Wirikuta Weekend Forum


Wirikuta Weekend – ATX festivities begin TOMORROW!!! The HAP team is beyond excited to finally kick off the Huichol celebration, Herbarium fundraising, and cultural wisdom sharing after a lot of hard work and beautiful collaboration behind the scenes.  This is our biggest event of the year and we would love for you to join us!  From authentic Mexican and Huichol meals, a Huichol art auction, live traditional performances and ceremonies, award-winning film screenings, a powerful forum of speakers, and a juicy Herbal cocktail and mocktail hour with the Huichol Delegation – this is an exciting weekend you won’t want to miss.  Best of all: tickets are still available as weekend passes or for individual events. 

One of the events we are most excited about is the first one of the day tomorrow: A Forum on the State of Mexican Indigenous Rights. Starting at 8:30am with a traditional cleansing and blessing ceremony led by a Huichol marakame, the Forum will commence to feature a variety of incredible speakers giving short 15-minute talks then concluding with a 30-45-minute Q&A panel on the current status of indigenous rights in Mexico, cultural diversity, biocultural conservation, and global sustainable development.  Curious about what’s in store tomorrow?  Read on to learn a bit more about who our Keynote Speakers are and the main topics they will speak on at the Forum:

  • Dr. Rosalva Aída Hernández Castillo, Ph.D: “Indigenous Rights in Mexico: Promises and Betrayals.” Dr. Hernández Castillo is a part of the senior research faculty at the Center for Advanced Anthropological Studies (CIESAS) in Mexico City and a current Tinker Visiting Scholar at the Lozano-Long Institute for Latin American studies.  Her research interests cover ethnic studies, legal and political anthropology, postcolonial feminisms and activist research. One of her projects involves exploring the experience of indigenous women with customary law and national law. She has worked extensively in the past on exploring plural identities in Chiapas as well as the human rights of Guatemalan refugees in Mexico.
  • Alex McAlvay: “Observations from the Field, Summer 2016.”  Alex is a doctoral candidate in Botany at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Herbal Anthropology Project’s Global Projects Specialist.  His interest in ethnobotany emerged while growing up in Washington state where he marveled at the manifold uses of local plants. This curiosity developed into a passion for the preservation of traditional ecological knowledge and health sovereignty. He has participated in fieldwork with the Diné and Kwakwak’wakw people of the U.S., Sidama of Ethiopia, and Wixárika of Mexico.
  • Dr. E. Jane Bradbury, Ph.D: “Curious Collections: Herbaria as Tools for Biocultural Conservation.”  Dr. Bradbury is the Director of Research at the Herbal Anthropology Project.  She is a botanist and ethnobotanist who specializes in plant biochemistry, chemical ecology, crop domestication, and global food cultures.  A strong advocate for Indigenous Rights, her research efforts have explored many of the biocultural interactions between humans and botanical landscapes.
  • John Christian: “Journey to Uxata: Photographing the Wixárika Pueblo.”  John is a documentary photographer in Austin, TX. His works have appeared in Texas Monthly, Popular Photography, The San Francisco Review of Art, Cuartoscuro and Mexico Desconocido. In 1976 he received the University of Texas at Austin’s Dobie Paisano Fellowship for documentary work on the Huichol.
  • Susana Valadez, M.S.: “Projects in Cultural Conservation and Sustainable Livelihoods.” Susanna is the Director and Founder of the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and the Arts, a non-profit located in the Sierra Madre Occidental that empowers both Huichol individuals and communities across Mexico to maintain their spiritual, artistic, and cultural heritage by preparing them to coexist with the outside world on their terms.  Within the Huichol Center, Susanna helps maintain the interactive Ethnographic Archive, which contains thousands of important pieces of the Huichol artwork, recordings, stories, and artifacts that elders, shamans, and other educated Huichol can contribute to at any time.  She spent half of her life in the Huichol community and has personally witnessed the challenges that face their ancient culture.

The Forum will be held from 8:30-11:30am tomorrow, Saturday, October 15th at Parkside Restaurant.  Oh, and a delicious breakfast is also included with your ticket!  We hope to see you there tomorrow and can’t wait to celebrate with you.

Wirikuta Weekend Film Review

With Wirikuta Weekend right around the corner, there is a lot of excitement growing behind the scenes with HAP! One of the events happening during the weekend is an exclusive screening of the film Huicholes: The Last Peyote Guardians (Huicholes: Los Últimos Guardianes del Peyote). You may have heard about our most recent project of creating the Huichol Herbarium and Seed Bank, or read some details about the Huichol and their history on the blog. If you are looking for an even deeper connection to their culture, this film truly represents the heart behind the Huichol and the struggles they currently face.

Beautifully filmed by Kabopro Films, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing world-class audiovisual cultural preservation to global indigenous communities, this documentary will grab you from the start. Even if you have read a thing or two about the Huichol or seen some of their artwork first hand, nothing is quite the same as feeling you are present with them by their sacred fire, walking their pilgrimage along side them, or standing by them in their deepest time of prayer. Huicholes transports you to the Wixárika world with all of its beauty and traditions as well as its modern threats and struggles. One of the most enthralling aspects of the film is witnessing all of their living symbolism. We see this embedded through their beadwork, yarn paintings, and other arts, yet hearing them voice the ancient stories behind their symbols truly brings them to life. Curious to learn more about the mythology and stories of the Huichol? This film beautifully connects their ancestral story to the life of the modern day Huichol.

The footage throughout the film invites viewers into traditions of the Huichol that have never been seen by outside eyes. Traditionally, the Huichol would never permit videographers or photographers of any kind to document their journey and sacred rituals, but for the first time in history, they have opened their world for the greater purpose of sharing their urgent story to the rest of the world.

The film follows the Ramírez family, a traditional clan of the Sierra Madre, as they perform their ancient pilgrimage to Wirikuta, the sacred mountain of the Huichol. This mountain is their most sacred territory and “Heart of the World” where Brother Deer, the peyote, grows—a traditional medicine that keeps the knowledge of this iconic culture of Mexico alive. This ceremonial pilgrimage is held every year to honor their spiritual tradition, however this year, Wirikuta is in extreme danger. In 2010, the Mexican government granted concessions to several Canadian mining companies to explore and exploit the area, a semi-desertic natural reserve of 140 thousand hectares in the state of San Luis Potosí, rich in gold, silver and other valuable minerals. According to the Huichol worldview, this is what maintains the energy balance of the region and the whole planet. If their land is taken from them, then they will be unable to perform their ceremonies to maintain this sacred balance of life on Earth.

This struggle to protect their sacred land is active now and their message rings strong in this film. Looking for a happy ending? Your support and attendance at Wirikuta Weekend could make all the difference! Join us October 15th for a series of events cultivating cultural awareness and celebration of the Huichol. Check out our official event page for more information and to reserve your tickets today!

A Taste of HAP and Wirikuta Weekend

defend wirikuta

A Taste of HAP in San Francisco is right around the corner, Saturday, October 1, 8-10pm. There are a few tickets left! Join us : atasteofhap.eventbrite.com. $40 in advance, $45 at the door.

And in Austin, we have our second fundraiser for the Huichol Herbarium Project: Wirikuta Weekend ATX! You may have heard us mention it in a previous post or on our Facebook…and now you can find all the juicy details for the series of events happening Saturday, October 15 – Sunday, October 16 in Austin, Texas. Wirikuta Weekend is the first public “launch” of our collaborative Huichol Herbarium Project and will be a crucial event for raising awareness and financial support so that this project can start to take motion! In addition, the event will serve as a multi-cultural celebration of Mexico’s rich bio-cultural diversity and the important contributions of the Austin, TX Mexican-American populations to local culture. And know what the most exciting part is? Tickets just went LIVE online!! Depending on which events are calling to you or what times you can attend, you can customize your Wirikuta Weekend. Here is an exclusive preview tour of what we have planned for this special weekend of events: Saturday, October 15th

★ Forum on the State of Indigenous Rights in Mexico (8:30 am – 11:30 am) Located at Parkside Restaurant on E. 6th Street, Austin, TX: doors will open at 8:30am for registration, continental breakfast, coffee, and art viewing and bidding.

Starting at 9 am, a Huichol Mara’akame (learn more about this in our last Blog post on the Huichol!) will lead attendees in a traditional cleansing and blessing ceremony, followed by academic talks to educate on the current status of indigenous rights in Mexico. These also provide a context for individual contributions to addressing and solving these problems. The talks will be followed by a brief refreshment break, and then 30-45 minutes of panel-style forum question and answer with the speakers.

Interested in Mexican cultural diversity, indigenous rights, and biocultural conservation? You won’t want to miss this event! Student ticket pricing is also available.

Some of the speakers include:

● Dr. Aída Hernández Castillo, senior resercher at the Center for Advanced Studies in Social Anthropology  CIESAS in Mexico City, and currently a Tinker Visiting Professor at UT Austin, presenting “Indigenous Rights in Mexico: Promises and Betrayals”

● John Christian, documentary photographer, presenting “Viaje a Uxata”, a photographic journey to the Sierra Madre

● Susana Valadez, Co-Director of the Huichol Center and Anthropologist, presenting on the Huichol Center

Stay tuned for a more detailed post about all of our contributing speakers!

★ Cultural Celebration Lunch (12 pm – 2 pm)

Located at Parkside Restaurant, savor traditional Mexican and Huichol dishes while watching traditional art demonstrations. The lunch menu will offer a delicious sacred five-color corn posole, followed by blue corn chicken tamales, quelites (wild greens), and heirloom yellow beans (a traditional Huichol bean variety that was recently the subject of a controversial American patent lawsuit seeking to strip Huichol rights from the crop variety – learn more about this in our last blog post!).

During this time you can also view and bid on pieces of traditional Huichol art on display. Herbal Anthropology’s unique herbal Damiana and sotol cocktail will also be available for purchase!

★ Huichol Art Exhibition and Silent Auction (8:30 am – 3:30 pm) Set up throughout Parkside Restaurant for viewing and bidding until 2:30 pm for general public. Featuring approximately two dozen pieces of traditional Huichol yarn paintings and beadwork jewelry, crafted by the artisans-in- residence at the Huichol Center in Huejuquillo el Alto, this is a great opportunity to see firsthand the ancient traditions and symbols of the Huichol. And it is entirely FREE to view the gallery prior to 2:30 pm! From 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm, the exhibition will be available for VIP-level event ticket holders and event sponsors only, during the herbal cocktail hour with our visiting Huichol delegation. After the event, the exhibition will be transferred to the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar.

★ “Taste of HAP” Herbal Cocktail Hour with Huichol Delegation (2:30 pm – 3:30 pm). This exclusive event is located on the Parkside terrace and is limited to VIP-ticket holders and Wirikuta Weekend sponsors. “Taste of HAP” is designed to be a journey to 3 different communities, with 3 herbal cocktails, to offer a view into the world of the people that are fighting for their right to safeguard their traditional medicine. Each cocktail is constructed around traditional plants and spirits. The global regions of the evening are: Mexico, Western Europe, and India. Guests will enjoy a cocktail crafting presentation for each drink that highlights the unique ingredients and the botanical cultural relevance of the herbs and spirits of the peoples of each global region. This is the ideal place for guests to share their own cultural heritage and experiences too, in this intimate setting of only 30 people. Each cocktail is also paired with Parkside chef Shawn Cirkeil’s h’ors d’oeuvres followed by the opportunity for one full-size cocktail or a flight of 3 with additional bites.

★ Film Screening: “Huicholes: Los Últimos Guardianos de Peyote” (4 pm). This is the first of two screenings of the film “Huicholes: Los Últimos Guardianos de Peyote” (Huichol: The Last Peyote Guardians”) located at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar. This critically acclaimed film was independently produced by Huichol film makers highlighting the emblematic international struggle to protect their sacred desert lands from Canadian silver mining firms. (Our last blog post speaks more on this current threat). The film has garnered several accolades, including winning Best

Documentary at the Red Nation Film Festival celebrating indigenous contributions to film! The movie provides a multifaceted perspective to the problem of mining in the San Luis Potosí desert, including perspectives from mining executives, mine workers, non-indigenous local residents, and Huichol youth and elders. Juxtaposing scenes of traditional Huichol pilgrimage and rituals with international and modern settings provides a holistic perspective to the archetypal struggle between indigenous cultural conservation and international colonial financial interests. It wouldn’t be the movies without popcorn… Guests will enjoy a complimentary personal box of popcorn and beverage along with a selection from the Alamo Drafthouse appetizers. Weekend pass and VIP pass holders will receive dinner entrée selections and one alcoholic drink ticket for a specialty sotol margarita!

Sunday, October 16th

★ Huichol Art Exhibition and Silent Auction (11:30 am – 3pm)

Now re-located to the Alamo Drafthouse, general public can continue to view and bid on the Huichol Art Exhibition. This is your final chance to place bids on the art so don’t miss out! Bidding closes at 3 pm. Auction winners will be announced promptly at 3 pm and will have 24 hours to pick up and pay for their art before the next bidder is notified.

★ Film Screening: “Huicholes: Los Últimos Guardianos de Peyote” (12 pm)

This is the second of two screenings of “Huicholes: Los Últimos Guardianos de Peyote” (“Huichol: The Last Peyote Guardians”). Also located at the Alamo Drafthouse, read the above description for more details.

Last but not least, we would not be able to offer this incredible fundraiser without our generous sponsors. Tremendous thanks to the Mexican Consulate and Parkside Restaurant for their co- sponsorship, making Wirikuta Weekend into reality.

Still intrigued? Explore ticket options, registration, and more event details here. Keep up with all of the latest event updates on our Facebook Event Page. We are so excited to see you there!

Who are the Huichol and Why are they Unique?

As we are preparing for A Taste of HAP in San Francisco, we wanted to give you a little bite of cultural facets that make the Huichol unique and how The Huichol Center for Cultural Survival came to be.  It is crucial to understand Huichol traditional culture, beliefs, and cosmology from its original root in order to understand the distinction from Western culture and influence.  Through creating the Huichol Herbarium, the people will hold a valuable tool to safeguard and defend their traditional knowledge and practices.

One important distinction to start with is the variation in naming you might come across.  Many indigenous peoples have both endonyms and exonyms by which they are identified.  What’s the difference?  An endonym is the name that a people call themselves and an exonym is the name that an outside culture created for a group.  In this case, “Wixárika” is the endonym and “Huichol” is the exonym given to the Wixárika by Spanish colonialists.  Which name to use can be tricky and often researchers, organizations, and indigenous communities themselves face the dilemma of using the correct name (the original endonym) versus the name that is easily recognizable by the outside world.  Often, indigenous groups will retain exonyms for communication with cultural outsiders.  A current example of this in the United States is with the ongoing demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which has garnered strong attention in the past few days, as the “Sioux” Nation stands up to protect its land and waters.  “Sioux” is an exonym given to the Lakota people by French colonists.  However, because so few Americans know the name “Lakota,” in its public campaigns, the community retains the usage of “Sioux.”

This is why the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival chose to name itself “Huichol” and not “Wixárika” and also why we at Herbal Anthropology are calling this project the Huichol Herbarium and are using the exonym “Huichol” in our broad public correspondence.  However, if you hear the Huichol speak of themselves (in the Huicholes: The Last Peyote Guardians film for instance), you will hear them use Wixárika.  So why do we need to know this?  Although to some it may seem like just a matter of translation, taking the time to understand and actively use the correct name for ourselves shows that we honor and respect a people’s cultural identity.  Curious and intrigued about exonyms and endonyms, the history behind them, and ethical language choices in indigenous contexts?  Stay tuned on our blog for a future post explaining the importance of exo- and endonyms in more detail!

Now to dive into the origins of the Huichol…The historias, or ancestral stories, of the Huichol have been carried on through their rituals, oral traditions, and within their tukis, or temple.   In Huichol cosmology, the center of the universe is believed to lie within the tuki where life enters the world.  Akin to the kiva (of the Puebloan Southwest), the tuki is a circular, thatch-roofed temple where the Huichol gather to track the movements of the Sun and to see the heavens.  Why the Sun?  For the Huichol, the beginning of time was only a sea of darkness.  Even the gods could not see anything because there was no sun.  Guided by Tamatsi Kauyumarie (the elder brother deer), the Huichol traveled for a long time searching for the sunrise.  This “deer hunt” ended in the deer giving itself to the hunters and then transforming into hikuri (peyote).  After eating the hikuri, the Huichol had a vision of the sunrise and were since able to see.  Tamatsi Kauyumarie and all of their deities carry their own symbols which the Huichol incorporate in their artwork and stories.

Each year, the Huichol embark on pilgrimages to the sacred land of the Wirikuta (their sacred mountain and “womb of life”) to hunt the Blue Deer (peyote).  The Huichol believe their deified ancient ancestors, the First People, once dwelled in the Wirikuta desert and were driven out into the Sierra Madre Occidental to live a mortal agrarian existence.  The pilgrims (individuals and families of all ages) are led by a mara’akame (shaman) to cleanse the way, traveling 600 miles round trip to re-enter the sacred land.  They carry with them ceremonial offerings, such as pictures, masks, and candles, in return for the gift of making art and entering priesthood.  This ancient pilgrimage is done to renew their alliance with their gods and ancestors to keep their cycles of rain, harvests, and all of life going.  The Huichol view themselves as the guardians of all life on the planet.  By performing this ritual pilgrimage, they are effectively bringing the rain to the Earth, stabilizing the harvests to feed the people, and the entire ecosystem.  This is why the pilgrimage is so important!  Without it, the whole planet would fall out of balance and sustaining life on Earth in this natural, elemental way would become impossible. 

The stories of Huichol cosmology, their rituals, and traditions go far deeper than all of this.  Yet without hearing every story or going to the sacred mountain itself, their historias live on through their vibrant artwork.  The key symbols from their stories are woven into yarn paintings, beadwork, weavings, rainmakers, bead sculptures, and other traditional artisanal art.  Some outsiders might take a look at their art and just appreciate the beauty and color palette, yet there is always a deeper meaning connected to their culture, cosmology, and belief system.  For the Huichol people, art is a means of encoding and channeling sacred knowledge.  It is considered a form of prayer, providing direct communion with the sacred realm.  (Stay connected with our blog for future post diving deeper into Huichol artwork and the prominent symbols within!)

Although the Huichol have strived to keep their cultural heritage alive for thousands of years, they still face many threats.  One of these is against land infringement and mining of their sacred mountain.  The imminently threatening, but currently suspended efforts, from mining industries in Huichol territory will cause a devastating effect on the environment, toxic pollution levels, people’s health, and ancient aquifers.  (Be sure to watch this incredible film highlighting more on this: Huicholes: The Last Peyote Guardians).  How can the Herbarium project help this?  Well, remember how important the pilgrimage is for the Huichol?  If their sacred land were taken from them, they would lose their entire cultural purpose.  All of their historias, acts of prayer, hikuri hunting, visionary art, and rainmaking are centered around their sacred mountain and land, also residing in the center of the land at risk for being mined.  Building the Herbarium will directly help guard against future infringements like environmental degradation of these sacred lands and biopiracy of genetic resources.  This kind of protection is invaluable for safeguarding an ancient culture against modern issues!

Bioprospecting of traditional agricultural resources is another major threat the Huichol face.  One of the more recent examples of this is by the controversial patent of the “Enola bean.”  This is a publicized act of biopiracy where John Proctor of POD-NERS, LLC patented the “Enola bean” in the U.S. despite it being a staple crop of the Huichol diet that had been traditionally grown there for thousands of years.  As a result of the U.S. patent, imports of Mexican (primarily Huichol) yellow beans in the U.S. fell by 90%, resulting in significant economic deprivations for the Huichol and Tarahumara farmers involved.  However, whereas the international outcry to the patents was significant, based in large part on the economic impact felt by the Huichol and Tarahumara farmers, we find it critical to point out that in all of the legal analyses of the patent, the Huichol and the Tarahumara are never named.  Instead they are listed at best as “indigenous farmers” with little to no cultural context.  This is a prime example of colonial bias in Western writing.

Facing territorial encroachment of their sacred land and a need to survive in a modern world, the Huichol Center serves as a bridge between a cultural divide.  Within the rugged mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental, The Huichol Center is working in collaboration with several international organizations to raise awareness of these imminent threats. At the same time, they are also working with the Mexican Government and NGOs to implement water-resource management techniques and are excited to participate in a state-run training center in Huejuquilla called Centro Supera ( “Center for Advancement”). This center will teach, among other things, skills in gardening, animal husbandry and eco-friendly resource management. The Huichol Center empowers both Huichol individuals and communities across the country to maintain their spiritual, artistic, and cultural heritage by preparing them to coexist with the outside world on their own terms.  With careful planning and education, the Huichol people can thrive in today’s world without sacrificing their native traditions or language.  One of their projects created an interactive Ethnographic Archive of the Huichol arts and traditions.  The interactive aspect allows the Huichol elders, shamans, and those educated in theses arts to add their knowledge to this database at any time.  This archive not only gives the Huichol a physically preserved location to reference and inspire for future generations, but also draws public awareness on the value of these traditions.  Learn more about The Huichol Center, their current offerings, and ways you can support them here.

What questions do you all have for The Huichol Center?  Comment below and we will ask them to Susana, the founder of the Huichol Center, herself!  All of your questions will be answered right here in the blog in a fascinating Q & A with Susana next month.

Stay tuned…

Huichol Herbaria Update

Huichol Art

We are excited to share with you some more details on our most current project: installing the Huichol Herbarium at The Huichol Center for Cultural Survival in Huejuquilla el Alto, Jalisco, Mexico. Why is this project so incredible? It is the first and only herbarium that will be entirely indigenous owned and operated! Herbaria, for centuries, have been primary tools of cultural appropriation, so giving this powerful tool to an indigenous community to use for its cultural preservation is a radical step forward. (Stay tuned for a future post hashing out the difference between this critical and often overlooked “nuance” between cultural appropriation and appreciation).

The Huichol People (also called the Wixárika by the people themselves) have lived in the Sierra Madre Occidental range of what is now Western Mexico for over 15,000 years. Throughout this entire time, they have actively resisted religious conversion during Spanish colonization and preserved their cultural heritage. Recently, they have been fighting to protect the San Luis Potosí desert and its sacred mountain, Wirikuta, against global financial interests. Although they have garnered international attention in this ongoing struggle, their community, land rights, and environment remain threatened. Our intention here is that the Huichol Herbarium project will help address these imminent threats by providing a critical facility to the Huichol people and their longstanding efforts to preserve and protect their cultural heritage, economic independence, and environmental stewardship.

So what is a herbarium anyway? [herb-]: a plant; type of vegetation + [-arium]: a location or receptacle for something = [herbarium]: a collection of dried plant specimens used for dozens of scientific and educational purposes. However, the Huichol Herbarium will also be legally-protected and equipped with seed bank technology so that the community may conserve traditional crop varieties and other endangered genetic material. Since the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival is already a centralized resource for about 20,000 Huichol people in Western Mexico, creating the herbarium here is a great location to keep this Traditional Knowledge (TK) in the hands of the people. Our anticipated “grand opening” of the facility will take place in September of 2017. In the meantime, we will be engaging in a large fundraising campaign and organizing several events this Fall.

We envision this project becoming a critical resource for the Huichol community in their fight to preserve their ancient culture. Interested in getting involved? We are looking for volunteers to help with fundraisers around the U.S. (Austin, San Francisco, New York City), with social media support, and are accepting financial donations. Contact our Director of Research, Jane Bradbury (jane@herbalanthropology.org) for more details.

Huichol Herbarium and New Updates

Huichol Ceremonial MaskWe are simply ecstatic to re-introduce our blog and website after a long period of internal growth and development. Our intention here is to provide you with weekly Herbal Anthropology Project (HAP) updates, an insider view of our current projects, and open a deeper conversation about foundational topics to our mission. And of course, if there are any questions or ideas you have for us too – send them our way! We would love to provide more detail, another frame of view, start a conversation, or offer valuable sources where more information can be found. Over the coming months, we hope to provide more resources so our supporters have a deeper understanding and connection with what HAP is doing and what we are really about.

So what have we been up to after all? Well for starters, our website is still undergoing a major re-design. Starting with the re-introduction of our blog here, keep exploring the site and watching for changes and content additions soon. As for our current projects, most of our team energy is presently being poured into our latest community partnership with the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival (near Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico), to support them in creating the first Indigenous-led herbarium! We are hosting “Medicinas Mexicanas – a fundraiser for the preservation of traditional knowledge of the Huichol people of central Mexico”, October 1, 2016 in Austin, Texas. Now I know this is just a rough sketch of what our current status is and you might have a dozen questions already, “Who are the Huichol? What is a herbarium?”; stay posted next week for more details on this project in our next blog. You can also learn more in our Current Projects page.

It is truly important to us to stay connected with those who support our vision and mission since we could not exist without your support! Thank you to all who have donated to HAP to directly support the preservation of traditional medicines around the globe. If you believe in HAP’s mission, we encourage you to spread the word so others can know what we do too. Share our website, current projects page, Facebook page, or even our blog posts with anyone you think might be inspired, curious, or supportive of our cause. And of course, your feedback and comments are greatly appreciated (the good, bad, and beautifully ugly), so please feel free to comment on any post here or send us a private message through our contact form.

Thank you for helping preserve traditional medicines across the globe and support the people who safeguard them.

Love, the HAP team

MindBody Sol Conference in NYC
















by Nikki Hare

Last weekend, Herbal Anthropology Project and Bespoke Teas had the opportunity to attend MindBody Connect’s yoga and Ayurveda conference in NYC. This conference was full of enthusiasm and high spirits, with endorphins exuding from all the yogis around us. We had the pleasure of connecting with companies, KeVita and Chia Star, both of which have nutritious and delicious products. Personally, my favorite Chia Star drink was Peach Green Tea. It was light and refreshing and it fed my green tea addiction. Throughout the day I’m sure that I consumed my weekly intake of chia seeds. KeVita gave me my daily dose of probiotics in the form of delicious fermented beverages. My favorite KeVita product was their cleansing lemon cayenne and I could quickly tell that toxins were being pulled out of my system. Get those toxins out!

We also had the opportunity to connect with Om in the City Yoga, a fabulous organization staffed with amazing people! Their passion for encouraging yoga anywhere through pop-up yoga classes was inspiring and powerful. As someone who is also interested in corporate wellness it was great to see that this group was having such a positive impact on their community.

Yogi Beans was a fabulous neighboring table who provided enthusiasm throughout the entire day. Being surrounded by their positive energy and encouragement of children’s yoga was a great experience and we cannot wait to see the benefits of children’s yoga come to fruition in New York City.

Finally we were honored to share a space with Namaste World and Room to Read’s Yoga Benefit, Yoga Gives Back and Urban Zen. These organizations are doing incredible work, supporting communities around the globe using various platforms such as yoga to diminish poverty as well as provide support to communities to preserve cultures.

Back from the Traditional Roots in Portland




by Nikki Hare

Traditional Roots Institute Herbal Conference:

The feeling I experienced as I walked through National College of Natural Medicine’s campus on Friday May 16th, it was indescribable. Not only was I surrounded by the beautiful and magical city of Portland, OR, I was surrounded by spirits of thousands of healers who have studied natural medicine around the world. After locating the main academic building and entering the Traditional Roots Institute Herbal Conference I began to absorb the excitement and energy from the naturopaths, herbalists and healers around me!

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend Paul Bergner’s class, “Humoral Considerations in Botanical GI” where I learned a vast amount about the differences in hot and cold herbs, moist or dry and how those relate to the body’s inherent composition. My journey towards health and wellness using natural remedies began when my GI doctor wouldn’t target the cause of my stomach issues, but insisted that antispasmodics would manage my symptoms. The western medications made me feel even worse and I turned to ginger (Zingiber officinale), chamomile (Matricaria recutita), basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) and peppermint (Mentha piperita)to manage my symptoms. But I didn’t want to just manage my symptoms, I wanted to feel healthy and alive again. After seeking naturopathic care and determining that I was gluten intolerant, I began to heal my body using the same herbs that Paul was referencing: ginger, peppermint, fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and many others in various combinations in order to soothe and heal the digestive tract.

After Paul’s talk I had the opportunity to talk to Oregon’s Wild Harvest and Galen’s Way and Herb Pharm about Herbal Anthropology Project’s current and future projects in Tanzania and Borneo. It was fantastic being able to speak with herbalists and natural healers about the importance of supporting indigenous communities in traditional medicine documentation. Finally, as we approached the end of the day, I was able to sit down and speak with the Melissa Berry who is a Naturopathic Doctor and owner of Missionary Chocolates. Her love and passion for healing was evident not only in her story but in her chocolates! I had the opportunity to taste “Meyer Lemon Explosion” and “Dark Chocolate Delight.” (Trust me…you want to get some of these…especially my vegan friends! Some of the best chocolate I have EVER had)! The goal of these chocolates is to raise the money needed for an integrative healing center in Portland, OR which will be funded by the best medicines around: love and chocolate! In addition, Wild Wines various flavors paired perfectly with the chocolate. Who doesn’t love wine and chocolate!? All the flavors were delicious! The raspberry tasted like the bottle had just been plucked off the raspberry bush, the Linden Flower was was perfectly balanced with the slight bitter flavor of the linden flower and the Elderberry propelled me into a world of pure joy! Needless to say, I happily purchased a bottle of the Elderberry and Ginger Wines and was not disappointed.

That night I attended a fundraiser organized by my gracious host, Maria Valdez, for the Zimbabwe Artists Project. The beautiful house was located in the suburbs of Portland, OR and was set back in a jungle of trees. The steep stone steps were lined with paper bag lanterns and rope-lights were hanging from the trees. As I approached the house, I could hear African music blaring and the house was decorated with magnificent works of art done by Zimbabwean women from rural Weya. There were hand-painted plates and tapestries and beautifully stitched tapestries hanging all over the house available for purchase. I was able to chat with a few NCNM students and faculty members and then…we danced! We danced for some time until the time zone difference forced me to accept that the party was over and it was time to head to bed.

On Sunday, May 19th, I attended Jim McDonald‘s talk, “Surviving Sinusitis and Other Catarrhal Calamities.” It was a fantastic lecture about various treatments for sinus related problems and how to treat the underlying cause by taking into account the person’s body temperature and moisture. He had the entire room laughing with the impersonations of a lax person or “chronic-sniffer”/”leaky-nose wiper,” a dry person or “rubber-cement-booger picker,” and a damp person or “I could blow my nose all day and not relieve my congestion.” He provided detailed descriptions of how each of these situations would present in people and then provided various herbs to treat these problems. However, I now find myself categorizing people around me as dry, lax, or damp more often than I should!

The final keynote speaker was a beautiful woman, Martha Libster. Her sensitivity, respect and passion was evident in her presentation. What I enjoyed most was the focus on making everyone into their own medicine makers. By doing so, we can allow patients to reconnect with nature while also tailoring their medicines to their bodies. They can better adjust dosage on a daily basis using fresh and whole food herbs that they grow or collect. The quote that resonated most with me was, “you don’t take a plant unless you have been properly introduced.” As natural healers we need to make sure that patients have been properly introduced to the natural medicines we prescribe because “medicine is the surgery of functions, as surgery proper is that of limbs and organs. Neither can do anything but remove obstructions; neither can cure; nature alone cures” (Florence Nightingale).

Access to Traditional Medicine in Tanzania

Walking to OrpulWe are losing traditional healers everyday, and with them their medicines. This is most prevalent in the developing world where traditional knowledge is still surviving on an oral tradition. Oral languages are disappearing at an alarming rate. With modern technology and documentation equipment, the Herbal Anthropology Project is able to support Traditional Knowledge preservation and support it’s continued use.

One herbalist, named Bongo Mzizi which means “root genius”, has been treating thousands of HIV/AIDS patients in the Tanga region of Tanzania for over 20 years. As unforeseen circumstances arose, Bongo passed away a couple of months ago. His son has been only practicing with him for a short time and does not know all of Bongo’s remedies. In collaboration with the National College of Natural Medicine, Herbal Anthropology Project has been asked to go to Bongo Mzizi’s clinic this summer to document his surviving medicines. (To support the trip donate here)

Cultural sustainability involves having a strong sense of identity from where we came from, the knowledge of what makes us unique. Traditional medicines are the some of those keys to understanding our identity, our heritage, creating a collaborative voice with the people we share our ethnic background. Here in the west most of us are privileged to have our people’s history in vast amounts of books and photographs. I hope that each community is lucky enough to document their history before it’s lost forever.