May 3, 2021
decolonization, Drug Policy Alliance, harm-reduction, Indigenous
Kim is Potowatomi from the Wasauksing First Nation with 20 years of experience with Indigenous healers from around the world. She is one of the directors of the International Psychedelics Awareness Foundation, host organization of WPD.
Kat is a settler of European background. She is an environmental journalist and filmmaker and one of the organizers of WPD.
“As each people came into being they were put on the land that looked like them and given a language that sounds like that land, describes that land in relationship to all those things as each of those things came into being – it was given its own ceremony so that’s how we know our relatives and when we know all those things we know how to do our ceremonies to keep the balance between those things.” Woody Morrison, Haida Knowledge Keeper
June 17th, 2021 marks 50 years since U.S. President, Richard Nixon, declared the War on Drugs but this story really began within one world view, which holds a story about a man and a woman named Adam and Eve who ate from the Tree of Knowledge. That story created a ripple effect of Christian based cultures, whose imperialistic motives showed up in First Contact in the Americas as a violent clash of power over knowledge. The invaders were confronted with vast Indigenous civilizations, who had been using psychoactive plants as part of their ceremonial traditions since time immemorial. Labeling the entheogens as unacceptable, Europeans began banning them and imposing colonial laws. There was and still is a lot of fear around the use of psychoactive plant extractions.
The vilification of psychoactives and the psychedelic experience was an intrinsic part of systemic racism and exclusion long before Nixon and the UN devised their anti-drug protocols, which resulted in failed drug prohibition, ruined countless lives and, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, more than a trillion dollars over the past 50 years in the U.S alone.
The future depends on literacy of the past. Decolonization is about recognizing the systems that have been purposely created to be unjust and unequal. Maori scholar, Linda Tuhiwai Smith, states “the word that we are looking for is not decolonizing, but elevating consciousness.” So how does it relate to psychedelics and other drugs?
As more and more people open up to the idea of psychedelics as medicine, it is important to remember that intentions are not the same as impact: we can have good intentions and still have harmful or damaging impacts. This is not about shaming or blaming but of expanding awareness and growth. In the contemporary use of psychedelics, the goal is often about personal growth, through healing, liberating ourselves from the issues that bind us. We know that for most of us that means connecting to ourselves on a deeper level, shining a light in the shadow of our mind, connecting in more authentic ways to one another, understanding our relationship within nature, not apart from it, connecting to our planet and ultimately connecting to the intelligence of the Universe, whether that be through spirituality or science.
Frontier science is embracing the incredible healing potential of psychedelics and psychoactive plants for individuals and, some hope, for healing society, as Indigenous cultures have for many millennia (including pre-Christian pagan European society.) Indigenous knowledge is governed by natural law of respect, responsibility, and reciprocity with the Earth. It is important that we consciously educate ourselves to honour and learn from authentic Indigenous sources and perspectives.
We honour ourselves by protecting nature, supporting Forest Protectors, and the Keepers of Plant Medicines, not only psychedelics—because our very existence as a species depends on it. This is about lateral liberation—recognizing limiting beliefs, recognizing oppression and abuse of power so we too can be free. So that we may all rise up together. All are welcome.
World Psychedelics Day launches on Sunday, June 20, 2021 – a half century on from Nixon’s infamous War on Drugs speech. To challenge the stigma and legal barriers that still surround the use of plant medicines and to call for sensible drug policy based on empirical evidence, the annual event will feature luminaries in the field that will educate, enlighten and inspire people worldwide.
Please join us on June 20, 2021, at sunrise, wherever you are in the world to celebrate Indigenous psychoactive plant knowledge and frontier psychedelic science, connecting all levels of healing and collective empowerment: mental, physical, spiritual, and societal.
At the dawn of a new day, to mark a new enlightened era of psychedelics, as the sun rises on:
World Psychedelics Day!