Maps, Magic, and Medicine Episode 2: Explorers Turned Apprentices

Maps, Magic, and Medicine explores the importance of indigenous knowledge to protect the environment. Each month we bring you stories about the spiritual, the unexplained, and the unbelievable.

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When Mark Plotkin went down to Suriname, he wanted to study how indigenous peoples use plants. But when he saw his indigenous friend Wuta leave his home in search of a better life in the city, he realized that indigenous knowledge was disappearing faster than anything in the forest.

In this episode, we’re talking about ethnobotany—the study of how people use plants and how those uses change across cultures.


Interactive transcript:

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Water, Wildlife and Hope: Rejuvenating a Kogi Sacred Site

Published on July 21, 2016.

After years of planning, designing, acquiring materials, developing infrastructure, laying and burying 1,200 meters of pipe, and testing water quality and functionality, the seemingly impossible was achieved: for Colombia’s Kogi people, and their related tribes who rely on Jaba Tañiwashkaka, a historically sacred site, an aqueduct that provides access to water for crop irrigation and potable water for consumption is now in place. And thanks to a determined site restoration effort, alligators, nutria, and capybara are only a few of the animals now seen in a wetland previously largely devoid of wildlife.

Read more »


ACT Field Notes

By: João Carlos Nunes Batista
Date: Thursday, September 15, 2016
An important piece of this effort is allowing Waurá youth to experience sacred sites that, until now, have only existed in their imaginations and the stories of their elders. Because of this effort, we were thrilled when we were given the opportunity for ACT to visit Kamukuaká Cave, one of these sacred sites, with several Waurá villagers from multiple generations.
By: Liliana Madrigal, co-founder of ACT
Date: Thursday, September 1, 2016
In 1987, my friend Dr. Rob Peters and I were having dinner somewhere in Woodley Park on a temperate June evening. Although I had been involved in tropical forest conservation in Costa Rica, climate change was not a hot topic at the time. Rob, a biologist , began talking about his research. I remember his agitation at the fact that people were not paying attention to what he felt was a looming catastrophe for humanity: the rising temperature of our atmosphere.
By: ACT-Suriname
Date: Friday, June 24, 2016

In May 2016, Roché Bhola, one of ACT-Suriname's field station managers, traveled for several weeks to the Trio indigenous village of Sipaliwini together with Dr, Anthony Druiventak, geology professor at Anton de Kom University of Suriname and Joanne Perk, a student from the department of mine

ACT in the Press

By: Monica Andrea Saavedra Crespo
Publication: El Mundo (September 2016)

Mediante la firma de un convenio entre la Gerencia Indígena de Antioquia de la Gobernación y la Agencia Nacional de Tierras se espera dar solución a las solicitudes de titulación, ampliación y construcción de resguardos indígenas en el departamento.

By: Lucía Franco
Publication: (September 2016)
Roberto Franco ––un politólogo de la Universidad de los Andes que trabajaba como antropólogo y que dedicó su vida a la preservación del medio ambiente, a las comunidades indígenas aisladas, a los campesinos, a causas no muy valoradas–– se subió el 6 de septiembre de 2014 a una avioneta en Araracuara, un pueblo que queda en el Caquetá, luego de pasar la mañana recogiéndole flores de Inirida a Patricia Vargas, su mujer.
By: James Perla
Publication: Living Planet (August 2016)

Despite conservation efforts, swathes of Brazil's Amazon forest are still lost to deforestation. Small-scale illegal logging can be difficult to monitor, even with satellite-imaging technology. Now, one indigenous tribe is looking to GPS mapping on smartphones to protect their forest.