About Healing Bridges

Healing Bridges is led by Carlos Salinas, a former human rights lobbyist and Washington director of Amnesty International USA. It is funded by individual donations and has had the support of the Edna Wardlaw Charitable Trust, the Dennis A. O’Toole Family Foundation, and the Wallace Global Fund. It was incorporated in Washington, D.C. in August 2006 and was recognized as a charitable organization by the IRS in September 2016.

sali-with-soldiersHealing Bridges’s Salinas has made public presentations before Amazon Watch, Amnesty International USA, the Institute for Policy Studies, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, universities in the U.S.A. and Colombia, and the Office of Cultural Affairs in Charleston, S.C.

Healing Bridges grew out of the Shamans’ Videohistory Project, an initiative to videotape the oral history of the elder shamans of Colombian Amazonian indigenous tribes launched by Salinas in December 2003 at the gathering of the Union of Indigenous Doctors of the Yagé Medicine of the Colombian Amazon (Unión de Médicos Indígenas Yageceros de la Amazonia Colombiana – UMIYAC).

That and other UMIYAC gatherings were supported by the Ethnobiology Institute (Instituto de Etnobiología) and the Amazon Conservation Team, with whom Salinas had recently worked on their Colombia project (2002-2003).

At the UMIYAC gathering, the assembled shamans told Salinas to work with the Kofan since the oldest elder shaman, Fernando Mendua, R.I.P, was a Kofan. Salinas visited the Kofan reservations Yarinal and Santa Rosa del Guamuéz in February 2004 during which both Curaca Fernando and Curaca Drigelio Criollo, R.I.P, agreed to the project.

At the next encounter in April 2004, they were joined by the elder shaman, Curaca Placido Lucitante. In August when we met the video crew, personnel from Noticias Uno, Juan Pablo Barrios, a law student, wrote confidentiality agreements and other contracts and began accompanying the project. As we hammered out details, we also undertook infrastructure projects, some paid by the project, some paid out of pocket by Salinas: we rebuilt our host’s ceremonial house, we added a kitchen wing to his home to accommodate our gatherings, and we rebuilt the elder Fernando’s home.

In September 2005, after a year and a half of discussions, the crew began videotaping what would become some 12 hours of interviews over a span of several months, all on topics of the elders’ choosing, all in their own language, only with indigenous interviewers. To ensure that the intellectual property belonged to the shamans, we signed contracts. Our payment? Little bags of marbles, in reference to the purchase of Manhattan.

By the time we were reviewing the video in late 2006, the governor of Santa Rosa del Guamuéz told us that the Colombian Army was planning on building a base on their territory and asked us to stop them. The shamans agreed that we shift from videohistory to territorial protection.