The Kofan shamans are their people’s Traditional Authorities, the spiritual leaders who safeguard Kofan traditions and culture through their ritual ceremonies of indigenous medicine. At the center of these ceremonies is the drinking of Yagé, a sacred medicine made with a jungle vine with powerful properties first described scientifically by the late Dr. Richard Evans Schultes (R.I.P.), the Harvard professor widely known as the founder of modern ethnobotany. They come together from their reserves of Santa Rosa del Guamuéz, Afilador, Yarinal, and Santa Rosa de Sucumbíos in the southern Colombian departments of Putumayo and Nariño.
For thousands of years, the Kofan Traditional Authorities (shamans) and their people lived in harmony with their environment, drawing sustenance, shelter, and medicine from the jungle and its rivers. However, some fifty years ago oil was discovered in the northern reaches of their territory, which led not only oil companies and road contractors but wave upon wave of colonists to encroach on their territory. Fifty years later, the Kofan people are isolated in small pockets of Colombia, number at most a couple of thousand, and were recognized in 2009 by the Constitutional Court of Colombia as in danger of extinction.
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.
The heart of our work is the intercultural dialogue resulting from our gathering with the Kofan Traditional Authorities (shamans) and their ceremonies of traditional indigenous medicine. We first share information and brainstorm next steps. Then the Authorities hold their ceremony, obtain their collective vision, and share their decisions. This is our approval process.
Donations are fully tax-deductible and can be sent to:
2310 20th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20009
Checks should be made out to: HEALING BRIDGES
HEALING BRIDGES works hand in glove with the Traditional Authorities of the Kofan people in Colombia, in coordination with ASMIK, the Asociación “U’fama Kwipa Ateswndekhw A’indekhw” Médicos Kofanes de la Sabiduría U’fama, the only Colombian organization composed exclusively of Kofan Traditional Authorities and their followers.
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