Primitive Societies in the Amazon

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May 9, 2011

Primitive Societies in the Amazon

Mark J. Plotkin, Ph.D. (Arlington, VA), Amazon Conservation Team, ethnobotanical researcher, Time Magazine "Hero for the Planet." "What can we learn from Primitive Amazon Cultures?"

Book: Plotkin, M, MD, The Shaman's Apprentice, Harcourt Children's Books, 1999

Dr. Marc Plotkin is a Professor at MIT who also works with the Harvard Botanical Museum. He won a "Hero of the Planet" environmental award for his documentary film on the Amazon, where he visits every year.

Dr. Plotkin's primary interest is protecting the rain forest. He is involved in "ethnographic mapping" of the Amazon basin, hiring tribal members to conduct surveys and provide information. He notes the importance of cultural sensitivity and that most tribal cultures are male dominated.

Regarding water, he acknowledges water's importance to all cultures on Earth. On the other hand, water is one of the limiting factors in population growth and must always be in balance with the ecosystem's capacity to support the population. Humans can overpopulate very quickly. All aspects of society, culture and livelihood are important.

There was considerable discussion of health care and shamanistic medicine in he Amazon region. The tribes practice much preventative medicine, including the use of tavi teas. They also practice "invisible medicine" using prayers and rituals. This can be very effective. Modern "alternative-integrative" medicine teaches us to look at nature first in treating illness.

All tribes use massage and it is a major form of preventive medicine.

Sharon noted the importance of "healing yourself," in which the patient takes a proactive role and the doctor is merely a guide.

Regarding diet, the palate in the Amazon is very limited, despite the area's biodiversity. They do get lots of exercise, though.