South and Meso American Indian Rights Center

Urgent Action: Indigenous communities in Amazon resisting pressure to allow the patenting of their sacred plant Ayahuasca

Background:

In a recent letter addressed to the Inter-American Foundation, Antonio Jacanamijoy, the General Coordinator of the Coordinating Body for Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA) refused to back down from a resolution proclaimed by COICA at their congress in Georgetown, Guiana in May of 1996. The resolution which was adopted through sovereign means by more than 80 delegates representing 400 groups of indigenous people from nine Amazonian countries efffectively banned the entrance and safe passage of the American researcher, Loren Miller.

Loren Miller committed a large offense against Indigenous people in the patenting of a variety of the sacred Ayahuasca plant that he claims to have “discovered.” His work with the International Plant Medicines Corporation in the United States ant their attempts to gain a monopoly over the plant is a serious violation of many Indigenous communities sacred beliefs.

As a result of COICA’s decision to ban Loren Miller from entering these communities again in a desrespectful manner, the Inter-American Foundation has put pressure on COICA and also on the Indigenous federation of amazonian peoples of Ecuador (CONFENIAE). They have been ordered to return funds for an education project supported by IAF if they do not retract their support of COICA’s decision to ban the entrance of Loren Miller.

Recommended Action:

Please send letters, faxes and email to the President of the Inter-American Foundation in support of COICA’s decision not to allow further violations of their sacred traditions by outsiders.

For more information please contact The Coordinating Body for the Indigneous People’s Organizations of the Amazon Basin) COICA at coica@uio.satnet.net

SAMPLE LETTER:

Mr. George Evans
President of the Inter-American Foundation
Arlington, Virginia USA
Fax: 703-841-0973
e-mail: correo@iaf.gov

Dear Mr. Evans,

I am writing to you to express my concern about the violation of the religious traditions of the Amazonian people. I do not support the efforts of Loren Miller in his pursuit to patent and effectively give himself and the International Plant Medicine Corporation control of the sacred Ayahuasca plant. I understand that this plant is a very sacred object of the Indigenous people in the Amazon and I believe that they have suffered a grave offense to their religious beliefs and traditions.

As a concerned individual in solidarity with the Indigenous people of the Amazon, I do not support the pressure that the Inter-American Foundation has placed upon COICA to retract their resolution concerning their future relationship with Loren Miller. Outside visitors cannot be disrespectful to the traditions of the Indigenous communities and expect hospitality and cooperation in return. Like any culture or religious tradition, a violation of that which is sacred is not a matter to be taken lightly, especially when someone attempts to gain control and notariety from it. I hope that you will consider the offense taken by these communtities and reconsider your desire for them to back down from their resolution. It is their right to demand respect for their religious traditions.

Sincerely,

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