Back in 2013 I was fortunate enough to meet some of the elders from the Siekopai village of Ecuador, while attending a ceremonial gathering in Costa Rica. During the 10 days I spent there, I learned quite a lot about their culture and their heritage – the beauty of their beliefs about the world, nature and everything around us.
I also learned of the struggles of their existence in modern day Amazonia – how the proliferation of the oil industry has polluted their waters, brought sickness to their people, and turned so many of their young away from their time-honoured traditions and toward the greed of capitalism. As a result, their community is diminishing in size to the point that their heritage may be lost forever unless something is done to help them.
With my 40th birthday just around the corner, I decided a while back to use it as a fund-raising opportunity to help out this tribe in whatever way possible. However unsure what or how I could help, and not receiving the information I was hoping for, I put it to the back of my mind for a while… until now.
It has come to my attention that The Living Bridges Foundation (under the direciton of Donna Runnalls) has started a GoFundMe campaign to build an ancenstral school in the Secoya Village in Ecuador.
What better opportunity to contribute what I can to these wonderful people than a grass-roots initiative such as this!?
Here’s some more information from the campaign page…
The Siekopai people, also known as Secoya, are an ethnic minority living in the Amazon. With a population of only 800 individuals across Ecuador and Peru, cultural extinction is a very real danger and they require urgent support.
They are peaceful people who hold true to their traditional and beautiful ways of life. But due to immense pressure from encroaching western colonization, the Siekopai youth are abandoning their traditional heritage for more modern lifestyles – leaving no one to carry forward the wisdom of the elders… As a result, the elders are greatly concerned for the survival of their culture and traditional ways of life.
They are asking for our solidarity in their plight and we are responding to that call. We are planning to build an ancestral lodge as an education center; a place for the transmission of their millennial traditions and cultural practices so that they may pass on this important ancestral wisdom!
The spirit of their people is transferred through myth and story telling, which harnesses their deep understandings of rainforest medicine. Their spiritual way of life is expressed through their connection to the natural world and the profound ancestral tradition of ceremonial yagé; as well as making pottery, hammocks, fiber-weaving and traditional clothing.
The ancestral lodge, known as a Tuikë’wë’e, will be stewarded by the Siekopai elder, Basilio Payaguaje, in tandem with his son, Aimer, who is the school teacher at Sewaya village. Students will journey to the lodge weekly, to learn traditional crafts, paintings and stories.
Youth who hear the calling can participate in ceremonial traditions. They will learn the deeper aspects of their millenary plant medicine ceremonies to strengthen and uphold the values of their people, including a life in harmony with nature.
The approach to the construction of the ancestral lodge will be conscientious with the spirit of age-old Siekopai. This unique architectural design echoes the Siekopai’s relationship with nature, ensuring that the preservation of the rainforest is at the forefront of their daily life.
On behalf of this campaign, we are hoping to raise $9,000 for the construction of the lodge by September 2017.
The funds will go to hire neighboring youth to help in the construction process, building materials, labor, to purchase leaves from villagers for the roof and basic expenses to bring the children to the lodge weekly.
By donating to this project – you will be supporting an authentic elder’s vision for cultural stability among the Siekopai and help build the dream of rejuvenating an inspired cultural heritage.
We invite you to join in solidarity to help assist in making grandfather Basilio and grandmother Zoila’s vision a reality. With your help – we have a very real opportunity to keep the spirit of this wonderful community alive…
I encourage you to visit the campaign website and learn more about these beautiful people, and to donate whatever you feel you can to get this campaign to its target… I truly believe it will have a huge impact on the longevity of their culture – one that I feel is truly worthy of saving.
I plan to travel to the Secoya Village in Ecuador in August 2018, and will be sure to take lots of photos and videos to share with you when we’re there. I hope to see the results of this initiative first hand.
Further, I have decided to match the total donated as gifts for my 40th to the cause, so give generously, as whatever you donate will double in value when it reaches the village.
If you feel the call (as I do) to give generously to the cause, there are some great rewards on offer via the GoFundMe Campaign. For example:
- $100 Donation will get you a traditional, hand crafted Siekopai necklace.
- $500-$650 Donation will get you a Pablo Amaringo Print.
- $800 Donation will get you a traditional Siekopai, hand-woven hammock that takes months to make… I tried some of these out, and I can tell you these things are the Rolls-Royce of hammocks. Imagine all the love and attention that would have gone into making them during the months the ladies spend putting them together, and you can have one for just $800 (and helping out this amazing cause)!
How to Donate
If you will be donating for my 40th birthday gift, there are 3 options:
- If you wish to receive one of the amazing benefits on offer via the GoFundMe campaign (see above, or visit the campaign page for more details), I encourage you to donate directly there. If you do this, please post a comment at the bottom of this page and/or on the campaign page so I know who’s helped out (and how much to match in my donation). Alternatively, just send me an email if you’d prefer to remain anonymous.
If your donation won’t be enough to secure one of the great rewards, or you don’t want one, I encourage you to send your donation directly to me via one of the following methods:
a. Australian Bank Account: BSB: 032-885 Acct No: 4362505
b. Paypal: http://paypal.me/jeeby
c. BitCoin (preferred method): Wallet ID: 17n7AnCYMSuL7HzR75rzUW4W9j1HhQHuZS
Sending the donation directly to me will save money on the fees associated with the GoFundMe campaign (they take a 7.9% cut), thereby maximising the funds flowing to the village. However, in order for the campaign to gain momentum, I also encourage you to donate a token amount (like $5) directly to the campaign page. The more people that donate, the more visibility the campaign will attract on GoFundMe, giving it a better chance of raising all the funds required to build the school.
All BitCoin donations will be received in a special wallet setup specifically for this cause. The BitCoins will remain in the wallet until the donation money is needed, and so will appreciate (or depreciate) in value with the BitCoin. This is my preferred method of receiving donations because:
1. There are no or little withdrawal fees
2. There are no transfer fees
3. I believe the value of BitCoin will rise, perhaps significantly, between now and when the donation is required
4. Banks are evil, and in fact are one of the major financiers of the oil companies which have put the livelihood of the Siekopai people at risk in the first place
Since I don’t have any old cheap BitCoins lying around, I can’t match BitCoin donations. Please don’t let this deter you from donating via BitCoin – I believe the benefits of BitCoin outweigh the benefit of my donation matching.
If you don’t have any BitCoin and are interested in buying some (even if just to make this donation), I encourage you to setup an account at CoinBase (the easiest exchange I’ve found to work with) where you can buy BitCoin using a credit or debit card, and transfer funds to my donation wallet easily. If you use this link, we’ll both get $10 added to our account when you deposit your first $100 – Bonus!
If you don’t know what BitCoin is, and are interested to learn more about it, please post a comment on this post.. if there’s enough demand, I’ll write a guide on how to get started, but I probably won’t have this ready before my 40th so please don’t hold out for that before donating.
To learn more about the Secoya / Siekopai people, here are a few noteworthy links I have found:
- Book: Rainforest Medicine: Preserving Indigenous Science and Biodiversity in the Upper Amazon
Chronicling the practices, legends, and wisdom of the vanishing traditions of the upper Amazon, this book reveals the area’s indigenous peoples’ approach to living in harmony with the natural world. Rainforest Medicine features in-depth essays on plant-based medicine and indigenous science from four distinct Amazonian societies: deep forest and urban, lowland rainforest and mountain.
- Waking Times Interview with Jonathan Miller-Weisberger
Jonathon Miller-Weisberger is the author of Rainforest Medicine. He offers sacred plant medicine retreats at his remote eco-lodge in the jungles of Cost Rica guided by elder master-shaman of the Secoya tribe from Ecuador. You can find out more about his upcoming transformational events, here.
- The Living Bridges Foundation
The Living Bridges Foundation connects indigenous community’s educational and civil projects and NGOs with private European and American foundations.The community project participants work to improve their community’s present and future as well as educate people of all ages in indigenous traditions. In addition, we raise money to seed new projects awaiting more long-term funding or provide interim funding for projects between grants.
- American Shaman: The Incredible Story of Lucas Weiss
From College Dropout to Shaman Apprentice: A Story of Becoming a Leader of the Secoya and Protecting the Vanishing Amazon.