IMC Fund Delegation Declaration

Declaration from the Indigenous Medicine Conservation Fund and Partners to the Psychedelic Field

This declaration is from the delegation that participated at the MAPS Psychedelic Science PS2023 conference and does not claim to represent the voices of Indigenous Medicine Conservation Fund partners on a whole.

Collective recommendations from the IMC Fund delegation
to Psychedelic Science 2023  

In June of 2023, Indigenous delegates, sponsored by the Indigenous Medicine Conservation Fund, were present at the MAPS Psychedelic Science conference in Denver, Colorado.

Among us, we are Oglala Lakota, Sioux-Lakota, Dine, Comanche, Havasupai, Bwiti, Hopi, Tewa, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Navajo, Menominee, Oneida, Mazatec and Yawanawa. We are practitioners, protectors and students of sacred medicines and their ancestral rituals that are central to the cultural well-being of our peoples. We are members of communities that have ancestral relationships to Peyote, Iboga, Mushrooms and Ayahuasca, but do not represent them as a whole. 

Our communities are guardians of the medicines, lands where they grow, and traditional knowledge for effective and safe use, and have been since time immemorial. Each of us, in our small delegation, have a responsibility to use our voices for our communities. We have been and continue to be very concerned about the state of the fast moving psychedelics boom and the direct and unintended negative consequences for our communities, territories and medicines. 

Today, eighty percent of the planet’s biodiversity and land essential for climate mitigation is under the care of Indigenous peoples. A testament to the deep wisdom and profound connection we have with the natural world. Our role as guardians of the medicines, land, and ancestral teachings is not only about preserving our cultural heritage but also about safeguarding the future of our planet. We recognize that the well-being of humanity is intertwined with the well-being of the Earth. 

With this declaration, we call upon you to join us in our efforts to build bridges that will enable us to reduce harms. As our grandmother Mona Polacca reminds us, “Let's put our minds together to build a better life for our children and the future generations”. * Her words are the foundation for why we are here today. We understand that the new ‘fields’ intended goals are to address mental, spiritual and physical health crises for humanity. 

Today, our communities are fragmented not only by the exploitation of our knowledge systems and spirituality but the endless consequences of extractive colonialism. Our territories, languages, and spirituality are essential pieces of who we are, how we have stewarded these medicines, and how our communities are addressing their own mental, spiritual and physical health. 

This declaration is intended to support and remind those involved in the global psychedelics boom about its intent to be a healing movement. There have been many, many problematic interactions between Western culture and Indigenous cultures in the past. This statement is intended to ensure Right Relationship, sharing of cautions so this boom will not be another wave of colonialism. 

We recognize the deep need for healing the mental, spiritual and physical health of humans at this time, and it is with this recognition and love for humanity that we participated in Psychedelic Science, despite our own discomforts, to share our concerns and recommendations. 

The knowledge and spiritual systems these medicines come from have been kept and passed on, generation after generation, through Indigenous communities and lineages who have worked tirelessly in their preservation in the face of colonization and cultural extermination. Therefore, we urge your community to join us in considering the following:

  • Indigenous methodologies for the safe, responsible and respectful use of these medicines have existed for millennia

    • Those protocols include processes and knowledge that has been passed down through generations incorporating mental, physical and spiritual protocols;

    • Most ceremonial practitioners and traditional healers receive  20 or more years of training.

  • These medicines and protocols are intimately linked to place and language, and extracting them from those contexts has consequences

    • Among the consequences of medicalization is the very serious risk that patients treated outside traditional contexts, without informed interventions,  will experience harm in the long-term. Elders from the Yage culture (belonging to at least five ethnic nations), repeatedly warn Western practitioners about this.

  • We must establish pathways to respectful interaction

    • We need to establish new and respectful pathways for people interested in seeking the support of our medicines; 

    • Despite our sharing nature, many native peoples have been disinterested in sharing their ancestral knowledge because we have been taken advantage of in a negative way by scientific, political and civil society sectors that exercise colonial practices, like cultural misappropriation, bio-prospecting, and bio-piracy. 

  • Raising interest in our medicines globally has unintended consequences that bring harm to our communities

  • True healing is a multifaceted process, and not a destination or a quick fix

    • Healing is not only going forward, healing is also going back. What caused the harm that needs to be healed? Indigenous ways of healing seek to understand what is imbalanced and what needs tending in order to intervene on patterns of harm. This is different from the Western mindset around healing as a problem to solve.

    • We are concerned about the speed and urgency of this movement, the ‘de-sacred-izing’ of the sacred, the repeated patterns of seeking fast routes to healing, and the transactional and profit-driven nature of the growing industry. IMC fund partner, Osiris Garcia Cerqueda (Mazatec from Huautla de Jimenez in Oaxaca, Mexico), says “The time of the community is governed by the cycles of nature, not by the time of capital.”

    • The  roots of the illnesses are  linked with the activities of  modern society – the destruction of the tropical forest, pollution of the rivers, growing extinction of our biodiversity, development of societies with severe social and economic inequity, wars of aggression, indiscriminate extraction of limited resources, competition, and the privilege of a few over the majority. 

  • Traditional medicine communities are in their own process of healing using their own methods, first - these processes MUST be supported, not interrupted, before the psychedelic boom asks for or takes more

  • Indigenous knowledge holders must be included in the debate/conversation

    • If those doing the research and “exploration” do not include those who have known these medicines for generations, we will reproduce the same historical colonial conditions at the expense of Indigenous peoples, medicines, and cultures, and lose precious time in the process.

  • We have a responsibility as human citizens to do no harm through our endeavors

  • We insist on Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) as it pertains to the use of these medicines - you can reference the United Nations Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Biodiversity Protocols

    • Policy changes that impact Indigenous traditional medicine people must include consultation, reparation, restorative justice and respect;

    • Consent must also be sought and granted for: research initiatives,  use of intellectual property law,  business initiatives aimed at commercializing sacred medicines. activities leading to appropriation.

  • Consent and consultation is a complex and multi-faceted process and, in most cases concerning our medicines, consent has not truly been given.

  • The ways in which medicines are harvested have impacts, and ecological and ethical practices must be used — conservation, reparation, restorative justice, and acknowledgement must be built in

    • Are harvests impacting local and traditional peoples’ access to those medicines? Who is benefitting from the transaction? Are harvests regenerative? 

  • Appropriation is a real concern and there are ways to appreciate our medicines and cultures without appropriating

  • It is important to exercise reflection on our  areas of privilege when interacting with Indigenous communities in a Western and capitalist exchange/ framework 

    • As individuals, groups or representatives of corporations:

      • Check  expectations and entitlement when purchasing 

      • Check  well-intended behavior

        • Wanting to be the white savior;

        • Initiating economic activities that negatively impact communities;

        • Going into territories, causing disruption and harm;

        • Assuming knowledge of right-relationship without listening first.

  • We exist for our future generations

    • We are calling on you to think about the future. Take only what you need and leave the rest for future generations;

    • Be the ancestors our future generations need to live in a thriving and balanced way.

  • Conservation is best directed by Indigenous people

    • We appreciate the people and organizations who respect and embrace the leadership of traditional medicine people.

In this era of unprecedented challenges and rapid change, we find ourselves at the precipice of a profound transformation. We share our recommendations and concerns regarding the global psychedelics boom and the conservation of sacred medicines with the understanding that the need for healing has never been greater.  In a world plagued by division and ecological crisis, let us facilitate a different kind of encounter—one rooted in unity, love, and reconciliation.

As Chief Nixiwaka Yawanawa wisely observed, this is a New Time—a time for forging true alliances and embracing the sacred. Yet, it is also a time of struggle for the preservation of life, a journey fraught with challenges, and one that must be embarked upon together. In the midst of this transformation, one fundamental principle remains clear: "Keep the Sacred, Sacred!"

Ultimately, this declaration calls upon all of us to reflect on our roles as stewards of the planet, as individuals and representatives of larger entities. It implores us to act in ways that honor and protect the ancestral knowledge passed down through generations, and to ensure that future generations inherit a world where existence truly flourishes. Together, we can embark on this transformative journey, guided by the wisdom of those who have been guardians of the land, the medicines, and the ancestral teachings for millenia. 


* Words of Chief Sitting Bull