it could be developing your rights as a family, as a person, as an individual, as a community. So your right to life, you’d like your right to breathe your right to work safe and night and so on and so forth. So development, not only internal products and production, we think that partly the problem is a collision between two development models.

One that is about extraction of resources and. And quick gains. And another one that is way more conservative, the pretense transcending extractive economy, and changing it with something that is circular as a very fashionable, fashionable word right now, something that’s circular sustainable. And that takes into account one fundamental reality that we’re all interconnected as human societies and as a species.

Okay. So that whatever, whenever we alter an ecosystem and environment, everyone eventually is going to suffer from it. And that is beautiful because finally, uh, we seen and. Maybe 10 years, indigenous fault, indigenous science. If you want to use the word, if you want to call it, that is actually dialoguing with Western.

If you want science and during their re they are agreeing on at least one interpretation that things are interconnected and environments don’t exist in vacuum. And I don’t know, it sounds common sense to most of us, but really it’s not. For lots of policymakers. 

Laura Dawn: So my understanding is that territory and land, I mean, as we talk about interconnection, that culture is so embedded within sacred territories and people are being displaced because of extractive industries.

And when people are displaced, they’re dispersed and then they might travel and go and integrate into other cultures. And then that culture that was in that territory is facing extinction. Is that an accurate synopsis of what you 


Ricardo Vitale: Yeah, definitely. That’s, that’s definitely part of it. It’s one of the biggest demographic trend and has been for a long time in Latin America.

What you described, it’s this Exodus from, from rural. That’s why we talk as an, in, as indigenous movement of resistance. We’re insisting this is forces, 

Laura Dawn: right? And people are losing their lives in the process of 

Ricardo Vitale: resistance. Well, definitely because, uh, this very voracious appetites come with infrastructures and often these infrastructures translates in the territory into military interventions, legal and illegal

They tend to be unfortunately, equally harmful. Four four community resistance. 

Laura Dawn: One thing that I want to eliminate and invite you to also speak more to is this understanding that medicine ways and medicine knowledge is embedded within a way of life within language, within rituals, within connection to land.

And I’m really wanting to aluminate this, especially for people who are listening to this and Western communities who go to their I Wasco circles once a month, maybe every other month. And to really think bigger about how we’re even talking about. Plant medicine conservation. And that if we think about it within the context that we actually have to think about it within the context of symbiotic relationship between people sacred territories, land, community culture, and that there are people that are facing extinction who also hold knowledge.

And when those cultures go extinct. Loss of knowledge is embedded in that. And that part of supporting plant medicine conservation is actually supporting biocultural diversity. Not because we want to, you know, ensure that we can replant what we need to consume to ensure our future needs are met. But because we actually want to live in a world where indigenous peoples can be living on the land, that is their birthright.

And that, that is a way that we can actually take a stand for equality on the planet. And so I’m curious for you to unpack more of this understanding for how do people in the west start thinking bigger about their relationship to medicine, and when they show up to, to drink medicine that they are actually showing up in this unseen interconnected with.

That now is influencing and it has an impact on people that aren’t necessarily in their immediate circles. 

Ricardo Vitale: Yeah. That’s, that’s very interesting. It’s a very interesting question or a thanks. We don’t think you can approach it from various angles. One that comes to mind right now is that perhaps cause you referring specifically to sacred medicine and to your hair or your Western, some people call it.

I think that a lot of it has to do the sense of loss. What should this has to do with the fact that when you grew up with a Western type of medicalized or medical health system and novel ways, you tend to approach health as a commodity. Okay. Rather than an intrinsic part of life. Yeah. The least so to speak.

And I think that, for example, yeah, there is a collision there. The fact that you might try to try to extract a nicer. Indigenous medicine realized the efficacy and the beauty of it, and then trying to replicate it. When that happens, what we’ve seen so far, it’s always, uh, within a script that’s been designed outside within a system that it’s more about economics and revenues, then social healing.

Okay. And that’s something that we are noticing, and then we can get into it a little bit later if you want. So there’s that, and there is the fact that yes, we within the organization that the dominant view is that sacred medicine, your heck is actually the biller or community life. And why does that the biller or community life, because community life depends.

On the spiritual buyer. Biocultural w w we were using the term quite a lot biocultural environment within which you live, that protects you and that you protect. And that is why communities. For example, we never talk of food security. We talk of food sovereignty that you need to be able to produce your own medicine.

You need to be able to produce sustainably your own crops. You need to be able to hunt for your animals, fish, and the animals themselves need the time and the space to reproduce and come back next season. Okay. I am vegetarian. So those of us who are vegetarian will, excuse me, I’m describing something.

Yeah. I know that some people think that that’s a crime, but so anyways, so the medicine is actually embedded, as you said, In, in this concert, in this system life, when you extrapolate it, what happens is what happens to cocaine, cocaine, and hydrocarbon. You’re extracting it and decontextualize, and there are effects.

Now, does it work? It doesn’t work outside. That’s another subject. Okay. But it’s certainly the displacing of it alters the mother environment in many ways, in many ways. And some could be in terms of sustainability, you know, some resources could be depleted because when you increase demand, of course, that’s what happens.

Uh, you need to increase production and so on and so forth, but it’s not only that there is a, we can call it that there is a, there is a recent re signification and cultural diaspora, you know, when something becomes so lucrative as well. Yeah. And, and, and, and design. Bye outside markets. It, it triggers a series of dynamics, for example, what we believe.

Okay. Within a maniac that out of 10 healers who are officiating ceremonies outside of the Amazon rainforest, perhaps the ones who really have according to our own ontology and epistemology the ones who really have the capacities to mediate the relationship between nature, human and medicine. It’s probably true when we’re lacking eight or doing something else, which we don’t know what it is.

Okay. The, just taking a beverage, a concoction, moving it from one place to another place selling. That’s what we think. Okay. Maybe out of 10 people out of these 10 are experts. Scientists, mediators, healers, philosophers, people, knowledge they can, they can harness that, want to say that that can harness and can channel these, these, these natural energies and make them work.

Yeah. Create a dialogue between, between the healer, the plant, the person and the disease. Yeah. So that the disease actually is removed. And then healers here that generally of course, you know, the perspective that they talk of its, its energies. Okay. We’ll talk about energies and spiritual and spiritual, spiritual energies, spiritual energies.

I am not, I don’t know how that works, I guess here. And I’m repeating it like a student, spiritual energies have owners, so to speak. They come with manifestations of life. So each plant has its own. My sister and healing within those culture has to do with being able to understand all these voices, all these spiritual voices, to have a dialogue with all these masters and in concert all together, you know, they can help the healer remove, remove the disease.

So when you translate that into a concrete jungle, into a concrete environment, the instruments in the hands of the healer are way reduced. Okay. So it’s very difficult. I’m understanding to displace yeah. Healing, isolated outside of that environment. 

Laura Dawn: That makes sense. And in terms of, you know, the other day we were talking about Putumayo and you mentioned where, you know, part of your, your origin story and how you actually aligned with umiat.

You mentioned that they work with Yahoo as actually a way to strengthen spiritual health in these post-war torn areas. Can you speak to that a 

Ricardo Vitale: little more? Yeah. Dell of course, that that’s something I’ve worked. It was, I thought that I learned with , which is the way health is conceived within, within our cultural environments is not separate from, it’s not separate from, from family.

Life. Health is not an individual issue. It’s a, it’s a family issue. It’s a community issue and it’s a $30. So health is created within an healthy ecosystem. Okay. When something within that ecosystem fails, then everything else gets affected, then that’s important, you know? So look at health as a collective enterprise, something that would build all together, you cannot have.

It’s very difficult to have very healthy individuals in a very sick environment and community. Okay. That’s that that’s one perspective. Another perspective is that through medicine and healing, you approach obstacles. Okay. Columbia is undergoing, unfortunately it’s not still post just yet still undergoing an internal armed conflict that has been active for over 50 years.

Our communities are in the so-called red zones. Okay. People, children. Women and men historically have been recruited by different armed groups. Okay. They went to war, some have to some, they do the volunteering because they believed in it. Others were recruited because of, because of economic reasons and so on and so forth.

But our social fabric that’s. So that’s why this phenomenon is this trend of physical and cultural extermination. The social fabric of communities has been historically lacerate. Okay. Trust is broken. When you introduce weapons and violence into relationships, a lot of things happen to everyone, the victims and the victimizers what’s in place.

In terms of, uh, spiritual medicine. We found something that there, that there are analogies between the outward with the outside world, so to speak. And what’s happening in communities is that Yamaha Iowasca are the pillar of this effort to reconstruct and rebuild the social fabric. I mean, when you get people together in ceremonies, what you’re doing is you, you, you, you building trust and creating and creating if you want spiritual Armani at a very, very basic level.

Okay. And that’s very, very important. . Has approximately 350,000 people, demographics, inhabitants. We work in Putumayo Calvin Calcutta, but let’s just say, let’s just pick up a book tomorrow for a moment, 350,000 people living in 42%, 42% of this number are people who are part of the national register of victims.

So they are record the word victims. Okay. But to my, as a predominantly rural environment, they’re not nuclear families, which means that families are extended for correct. So that 42% actually shows you that each single family in Putumayo had to undergo and suffer because of a trauma related to war.

Okay. Each single family, the state more international agencies have even come close to map. You know, the mental health effects disasters, the 50 year war could have cost on this huge demographic demographic, you know, input Amalia, but everywhere in Columbia. And so what we’ve been saying, what we found in sending in terms of that, we actually found the language to explain it to the outsiders is that communities as often happens, have the room receiving CAPA capabilities, and they’re already facing these enormous mental health unmapped, unchartered mental health crisis.

So doing something that the government hasn’t even thought about it just yet, that’s what we do. And we think that that’s very, very important and it’s it’s, it has to be taken very seriously when healers and members of umiat tell us that Yamaha is dependent. You know, old resistance and survival, that is what keeping us actually communities together.

And that’s only one aspect of it. That’s only one aspect of it, the fact that, but yeah. 

Laura Dawn: Yeah. Okay. So without unpacking the whole thing, but just briefly, the internal armed conflict is obviously related to money, power resources. Is that right? Logging, 

Ricardo Vitale: mining, hydrocarbon cocaine, cocaine. 

Laura Dawn: So you have people on one side who are resisting that and people on the other side who are trying to make it.

Is that essentially 

Ricardo Vitale: there are like more minority interest groups related to national international companies that having embraced extractive economy as a solution, as a solution. And then there are local communities, localized communities who are actually experiencing first hand the effects of extraction.

So contaminated rivers, flooding, uh, so-called natural disasters, which are not natural because they’re actually human made triggered by excavating for gold, and then creating huge craters in the Amazon rain forest. And so the, what are we proposing? What are we posing? We think that the damages as an indigenous indigenous moment, the damages of extractive economy in the medium present, medium and longterm for the whole human connection.

Yeah are not worth the immediate gain. We have this enormous, enormous, and that’s only essentially using it. It’s only one aspect of it. We have these enormous, uh, Oregon is, which is the Amazon rain forest, which is brilliant for sequestering carbon to trapping carbon. And then we have countries such as Europe in the U S with this incredible thirst for industrialization and emissions.

Yeah. And they’re not gonna be able to stop emissions anytime soon, if they want to maintain the, the, the, the, the way of life, that the amount of cars and production and, and communication and so on and so forth. So we’re going to dabbles now next week, you know, we’ll be, we’ll be in the same spot as several world leaders experts.

We’re only say one thing, you know, together globally, we need to come to an understanding. Do we really want to save the rainfall? Okay. That takes a compromise, a commitment from the rich countries, the global north to sustain in the Amazon rain forest as it, this concert, or that comes, that comes with economic commitments because Columbia Ecuador believes Venezuela need to be neat to have incentives not to develop.

Yeah, not to develop according to the script of extract and that’s hasn’t happened just yet. 

Laura Dawn: So I really want to encourage people listening to donate through grow medicine. When you hit the Iowasca button, your donation goes to. . And so I want to give you space to share a little bit about the three projects that you’re really undertaking right now, before we get there, though, I have sort of one more question to wrap up this thread.

I’m kind of curious when the elders from these different ethnic nations come together, I mean, you guys are up against so much, you’re trying to defend your land and territory. So I don’t know if this is part of the conversation where people are gathering and talking about the psychedelic movement that’s happening in the west.

But does that come up? Is that our conversations happening about how people in these ethnic nations, in Colombia feel about this extreme. Explosion of demand and interest in Iowasca and Yahoo in particular. I’m kind of curious about that. And then we’ll shift into focusing really on the, on the 

Ricardo Vitale: projects.

Yeah. That’s, that’s, that’s, that’s very interesting. Yeah, no, no, of course. And also, you know, now with, uh, with everyone, even in rural communities, as long as you have a little bit of a three city, you’re able to get into social networks and Instagram, Facebook, and so on and so forth. So people that, that a lot of information coming in and out as well, and that’s, that’s, that’s important.

Okay. Within the organization, that’s a very complex subject, I think, within the organization, first of all, he’s always been part of the lifestyle, traditional healers, women, and men to officiate ceremonies or, or deliver services, health services to their own communities, or even other community. Okay. Since the early nineties in Columbia, for example, people documented the traditional healers will travel to the main cities, Bogota Metagene Cali, and started building followers.

Yeah, to people who would, you know, ma once a month to get together and, and, and, and participate in, in healing ceremonies, that’s never been frowned upon. It’s part of what healers do they have the right to earn an income? Why not? Of course. And so that’s fine. Okay. It is also true that in the last, I don’t know, maybe 10 years, some of the year.

Uh, when even further then, then, then, then, then, then I’m talking about Columbia in this specific case, then Columbia. So traveled to Europe. We have healers within , who traveled to Chile, who traveled to Europe every once in a while. They’ve been invited to Mexico. Okay. This is, it’s a one-off activity.

Something that healers do they go, they officiate, hopefully because that’s very, very important. They bring their own medicine. You know, some, the counts from controlled spiritually are more nice places. They know, they know that they know where it comes from, who produced it, who brewed the beverage. They bring it, the officiate ceremonies, they go back and that’s fine.

That’s not from the pond. That’s part of what we do. We have a code of ethics that, for example, for bids advertisement and. You know, and it’s, you know, I know that each countries have different regulations, but uh, many countries, for example, I’ve regulations I get against advertising medical services. Okay.

No, I’m not sure about the U S I don’t remember, but I know that that’s the case in many countries in Europe, and then probably deal you system. You know, you cannot advertise medical procedures. That is the, there are reasons for it. That is part of the code of ethical woman, yak. You don’t advertise, uh, services.

Okay. We can talk about, um, but what are we seeing as well, aside from this normalized practice of administering and officiating abroad and elsewhere is that the demand is so high right now that there are. Traditional healers to satisfy that demand. Okay. Which means that we are creating a dynamic by which a lot of people improvise now, travel abroad, officiate, impersonate, uh, claim knowledges that perhaps they don’t have.

And that is worrying. Yes. It’s not per se the fact that some heaters do travel and officiate ceremonies elsewhere. It’s the trivialization of the practice. Yeah. And unfortunately, the need for global spiritual health and mental health is so high that people wish desire, have a thirst for, to get better.

Good. And, but unfortunately, The way it is the Amazon rain forest cannot, cannot face, cannot face that. And

th there is a will the medics want to heal? That’s what they do. Okay. But that’s one thing what they don’t condone within our organization. If people who improvise and we’ve seen him so many times, and a lot of our times has to do with receiving reports of cases or people who even from, from the communities who are not healers in the communities, people will laugh.

No, there’s no way it’s it doesn’t. But then they go abroad. They just bring some implements feathers and, you know, and they find a very lucrative. And we think that that’s not only unethical, it’s dangerous. 

Laura Dawn: Of course. And from, from that perspective, I’m curious, what does it take to become quote unquote qualified from your perspective and from the organization’s perspective, we’re talking decades, apprenticeship lineage, like what, what’s your perspective?

Ricardo Vitale: You said, this is what the general is. Yeah. Decades of apprenticeship often has to do with lineage. Doesn’t have to be directly, but that is not your mom, your dad, but it’s your grandparents, but it generally runs in the family. That’s the way, that’s the way that that’s the way it has worked. And I know that there are exceptions.

There are people that start really, really young and they’re not necessarily from lineage, but that is how it is. And it’s an ongoing science as well, and also very important, which they will always differentiate that say, you know, once when, when you get a degree to become a medical doctor, you can hang it on your wall and you will be that forever until you die.

Eh, it’s not the same with medicine. The knowledge is fluid. You know, you need to conduct a life that allows you to retain them. All of that. And constantly processed. And that has to do with the food you eat and the place you live and how you conduct yourself as well. So within the notion of a tighter healer moving to Sydney, for example, and officiating there in one work in my workforce, more period, but then eventually the knowledge that the person is, the repository of will, will fade away.

Laura Dawn: Hmm. I, I just love this notion that knowledge is so embedded in. Right. And I’m curious, you know, there’s deforestation, there’s all of these pressures on the Amazon and increase in global demand of the raw materials that make this medicine. Is there concern within your organization about dwindling supply?

I mean, and I don’t even want to just focus on, on Iowasca. I mean, it’s like with displacement of people on land and sacred territories, then it’s lack of access to all medicines and there’s a Pharmacopia of medicine. So I don’t want to just keep perpetuating that, like Iowasca only, and you know, I’m also curious if, if that is a concern, are people the, of the ethnic nations there who have Iowasca as a core pillar, concerned that around supply and access continuation of access for their own cultural purposes.

Ricardo Vitale: Yeah, that’s interesting. I think that in our environment haven’t experienced just yet a concern about, about sustainability or about availability of the medicine. Not yet, but people and that’s, that’s really present are actually very worried that this is turning into another cocoa economy and they will, when people make the analogy, uh, very, very often.

And I think that we, people need to listen to this. It’s easy to dismiss them, cocaine, cocaine, cocaine, something else doesn’t have anything to do with healing actually does. ’cause we, we, we know that often approaching substances has to do with healing. There’s not necessarily effective, but it is, has to do with healing so often and healers and people and people are as well, who need to, because they’re forced too often by the market or by illegally armed group.

That’s the case of many indigenous peasants. People who produce cogs are actually worried that the same dynamics are going to become, be at play with your hair and in sacred knowledge. And it’s an interesting parallel. You might think that they’re two extremely different things, but really they’re not, they’re both sacred plants.

They both come with the patrimony of spiritual knowledge. They, they both have mediated. People who for four, four centuries have administered and officiated ceremonies with both one has become these incredible speed transformed. We see that also being transformed ceremonies that you might experience within a community setting are very different than ceremonies that you might experience.

And swear. One little example, ceremony in a community could be silent, but there’s generally a lot of talking can be silent. There are as well, it happens, but there’s generally a lot of talking exchanges, giggling there’s laughter describing as well sometimes, but they’re very dynamic. Uh, the little experience I have many from friends of ceremonies outside, they’re silent, they’re silent.

The so-called integration happens afterwards in if you want to use a psycholo psychology term integration. Within the communities have it’s it’s, it’s, it’s ongoing. It starts before the ceremony, during the ceremony, after the ceremony, we’ve seen more than once and that’s been preoccupying for us. We also wrote about it.

We may get together within communities where youth are not only attending ceremonies because they feel uncomfortable. They feel uncomfortable because there are, there is a flux of foreigners coming in. So a couple of families are happy, of course, because you know, foreigners bring euros and dollars and that’s great.

You know, it’s, it’s, it’s a, those are economies where liquidity is always calves. There’s a scarcity of it. Uh, those are rich communities in terms of. The ecosystem environment, even food, but liquidity in terms of hard cash, that’s a scarcity. So communities in a way, families mainly actually like it like Bob, but will losing.

But what we’re losing is the instrument. So to speak where we’re losing identity, we’re losing part of our identity and in our communities, when we go back to do no arm and, and this, this, the, the, the sentence from the Columbian constitutional court about physical and cultural extermination and the laws that came after it, like safety plans for each single community at risk, these old big business goes against those.

It’s it alters the environment and it’s very, very delicate. I don’t think we’re strong enough, you know, as a community just yet to absorb. I probably will never be to observe such a humongous friend of mine will say demand. That is why people always equate this with cook. What’s happening with your hair.

It’s happened already. We cook in transformed into something else, which is the alkaloid. We lost control of it. And now it’s doing what it’s doing bad. Some people are having John jolly good time in bars, every, every weekends with it and fantastic others are making shitloads of money, but our persons are dying because of it.

Laura Dawn: Okay. And so to prevent that from happening again, for Western culture who are engaged in drinking Iowasca and ceremonies, it’s so important to support initiatives like yours. So when people donate through grow medicine, where are their dollars going? What are the projects on the ground that are supporting all of these issues that you’ve been addressing and mentioning throughout this whole conversation?

Ricardo Vitale: It’s very important and very pertinent. As we were saying, Laura indigenous organizations are in tears. Okay, you can approach you can, you, you can have an emphasis on conservation conserving the Amazon reinforced, but really, really it has to do with keeping the ecosystem. The bio culture together is reflective of that where grassroots multicultural organization in the indigenous led run.

In fact, actually, I’m not proud of it necessarily. I’m just saying it as a, as a fact, I’m the only non indigenous member of for reasons. So although we work, of course, we have, uh, we have, uh, we have a line by which we strengthen traditional practice and medicine. Okay. So through the members actually now get a monthly stipend to a minister and officiate within their own territories, which is generally more than one community.

Okay. So there is an extra incentive offered. We mentioned that people don’t have liquidity, money’s very scars. And then that might prevent people from seeking out traditional services often actually, not people do, uh, but the healers, they do it at great personal cost because generally, uh, in terms of liquidity, they’re poor now actually they’re getting a stipend to care over their own community.

It’s almost like a district physicians in Europe, so to speak. So, so there’s that, you know, there, there are there’s there’s, uh, stipends for, for healers so that they care for their own constituents. Okay. So each, each healer is assigned this. This is generally the place generally, but not always is generally the place place, close to where he lives an area, and the person has to care for the communities throughout the year.

That’s one line of work. So it’s strengthening community health through strengthening the livelihood of individual traditional healers. And there is another line of work, which is education culture also happen, uh, within, within school institutions. Okay. Uh, in rural Columbia, we have, it’s a product of years of struggles.

We are bi-cultural institutional education. Okay. So what do we yak pass? We place we sponsor, yeah, the traditional healer within institutions, educational institutions, mainly elementary and high school. that’s what, that’s what happens. That’s a level of education. Okay. So we place them, we sponsor the work of traditional healers within educational institutions so that they can accompany both teachers, the docents and the students throughout the school year.

And that is with ceremonies, but also with oral knowledge sharing stories about tradition and spirituality. So that’s, that’s another line of work. So we work with youth through, through teaching and officiating ceremonies in educational institutions, and we sponsored the work of traditional healers in their own constituencies, their own districts that we have a specific line.

And it’s a very interesting subject that has to do with strengthening women knowledge. Okay. Women are knowledge, Mohita Salvadorans have their own real yeah. Of botanical knowledge. It. Depending on the areas, but generalizing, we create the works like this often women are actually the connoisseurs of the medicinal plants.

Yeah. They collect the medicinal plants. They put them I’m generalizing Shabbat that happens like that. So women are the common answers. The experts are medicinal botanical, medicinal, spiritual plants. They collect them, prepare them. And then the traditional healer may is the one where ministers. Okay.

There’s uh, there’s that complementarity going on? So we do that for people from communities asked, we created a, we created a line of work. So this is a program, right? This is a program with many projects. That’s how we. With the conceptual adviser. So within the program, we have a projector line, which has to do with strengthening the processes of women or knowledge, and that is strengthening what we have in place.

So it’s the work of elderly women and younger women out of the work takes place. It’s difficult to, it’s difficult sometimes to summarize it because each community does it according to its own. Local understanding of how you work and a minister and cultivate medicine. Okay. Generally speaking, what communities and that that’s, that happens almost every time or communities have done.

They create the like small brigades of younger and elderly women. Yeah, they have, and they’re, they’re having it right now. This is ongoing as well. They have conversations, they have seminars workshops. Okay. They get together, they talk about the pathologies and they talk about the plants. Okay. And then to formalize it, they do pharmacology lists.

Okay, where they list each of the diseases. And that goes from Colby, from headaches to menstrual cramps, to breathing difficulties in pulmonary diseases to snake bites. Right? So they catalog the diseases and then they put the plants in the preparations next to it. So the trying to formalize oral practices and knowledge, so that too.

So to give a hand to the new generations who perhaps are not used to that way or transmission. Yeah. Also because some communities are very diligent in transmitting knowledge and others are not. And that also has to do with, uh, with yarn conflict and with a very serious, difficult, and violent situation that, that, that our families have to endure every day.

I inspired that many families managed to do it. And then I, I know many people because I spend my time in communities. That at 3:00 AM. For example, even if their attending area has ceremony was often part of our work, of course, in tiles, uh, doing ceremonies and talking, we speak during ceremonial hours, so to speak and often at 3:00 AM, some people would stand up.

And so kinda, we gotta go now because we have a family reunion. My mom needs to talk about, uh, I don’t know, the kids are not doing well in school, so we’re all by no go for that. That’s in place, but not as much. Okay. That way of it’s called orientation within the community that will transmit transmitting culture.

So that’s why I, I guess that, uh, the, the, the women or knowledge at decided to formalize it. Yeah, they do it sometimes in their own languages and sometimes they do it in Spanish. Uh, this, all these material is strictly confidential and stays within the group. And that’s very, very important for us. So often we have sponsors who, who liked that particular line of work, but then they know that, you know, if sometimes they get to see the reports, it’s going to be very confidential.

Uh it’s it’s easier to keep it under the strict protocol confidentiality because you know, bi-partisan is an issue and communities need to protect the knowledge. So that’s, that’s the third, that’s the third line of work. Yeah. So there’s the education. There is the caring in the district that is strengthening women or knowledge peace-building.

This is something that. Happens in dynamically. It’s part of a medicine does, but we, we emphasize it because, uh, we, we realized that it resonates with friends, friends elsewhere, especially the us. So we make it evident and we say, okay, whenever we are sponsoring cares and we do, we do a thing which would, which is called health brigades.

Those are a bunch of healers that help others and some younger ones as well, because it was some really, those are some really difficult, uh, work experiences strenuous. They get together and then they go on a tour. Yeah. And that is by petition. Let’s say the communities have a specific problem that dealing with often having to do with the armed conflict as well, violence, internal disputes disputes with an oil company, with a logging company, uh, they, they file a petition.

They call, they talk to somebody that talks to somebody and eventually. Uh, the organization, uh, gets to know, okay, there is a petition from this community. They want a health brigade, but he gathers the salute. And this is, you know, when you power up your, your machines and, uh, you know, they get together three or four, you know, uh, powerful healers with a couple of elders.

And, uh, and then they, they, they organize a tour and then an officiate ceremonies in communities in need. And. That that’s part of our budget as well. And often we describe this as well as peacebuilding, those are reconciliation ceremonies. You know, we intervene in highly unstable and lacerated, social fabrics.

Yeah. And hoping that through spirituality and your hair, people can again get together. It’s very, very important. Uh, you, you might have ceremonies were both victims and victimizers from the armed conflict, actually sit down and together, build what is for us, the future of the world, which is a country, which is a country, a piece where, where are our number one, right.

Is the one the right to life, because there are many rights that we need to fulfill, but we still haven’t fulfilled the number one. Right. Which is the right. Yeah, I still don’t have the luxury of the certainty that they will live all day without having experienced violence or death in their stories. Wow.


Laura Dawn: it’s. So for people listening to this who do drink Iowasca or partake in ceremonies by contributing to through grow medicine, your directly supporting communities in fostering, spiritual resilience. Healing of the communities you’re supporting the passing on of knowledge throughout generations.

You’re supporting women to pass on their knowledge to the next generation as well. There’s, it’s so profound and it’s so powerful, the work that you’re doing and, and for people listening, it’s like, if you’re receiving healing and benefit, that’s impacting your life from this medicine, let’s support the healing and let’s benefit these communities that are living through just so much violence.

And it just, I can’t even imagine how devastating that must be for so many of the communities there. 

Ricardo Vitale: Laura, thank you for your words. That’s a supporter that beautifully. Since Wilma yak, like most indigenous organization, uh, is integral. Okay. We cannot leave out and the assembly doesn’t allow it. Literally we cannot leave out other aspects.

So part of the budget as well goes towards a specific territorial defense, we call it, which is conservation of the Amazon rainforest. So that, that that’s about training and giving remuneration to each culture calls. It calls them differently, but those are like, say the equivalent of, in us, that will be the park Rangers.

Okay. So park Rangers are, are, are, are, are, are, are, are, are, are allowed to do it as a full timers. Yeah. And then receive training, which is theoretical training has to do with spirituality, with connection, but also with environmental engineering and. Okay. That’s what we’re aiming for. And that’s already in the budget and that’s something that we’ve been sponsoring for the last two years.

Okay. It’s a, and that’s important. That’s I mean, the assembly wouldn’t allow only focusing on medicine as an indigenous organization, we need to think integrally. 

Laura Dawn: Right. Right. And protection of territories is so, so, so important. And preservation of language, this comes up to so much knowledge is embedded in language.

And when culturals face extinction, the loss of a language is loss of worldviews. And that’s really important for people to know too. 

Ricardo Vitale: It is exactly it is. Yeah. And then we, we do think that when, whenever we lose knowledge, we lose resilient capabilities. We lose them period. And that’s, that’s, that’s a travesty in itself, but we also lose resilient capabilities that could serve the whole of your.

And we’re sure of that. And science knows it. If you get into the webpage of the Stockholm resilience Institute, you’ll find a lot of articles where they actually finally revitalizing and giving the value. It deserves to indigenous knowledge. And now indigenous people have managed to face, uh, badly called natural disasters.

There’s a theory that says that there’s no natural disasters. Everything is human made, but now indigenous people are given, you know, lessons, practical lessons on how to face, uh, the problematic of climate change. And I know that that agitates, so that’s very important. And then there is another line I think is the last one that was sponsoring, which has to do with governance know because resolves.

And this old system needs collective collective governance. And that is our communities envision, uh, the ruling of the bullying, but yeah, the, the organic, the organizing of social life. And so governance has to do with training spokespeople, uh, leaders that can do advocacy and travel outside, but also strengthening within institutions.

So we have aligned for governance and advocacy as well. And yeah, it’s a broad program and it’s, it’s, it’s even hard for me to recap it in a few minutes, but. The impact will not, will not the government, so it’s not enormous, but it’s definitely significant. And if we manage to fulfill our goals for 20 22, 23, 24 and 25, I think that, um, we’ll, we’ll, we’ll take an important step in the process of deterring this dynamic of physical and cultural extermination.

The communities are facing. What’s very important is that it’s not only about donating money or that’s fundamental. It’s very important because that’s how we nourish our projects and our program. But as important is to have allies of conscience. I mean, we would like people to resonate with us with some very, very important problematics cocaine.

For example, the global north has enormous appetite for cocaine. So we need solutions as well to come from the global north. And I drove. Same thing. I do carbon, same thing, oil and maintains are very precious commodities, but together we need to find solutions for the Amazon rainforest. We cannot pretend to talk conservation until the global north also decides, you know what to do with these commodities.

The start of school is a work as though, as we know that the drug, the drug war on drugs is not working. And we have brilliant people writing and talking about it from Brasil brands to, to, to an old university friend of mine is you and Heidi who wrote, uh, chasing the screen. So beautiful book recapping the history of the, of the drug war, that solution isn’t working.

I mean, we know this, this is, this is, this podcast is, is, is, is, is within the psycho psychedelic movement. Well, what people, I think that, uh, within these, this cohort, we in this community, we know that prohibition is never an answer. And freedom is, is something that it takes much more than your individual freedom.

It’s it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a process of building healthier collectivities 

Laura Dawn: and beyond donation. And I do like to say that giving back is a good place to start, and we do need to think bigger. And that is a big part of the grow medicine mission is to reframe narratives. And when people are choosing to drink medicine in Western culture, when you give back to organizations like , it’s also a step towards right relationship with their traditional knowledge holders from which this medicine comes and with Yamaha in particular, there are a lot of different cultures that have held this medicine, but I’m curious.

If you feel like just naming anything about stepping into right relationship, and maybe we can sort of wrap up on an inspiring note to inspire the community. That’s listening to this, to shift their thinking that yes, donation is a great place to start, but let’s also step into right relationship. And what does that mean to you?

Ricardo Vitale: Yeah, I think, okay, this is one aspect of it because I thought that the way collectively, not only we didn’t meet yet, but with our, our outside allies, Dr. Bronner ICS, we, we thought this, this, this has been the product of a dialogue and, uh, not a few weeks, not a few months, we’re talking years of actually getting together, talking, uh, comparing notes, realizing the diversity within this network, but also realizing the collective potential of the network.

So I’m giving you one perspective, which I think is what the indigenous movement and the media contributed perhaps to the debate. Uh, there are notions within indigenous cosmologists award views. If you want that, try to portray out the balance of things. Yeah. Uh, translating to. At divine thought the hour an ideal life can be conceptualized in a word.

Okay. And then eventually you as an indigenous organization and family collective, you strive poles down to make relations better for everyone. And for example, in Inga, just one of the languages speaking within Armenia, it’s called . Okay. In Cochabamba, I think it was 15 years ago. They translated a number of indigenous people.

I think they translated it into when. Okay. And believe we have made a lot out of this. There are some really important pieces of legislation giving, uh, mother earth, earth, uh, the condition of a living bean with all the protections that entails out of that, that came out of when BV. So I think that the, the contribution of indigenous communities to right relations is this understanding that every aspect of life is interconnected.

And when you, when you change the system, in whichever point, you’re actually affecting other parts of the system, it’s the idea of interconnection. It’s the idea of energies being been related. And also, I think when wanna make it sound too cliche, but it’s also the idea of a human family. Yeah. And now.

Peacebuilding reconciliation amongst ourselves and we mother nature. It’s perhaps a divine, a moral imperative. That is what right relations are, you know, from, from these indigenous perspective. I mean, we unfortunately live and are aware every day, lost a lot of people within the organizations, a large, our friends, a lost family members.

And, but, uh, within right relations, that is not an excuse to respond through violence because we communities have the opportunity. Often, sometimes your armed groups are ever present. It’s another path, right? Relations. It’s remembering that whenever we inflict violence, we suffered violence. And there’s really no difference often.

And some people might not, it’s a conversation. Okay. But there’s perhaps no difference between victims and victimizers, you know, at the end of the day, we’re all victims. Uh, so that is, I think what right relations is for us, remember that and try to tread carefully as well. You know, when we entered this, this scenario of and indigenous communities, and when we pretend to incorporate indigenous voices into broader, I think has to be done very delicate as well.

And often if I may add a little parenthesis in the last few years, more than earlier, we have been approached by companies, working with planning tools, startups, what we psychedelics, and very often. The narrative has been. One of they bring it on of reciprocity. So they approached us with this notion idea of reciprocity we’re going to commercialize and, uh, we’re going to sell, uh, you inspired us.

We’re not necessarily providing us with anything that you did inspire what we’re doing. So we want to give back, you know, and we know that reciprocity, it’s an indigenous concept and you know, we’re adopting it. We all always responded the same way. We said we cannot engage in a dialogue of reciprocity at this particular moment in history where the diesel equilibrium between our communities and the global note is so profound.

We haven’t achieved just yet fulfilled the right to life. We haven’t, we haven’t. So there is not reciprocity in that reciprocity is when you restore what you take in that. And I’m not accusing the global north necessarily. I’m talking generally as a, as a system, as a whole. So something has been taken away from this environment.

There is no reciprocity until the environments have been restored and what we need to restore is trust. Yeah. And, and, and environmentally friendly living. 

Laura Dawn: And my understanding too, is that reciprocity. Starts with consent. And there hasn’t been consent given by, in the indigenous cultures, widespread use of medicines.

And so we’re not at that part of the conversation yet. We’re really at benefit sharing, which is what grow medicine and the indigenous medicine conservation fund, our vehicles for benefit 

Ricardo Vitale: sharing. That’s another concept that we do think that’s viable. That’s more buyable that’s I think, but, but the, not exactly, but the narrative will reciprocity.

It’s it’s, it’s still too is still too for us to talk of restorative justice. 

Laura Dawn: Right. And also to eliminate what you said about right. Relationship, I think to really sort of distill it is this understanding that we’re all interconnected. So when you say, you know, when you inflict harm, you’re inflicting harm on yourself.

I mean, that’s because we are all interconnected, which is, I think foundationally and indigenous world. You know that, that we are, everything is connected in one way or another. So when someone is choosing to drink medicine in San Francisco, that choice does impact have far reaching consequences beyond our awareness.

And so right now, we’re just trying to have these conversations, not from a guilting or shaming or you’re wrong or anything like that, but just, Hey, let’s think bigger. Let’s understand what our actions are doing and understand this notion that you kept pointing to as well as do no harm, which is another big concept that we’re sharing with the medicine community through grow medicine.

Ricardo Vitale: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And I, and I think, uh, as a, in general, for eight agencies development NGOs, the, the advice is to really listen carefully and tread carefully also because often consent consent is relation as well. And consent is contextual. I mean, more often, uh, you need to create conditions by which, in which consent is really what it is very often.

When, when, when the balance of forces is showed disproportionate, you might get consent. Um, I’m, I’m referring back to the example of when, when, when organizations, companies approached us and said, Hey, by the way, why don’t you give us like this, a couple of elders that will probable with them. And we thought, okay, but this is marketing that you’re doing.

Laura Dawn: It’s. 

Ricardo Vitale: Yeah. Tokenization and yeah, something why don’t I say no, we’re not interested. And then, you know, often, always, almost, almost, almost often what happens is that they just go somewhere else and then we will in, if we will complete that, we’ll find someone who says yes, in fact, possibly they would find more people that would say yes then.

No. Right. That is why that is why it’s precious and important to, to support the grassroots indigenous organizing,

because it was a stronger communities, right? Yes. 

Laura Dawn: Yeah. Thank you so much, Ricardo, is there anything that you feel like you’d like to end on an impart a message to the Western community who is listening to. 

Ricardo Vitale: Yeah. I, I think that, um, the indigenous movement has a lot to offer. I, I decided to spend the last 20 years of my life or most here, and it’s, it’s in our choices and it’s, for a reason, I found an incredible wealth of culture and vitality.

And I think the word friend of mine I’m quoting him, Johann Hari, the writer, he says the word, always a massive apology to Columbia because because of this, this, this project is this cocaine. Our community have been historically victimized. So I think that, uh, it’s important that we listen. To what’s been offered by rural, rural, Colombian, rural, and indigenous societies and communities because there is an enormous wealth of potential professionals, creative men, and women lawyers, indigenous leaders that have so much to offer.

So I think that I wish that we would stop essentially sizing and infantilizing our communities, but actually really listen to these voices and realize that diversities is the motor of a better humanity. Yeah. 

Laura Dawn: That was well said, beautifully said, thank you so much for your time. I so appreciate you. I love getting to know you and more of your story.

I’m so grateful for all the work that you’ve been doing with umiat. I’m so grateful that alongside the indigenous medicine conservation fund, we’re featuring it through grow medicine, encouraging people to make a donation, you know, every time that you think about engaging with Yahira with Iowasca, please make a donation through grille medicine to support this incredible organization called

Ricardo Vitale: Beautiful. Thank you so much, Laura, for having me and as it was I’m here, but I’m a spokesperson for a larger collective people. 

Laura Dawn: Of course it is honestly my, my true honor to elevate your voice. So thank you. 

Ricardo Vitale: Thank you so much.

Ricardo Vitale, PhD.


Riccardo Vitale is an Italian self defined ‘liberation anthropologist’, based in Colombia. He earned a PhD from Cambridge University with a thesis about the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico. His expertise covers human rights, anthropology in armed conflict, social movements, indigenous politics, gender relations within social movements, sustainable development, resilience, climate change adaptations and indigenous practices of yagé medicine, spirituality and resistance. He is a former adviser of a plethora of international humanitarian and development bodies such as: Oxfam America, the UNHCR, the Norwegian Refugee Council, ICG and GIZ, amongst others. Since 2016 Riccardo works as a fulltime adviser for the Union of Indigenous Yagé Medics of the Colombian Amazon (UMIYAC). His tasks within UMIYAC range from fundraising to advocacy, to capacity strengthening, and non-extractive (“the-other-way-around”) anthropological research, aimed at “reinforcing indigenous communities, rather taking from them”. His current areas of interest include: the use of indigenous spiritual practices and yagé (ayahuasca) as peacebuilding tools; yage as a healing tool for war traumas; the role of yagé medicine in territorial defense; and the effects of the cultural appropriation and commercialization of traditional knowledge and practices.

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About Laura Dawn

Through her signature Mastermind Programs and Plant Medicine Retreats, Laura Dawn weaves together science with ancient wisdom. She teaches business and thought-leaders, entrepreneurs, and creative professionals how to mindfully explore psychedelics and sacred plant medicines as powerful visionary tools for inner transformation, fostering emotional resiliency and unlocking new depths to our creative potential.