Investigating why Indigenous ‘Spirit medicine’ ideas should be prioritized in psychedelic research.

In the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico, Yuria Celidwen was born into a family of Indigenous mystics, healers, poets, and explorers.

Celdiwen, a native of Nahua and Mayan descent, stated, “I grew up with one foot in the wilderness and another in the magical realism of Indigenous culture.” My childhood was filled with the stories and songs of my elders. They helped me develop my emotional intuition and mythic imagination, which served as the foundation on which the seeds of kindness, play, and wonder germinated.

“But  we convey intergenerational injury and, furthermore, intergenerational rapture,” she added. A consequence of the Native people group’s verifiable pioneer mistreatment, slaughter, and “the double-dealing of our properties and age-old practices, and the strong, Mother Earth-situated and firmly wound around networks and customs we safeguard.”

According to Celidwen, those significant disparities have shaped her research and work over the past two decades, collaborating with Indigenous communities worldwide to create community spaces and policies that support Indigenous Peoples’ voices and their time-honored principles.

Celidwen is currently a senior fellow at the Othering and Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley. In this position, she is looking into how Western institutions can approach the expanding research and use of psychedelics as viable medical therapies in an ethical manner. She led a study that was recently published in The Lancet Regional Health—Americas.

“Indigenous voices inspire reverence, kindness, and compassion.” As a result, my research focuses on the recovery, renewal, and transfer of our Indigenous wisdoms.”

Celidwen, who previously served as a liaison of Indigenous affairs at the United Nations.

The paper, “Moral Standards of Customary Native Medication to Direct Western Hallucinogenic Examination and Practice,” features how the new Western hallucinogenic development can embrace and team up with the Native plant medication customs that went before it.

Celidwen, a former United Nations liaison for Indigenous affairs, stated, “The authority of the Indigenous Peoples must be recognized and respected as equal holders of sophisticated systems of contemplative insight.” Respect, kindness, and compassion are espoused by indigenous voices. As a result, the goal of my research is to restore, revive, and spread our indigenous wisdoms.”

A prospering industry
Hallucinogenic medications, which are still governmentally condemned in the U.S., have been locked in as “soul drugs” by Native American groups all over the planet for quite a long time. “To heal our planet by opening the spiritual gateways to the ancestors (past and emerging) and promoting transcendence through deep connections with nature, the universe, and spirit,” Celidwen stated, “but to practice these medicines not only to heal people.”

These medicines have recently been used to treat depression, anxiety, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the West, which has spawned a multibillion-dollar industry. Sporting utilization of hallucinogenic plants, such as psilocybe mushrooms, peyote desert flora, and ayahuasca, has likewise created a business opportunity for Western hallucinogenic specialists to charge a large number of dollars for help.

The study estimates that 30 million people currently use psychedelics in the United States alone. Celidwen stated that Indigenous communities have serious concerns regarding the manner in which the research of their spirit medicines is carried out and the extent to which Indigenous participation will be incorporated—if at all—as financial backing for psychedelic research continues to proliferate in Western institutions, including over 350 registered psychedelic clinical studies.

How will the West transform psychedelic use in religious settings? And how can Indigenous communities be compensated for the appropriation of their traditional medicines?

Celidwen provides answers to these questions by conducting research with lawyers, activists, scholars, and Indigenous practitioners from all over the world who are knowledgeable about Indigenous medicine practices. Concerning the current Western use of traditional indigenous medicines, they have developed a set of ethical guidelines.

According to Celidwen, “I see the lack of access to our own Indigenous medicine systems, which continue to be dismissed, persecuted, blatantly extracted, exploited, and capitalized upon.” I realized that bringing together the voices of the traditions most affected by the appropriation of these spirit medicines was essential.

Credit: University of California – Berkeley

The group met virtually during the pandemic, and Celidwen stated that the panel discussed issues that have been deeply rooted in Indigenous communities. University of California, Berkeley Centering the “sacred act” Examples include the effect that cultural appropriation has had on their traditional medicines and the fact that Indigenous cultures have not acknowledged these medicines as sacred.

The various exclusionary policies their communities have faced in practicing their medicinal traditions, the growing carbon footprint on their lands, and the impact that Western “psychedelic tourism” has had on preventing Indigenous communities from accessing their own medicines were also discussed by the panelists.

Additionally, the panel rejected any attempt to patent indigenous heritage.

Through her examination, Celidwen said, it becomes obvious that Native People groups’ voices and initiative are missing from Western hallucinogenic exploration and practice. The participation of Indigenous voices has merely been symbolic and has not been beneficial to Indigenous communities.

“Indeed, even the term ‘hallucinogenics’ is a Western idea that Native Americans disagree with,” said Celidwen. “Western sporting utilization of our soul drugs doesn’t have anything to do with thinking about the care of the soul. It’s not always a holy deed. The Western perspective holds that psychedelics show the human mind. However, these drugs show spirit, the very principle that drives life, not just the human mind.

The exploration prompted an agreement of moral Native rules that Celidwen said frame eight basic components—”Worship, Regard, Obligation, Pertinence, Guideline, Repayment, Reclamation, and Compromise”—for hallucinogenic specialists to think about in their preliminaries and practice.

These tenets were then connected to specific issues that Indigenous people face as a result of psychedelic research and use outside of their communities.

All the more significantly, Celidwen said, they present arrangements.

Furthermore, for Berkeley’s Othering and Having a Place Establishment Chief John Powell, there could be no more excellent time than now for “the spanning of those arrangements” to be thought of.

According to Powell, “It is remarkable how rich Indigenous traditions have been largely ignored in the study of human flourishing and the positive interventions that make it possible.” The research of Dr. Celidwen stands out because it emphasizes relationality, interdependence, mutuality, and the meaning that all living things have.”

From a place of “fierce kindness,” Celidwen said that despite the fact that her own life has been marked by discrimination, exploitation, extraction, and extreme forms of violence and abuse, those experiences also reflect the greater disparities that Indigenous Peoples face.

“In addition to the fact that we convey authentic mischief,” said Celidwen, “yet the horrendous encounters continue to be propagated by designs and frameworks of persecution and double-dealing of our properties, societies, and customs, that wind up tearing apart our hearts and tearing our bodies into pieces.”

Celidwen asserted that this trauma is connected to contemporary issues affecting Indigenous communities, such as a lack of access to the necessities for dignified living, such as housing, healthcare, education, safety, and security.

Credit: Sofia Liashcheva

In order to participate in Indigenous practices, Celidwen organized a conference in the fall that brought together Western psychedelic researchers and Indigenous healers. The conference’s foundation was laid here by a rock table covered in affirmations of gratitude and positivity. According to the study, despite the fact that the psychedelic industry has the potential to become a multibillion-dollar industry, Indigenous communities, which account for 30% of the extremely poor and 6% of the global population, have seen little to no health or economic benefit.

In addition, the average lifespan of Indigenous people is 20 years shorter than that of non-Indigenous people.

Celidwen’s research also shows that Indigenous medicine practitioners earn between $2 and $150 for their services, whereas Western psychedelic practitioners and facilitators can earn an average of $10,500 per service event.

She stated that Indigenous women in particular lack access to decision-making platforms. However, Celidwen stated that she has discovered that preserving her Indigenous culture has been made easier by participating in the transmission of traditional Indigenous knowledge.

She stated, “It’s a way of reclaiming our places, and at the same time, it’s about love and a fierce kindness to guide people to realize and wake up to our daily realities.” “It’s a way of reclaiming our places.” We should be available for morally coordinated efforts to come to arrangements together and to make spans between us.”

Collaborations that thrive Celidwen has held a number of conversations with academics, clinicians, and Indigenous people from a variety of backgrounds to gather, participate in, and comprehend traditional Indigenous ceremonies in order to share these Indigenous perspectives.

The previous fall, Celidwen united Native medication experts from Mexico, Guatemala, Canada, Colombia, and El Salvador to meet with hallucinogenic analysts from Western establishments that included UC Berkeley, John Hopkins College, the College of Wisconsin-Madison, and UCSF.

The two-day event, which took place at Berkeley’s Faculty Club, featured Indigenous ceremonies with a strong emphasis on connecting participants with Indigenous notions of “spirit, creator, and the universe.” The conference also included self-discovery and reflection on “our ancestors,” fostering a free flow of ideas and discussions about the Western psychedelic movement’s lack of Indigenous people.

Dacher Keltner, a Berkeley brain science teacher, went to the gathering and said Celidwen’s capacity to give a sustaining, cooperative space for individuals from distinctly various networks to have extreme discussions about hallucinogenic examination is changemaking.

“Dr. Celidwen has started the sort of discourse— and spread out the sort of standards — that will guarantee that this new development is no other colonialist asset extraction, but rather can advance toward more respectful and commonly feeding coordinated effort,” said Keltner, who is additionally head of Berkeley’s more prominent Great Science Place. “It is original and vital.”

For Powell, Celidwen’s simple presence nearby as a Native researcher widens the discussion of Berkeley’s scholarly local area. Powell also stated that her research has the potential to alter culture, as evidenced by its incorporation into organizations, government agencies, schools, and health care facilities.

He stated, “Yuria’s work on Indigenous traditions and the lessons they teach us about creating a world where everyone belongs will be transformative.” She has already had a significant impact on how we think about bridging, which is an important practice that helps deepen relationships across differences so that we can jointly create structures that benefit all of us.

Celidwen continues to present her findings to Western educational establishments all over the country. She does this by lecturing at colleges and universities about the ways in which Indigenous principles and values can aid humanity in “accessing an ever-expanding unfolding of a path of meaning and participation rooted in honoring all life.”

Celidwen spoke at the Bioneers Conference in Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall last month. She shared her research and perspective on the “Ethics of Belonging of Indigenous Contemplative Traditions” in the hope that it will bring “an inequitable and separated world” into balance.

“It is now abundantly clear that all we hear when we pay attention to the world around us is urgency. She stated, “It is time for community reflection.” We want to support a cognizant social obligation regarding oneself, the local area, and the climate. And to be willing to embrace the Divine, transcending the individual and material culture.” 

More information: Yuria Celidwen et al, Ethical principles of traditional Indigenous medicine to guide western psychedelic research and practice, The Lancet Regional Health—Americas (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.lana.2022.100410

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