1999 – UMIYAC, Colombian Union of Yage Healers Founded
UMIYAC, an indigenous organization dedicated to the rights and traditions of healers in the Colombian Amazon was formed in 1999. The drinking of yage (ayahuasca) has a very strong history in this region. As anthropologist Gerarldo Reichel-Dolmatoff explained when reflecting upon many decades of research in the area, he witnessed “a world with a philosophy so coherent, with morals so high, with social and political organizations of great complexity, and with sound environmental management based on well-founded knowledge.”
UMIYAC represents the strongest mobilization of efforts among indigenous healers in this region to protect ancestral lands and defend important indigenous territories, promoting indigenous autonomy and self-government, and revitalizing traditional healing traditions.
As outlined on the organizations website, they “work to preserve the Amazon rainforest and to revitalize and protect our cultures and our ancestral medicine. We are spiritual authorities, medicine men and women of knowledge, and our role is to ensure the health of the territories and the physical and spiritual wellbeing of our communities and territories.”
In 2019 at the World Ayahuasca Conference in Girona, members of UMIYAC joined with other indigenous groups in releasing a document outlining key issues faced by indigenous ayahuasca traditions in the current global context. The document focuses heavily on the issues of cultural appropriation and commercialization and how this is negatively impacting indigenous cultures. Other indigenous healers outside UMIYAC are equally concerned about such issues. Such as the Shipibo healers Mateo Arévalo Maynas and Pedro Tangoa López or the Wachiperi healer Victoria Corisepa, all describing similar and different concerns.