Amazon tribe creates 500-page traditional medicine encyclopedia
June 28, 2015 3:23 PM   Subscribe

"The Matsés Traditional Medicine Encyclopedia marks the first time shamans of an Amazonian tribe have created a full and complete transcription of their medicinal knowledge written in their own language and words. One of the intentions is to stall Biopiracy and at the same time preserve knowledge which up to now was passed orally.
posted by adamvasco (9 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is brilliant.
posted by looli at 3:37 PM on June 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bleargh. Except for the zillion comments underneath asking Where can I get mine? It's Amazon the place, jeez, not amazon.com.
posted by looli at 3:41 PM on June 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


I am imagining a world in which, arriving at strange shores in possession of the means to save and transmit the knowledge they found, that this happened earlier everywhere Europeans went. Then my library could have a Mayan astronomical encyclopedia next to an Azyec history next to the lost tales of other peoples whose names nobody even bothered to record before they disappeared. At least there are now a few books to go on those mostly empty library shelves.
posted by puffyn at 6:38 PM on June 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Does the existence of a printed encyclopedia count as "prior art" so that pharmaceutical companies can't claim ownership of these plants and compounds and patent them? If so, I would love to see the Matsés translate it into English or Spanish and sell copies. It would be a rare positive use of patent/copyright law, encouraging them to share their accumulated knowledge by providing legal protection of their right to benefit from it.
posted by Rangi at 6:48 PM on June 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is very cool, thanks for the link adamvasco.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:09 PM on June 28, 2015


Then my library could have a Mayan astronomical encyclopedia next to an Azyec history

Your library could have, if the Europeans hadn't intentionally destroyed as many of these records as they could. Most of the languages of North and South America weren't written, but if they had been, this would not have saved them; they likely would have been burned as "superstition and lies of the devil" like the Mayan codices were.

It's hard to overstate the scale of the genocide, and what was lost. Imagine if a conquering force had burned most of the literary works of Rome, and then imposed such harsh conditions on the people that they could never be recreated.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:43 AM on June 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


@Rangi: "The Encyclopedia is written only in Matsés. It is by and for the Matsés and no translations will be made into Spanish or English."

The idea is to protect a spiritual trade secret -- even more important than patent law. I suppose this was the collaborative decision of the tribe and the NGO.
posted by shii at 5:45 AM on June 29, 2015


looli: It's Amazon the place, jeez, not amazon.com.

I can't wait to learn which combination of herbs guarantees two day delivery.
posted by dr_dank at 6:33 AM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


my library could have a Mayan astronomical encyclopedia next to an Azyec history next to the lost tales of other peoples whose names nobody even bothered to record before they disappeared

OK, done. De Landa and the rest of the Spanish may have done a number on pre-contact materials, but acting as those these cultures simply "disappeared" is reinforcing the idea that these are people without a history, which they most solidly are not. Ethnohistories by the people themselves; proto-ethnographies by Spanish friars; and (particularly with the Maya) archaeological writings all exist.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:55 AM on June 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


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