Tag Archives: indigenous people

Berlinale Forum 2011 – Territoire perdu | Lost Land


Territoire perdu | Lost Land
Director: Pierre-Yves Vandeweerd
France, Belgium 2011

A 2,400 km wall cuts across the western Sahara, built by Morocco to contain the Sahrawi – once nomads, now condemned to immobility. More than a hundred thousand people who have been forgotten. The destruction of millennia of indigenous knowledge in a generation.

Pierre-Yves Vandeweerd’s revelatory documentary opens with camels behind a fence. Herodotus wrote of these camels and their keepers. In the 40 years that the Sahrawi have been living in camps, their nomadic knowledge of the desert has disappeared except in a few surviving old people.

Chased off their land when Morocco demanded possession of the Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, the Sahrawi refugees have been forgotten by the world. The last chapter in a trilogy that began with Le Cercle des noyés and Les Dormants, Territoire perdu literally brings them back to light.

Read the Forum essay.

Balé Folclórico da Bahia storms NYU’s Skirball Center


Balé Folclórico da Bahia
Sacred Heritage
NYU Skirball Center
29-30 January 2011

Choreography: Walson Botelho, José Carlos Arandiba, Rosângela Silvestre

Dancers: Estevam Alves, Alan Dias, Diogo França, Nidinha Foseca, Rafael Leal, Glauber Lima, Joice Nogueira, Reinaldo Pepe, Valfredo Pereira, Luana Pessanha, Jair Santana, Edileuza Santos, Darlan Silva, Rose Soares, Agatha Souza, Priscila Vaz

Musicians: Alcides Marais, José Ricardo Sousa, Fábio Santos, Mário Sérgio Santos, Joel Souza

Singers: João Gonzago, Dora Santana, Miralva Couto

The Brazilian folk dance company Balé Folclórico da Bahia stormed into NYU’s Skirball Center for a two-night engagement featuring dances and music based on Brazil’s rich African, indigenous, and Portuguese colonial narratives and influences.

Spectacularly talented dancers, musicians, and singers executed choreography and music from Brazil’s rich and complex history, complemented by brilliant costumes by Walson Botelho, Antonio das Gracias, and Ninho Reis.

Visit the company’s website for more information.

The use of medicinal plants in Mustang district, Nepal


Bhattarai S, Chaudhary RP, Quave CL, Taylor RS.
The use of medicinal plants in the trans-Himalayan arid zone of Mustang district, Nepal.
J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Apr 6;6:14.
PubMed PMID: 20370901

Investigators at the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology conducted field research in the Mustang district of north-central Nepal from 2005 to 2007 to document the use of medicinal plants in traditional botanical medicine.

Interviewing residents of 27 communities, the investigators recorded traditional uses of 121 medicinal plant species, mostly herbs, but also including shrubs, trees, and climbers. Plant-based medicine is used extensively in the region, within a number of medical systems including Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, Unani (a tradition of Graeco-Arabic medicine), and Tibetan Amchi medicine.

Recent loss of biodiversity in Mustang – a fragile, mountainous ecosystem – prompted this ethnobotanical project to document the use of medicinal plants and indigenous ethnobotanical knowledge. The investigators interviewed Amchi healers, medicinal plant traders, farmers, hotel and shop owners and managers, traders, homemakers, and village elders.

The study found that medicinal plants play a pivotal role in primary healthcare in Mustang, that traditional Amchi medical practitioners maintain deep knowledge about their use, and that, “while over-harvesting of some important medicinal plants has increased, many Amchi are working towards both biological conservation of the medicinal plants through sustainable harvesting and protection of wild species and conservation of their cultural heritage.”

To maintain biodiversity and ethnobotanical knowledge, the authors recommend collaborative research projects between the local people and national and international partners with relevant expertise.

Indigenous knowledge of medicinal plants used by Saperas community of Khetawas, Jhajjar District, Haryana, India


Panghal M, Arya V, Yadav S, et al. Indigenous knowledge of medicinal plants used by Saperas community of Khetawas, Jhajjar District, Haryana, India. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Jan 28;6:4. PubMed PMID: 20109179 PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2826346 [full text]

Researchers at Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak, undertook oral interviews with traditional herbal medicine practitioners of the Nath community in Jhajjar District, Haryana, India.

From the background:

“The indigenous community of snake charmers belongs to the ‘Nath’ community in India have played important role of healers in treating snake bite victims. Snake charmers also sell herbal remedies for common ailments. In the present paper an attempt has been made to document on ethno botanical survey and traditional medicines used by snake charmers of village Khetawas located in district Jhajjar of Haryana, India as the little work has been made in the past to document the knowledge from this community.”

The investigation found the people of the snake charmer community used 57 medicinal plants for the treatment of various diseases.

From the conclusion:

“This community carries a vast knowledge of medicinal plants but as snake charming is banned in India as part of efforts to protect India’s steadily depleting wildlife, this knowledge is also rapidly disappearing in this community. Such type of ethno botanical studies will help in systematic documentation of ethno botanical knowledge and availing to the scientific world plant therapies used as antivenin by the Saperas community.

Read the full article.

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Ethnomedical survey of plants used by the Orang Asli in Kampung Bawong, Perak, West Malaysia


Samuel AJ, Kalusalingam A, Chellappan DK, et al. Ethnomedical survey of plants used by the Orang Asli in Kampung Bawong, Perak, West Malaysia. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Feb 7;6:5. PubMed PMID: 20137098; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2843656. [full text]

Investigators at Masterskill University College of Health Sciences in Malaysia carried out a qualitative ethnomedical survey among a local Orang Asli tribe to gather information on the use of medicinal plants in the region of Kampung Bawong, Perak of West Malaysia to evaluate the potential medicinal uses of local plants used in curing different diseases and illnesses.

Their survey revealed 62 medicinal plant species that grow in the wild naturally and have medicinal properties that are crucial in traditional medicine of the Orang Asli.

From the conclusions:

“…The local government and village authorities need to act fast to conserve the ethnomedical knowledge of Orang Asli in the village Kampung Bawong, and the medicinal plants require preservation in addition to the ethnobotanical and ethnomedical knowledge recording. The preservation of these herbs along with the traditional knowledge of how to use them is an indispensable obligation for sustaining traditional medicine as a medicinal and cultural resource. Thus a future extensive research of these plants in this locality is recommended to identify and assess their ethnomedical claim.”

The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Ethnozoology of the Garasiya, State of Rajasthan, India


Jaroli DP, Mahawar MM, Vyas N. An ethnozoological study in the adjoining areas of Mount Abu wildlife sanctuary, India. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Feb 10;6:6. PubMed PMID: 20144243; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2836285. [free full text]

Zoologists at the University of Rajasthan and Govt. P.G. College did a study of the use of animal products among the Garasiya people of Rajasthan, a large, geographically diverse state in northern India. The team focused on areas around the Mount Abu wildlife sanctuary in the Aravalli Range, one of the world’s oldest mountain ranges.

The team documented a total of 24 animal species used for medicinal and religious purposes, including five species considered endangered, vulnerable, or near threatened. From their conclusion:

“Our study also shows that the Garasiya people have very rich folklore and traditional knowledge in the utilization of different animal[s]. So there is an urgent need to properly document to keep a record of the ethnomedicinal data of animal products and their medicinal uses. Further studies are required for scientific validation to confirm medicinal value of such products and to include this knowledge in strategies of conservation and management of animal resources. We hope that this information will be helpful in further research in the field[s] of ethnozoology, ethnopharmacology and biodiversity conservation…”

The article includes a comprehensive background section, outlining the history of zootherapy in India and documented in works like Ayurveda and charaka Samhita.

Important note: The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Herbal Mixtures in Traditional Medicine in Northern Peru


Bussmann RW, Glenn A, Meyer K, et al. Herbal mixtures in traditional medicine in Northern Peru. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Mar 14;6:10. PubMed PMID: 20226092; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2848642 [free full text]

Researchers at the Missouri Botanical Garden undertook a study of plant mixtures used in traditional medicine in Northern Peru, yielding nearly a thousand herbal preparations used to treat more than a hundred different afflictions.

From the conclusion:

“Our research indicates that a large number of plants used in traditional healing in Northern Peru are
employed in often sophisticated mixtures, rather than as individual plants. Peruvian curanderos appear to employ very specific guidelines in the preparation of these cocktails, and seem to have a clear understanding of disease concepts when they diagnose a patient, which in turn leads them to often apply specific mixtures for specific conditions. There seems to be a widespread exchange of knowledge about mixtures for treatment of bodily diseases, while mixtures for spiritual, nervous system and psychosomatic disorders appear to be more closely guarded by the individual healers.”

Important note: The information on my blog is not intended as a substitute for medical professional help or advice but is to be used only as an aid in understanding current medical knowledge. A physician should always be consulted for any health problem or medical condition.

Ethnopharmacology of the Horse Warriors – Medicinal Plants of the Tamang


Uprety Y, Asselin H, Boon EK, et al. Indigenous use and bio-efficacy of medicinal plants in the Rasuwa District, Central Nepal. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2010 Jan 26;6:3. PubMed PMID: 20102631

Ecologists at Vrije Universiteit Brussel interviewed plant collectors, medicinal plant cultivators, traditional healers, and traders among the ethnic Tamang people to document 60 medicinal formulations from 56 plant species.

From the background:

“The Rasuwa district presents some of the best examples of graded climatic conditions in Central Himalaya. Pronounced altitudinal gradients, coupled with complex topography and geology, have resulted in a rich biodiversity and unique vegetation patchwork. Therefore, the district harbours a rich diversity of medicinal plants. The Chilime VDC [Village Development Committee] lies in the northern part of the district, bordering the Tibetan part of China, and comprises temperate to alpine climates within 2000-4700 m altitude. The local inhabitants are part of the Tamang indigenous people, which comprises 98% of the total Chilime VDC population. People from the Tamang ethnic group have a rich culture and possess sound traditional knowledge. However, they are economically and socially marginalized and far from having their basic needs fulfilled.”

The Tamang people use medicinal plants to treat cuts and wounds, respiratory problems, gastrointestinal disorders, cough and cold, musculoskeletal problems, fever and headache, weakness and dizziness, menstrual disorders, dermatologic infections, ophthalmologic problems, and toothache, among other ailments.

The authors recommend phytochemical and pharmacological studies of the Tamang’s traditionally used medicinal plants, perhaps starting with potentially high-value species including Astilbe rivularis, Berberis asiatica, Hippophae salicifolia, Juniperus recurva, and Swertia multicaulis. They note that while medicinal plants provide huge opportunities for community development and livelihood improvement, local people are often deprived of the benefits. Proper management of medicinal plants could serve as a sustainable income source for the Tamang, which in turn could help generate incentives for biodiversity conservation.

Films I Want to See in New York – 4 – This Way of Life


Watch This Film

This Way of Life
New Zealand / Canada, 2009
Director: Thomas Burstyn
Cast: Peter Ottley-Karena, Colleen Ottley-Karena, Llewelyn Ottley-Karena, Aurora Ottley-Karena, Malachi Ottley-Karena, Elias Ottley-Karena, Corban Ottley-Karena, Salem Ottley-Karena

In a rare bit of luck, I met the filmmakers in Berlin while covering Forum. Their film was in another section, Generation, so I asked for a DVD. One of the smartest things I did during the festival.

I can’t improve on the Berlinale essay:

“Family life in New Zealand. Except that this is no ordinary family: filmmaker Thomas Burstyn spent four years capturing on camera daily life in one Maori household. Peter and Colleen Karena (Ngati Maniapoto) have six children and fifty horses. Peter is in his early thirties and a horse whisperer by trade – as well as a farrier, butcher, saddler, hunter, labourer and philosopher. The life he leads is very close to nature – and this makes him something of an outsider. His life is also unfettered – as is that of his self-confident children. It’s almost as if the word ‘risk’ doesn’t exist for them: barefoot, bareback and without reins or riding hat is for instance the way the Karena’s six-year-old daughter gallops across the New Zealand prairie.

“When the family’s house burns down, the parents, their oldest son (eleven-year-old Llewelyn, from whose point-of-view the film is told) and his five younger siblings decide to pitch their tents on a nearby beach. But although their family life appears to become even more idyllic, it is not without its conflicts. The Karenas live in the here and now, in spite of their parents’ traditional gender roles. But while Colleen devotes herself to looking after the family, Peter still has an axe to grind with his father. The film focuses on the way in which he mends this broken relationship and, at the same time, manages to maintain a healthy relationship with his own son, Llewelyn. Some people may think that the Karenas live a life of poverty. But this isn’t true. THIS WAY OF LIFE is a film about freedom.”

I am dying to see this beautiful film on a big screen. Some of the compositions are destined to become classics for film students in the new century. Children riding across a hill, a glistening body of water. New Yorkers deserve to see this movie.


Medicinal plant knowledge of the Bench


Giday M, Asfaw Z, Woldu Z, Teklehaymanot T. Medicinal plant knowledge of the Bench ethnic group of Ethiopia: an ethnobotanical investigation. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2009 Nov 13;5:34 [open access]

Researchers at Addis Ababa University documented and analyzed medicinal plant knowledge of the Bench ethnic group in Ethiopia. Malaria, respiratory tract infections, intestinal parasites, skin-related diseases and typhoid fever are the major human health problems among the people. The study revealed 35 medicinal plant species used by the Bench.

From the conclusion:

“The immediate and serious threat to the local medical practice in the study area seems to have come from the increasing influence of modernization. As there is no adequate modern healthcare service provision in the study area, loss of local medical knowledge and practice could negatively affect the healthcare system of the people. To arrest or slow down the trend, awareness on the contribution of traditional medical practice towards fulfilling the primary healthcare needs of the local people should be created among the youth.”

An old story. Past time to start listening.