22 March

An Adventurer’s Dream

They called us the the “Orinoco Wild Bunch,” and that was a fitting name. We were a group of world, renowned explorers and scientists who had sometimes by questionable means, obtained  presidential permission to live and work among the most elusive people on Earth. The people were the Yanomami, who thirty-five years ago were considered the last intact tribal nation on earth.

The tribe is “an anthropologist’s dream,” according to Kenneth Good, an anthropology professor at Jersey City State College, who’s also lived with the Yanomamo. “They are truly the last uncontacted people on Earth.”

After seventeen years of rainforest adventures, in 1987, the dream became a nightmare when a jungle fever for gold not seen since the Spanish conquest of the Incas 400 years ago was rekindled. Miners from resource-poor Brazil poured into Yanomamo territory by the thousands, bringing with them malaria, hepatitis, measles and mercury used in mining that poisoned fishing grounds and water supplies. That’s when an even more profound adventure began. Instead of fishing and hunting, the plants taught me other ways to fight infectious diseases. With great success initially, I introduced a Chinese herb, artemisia annul, to cure malaria that Doctors Without Borders later made into an international standard. Etheogens were also the way that I gained the confidence of the people to take part in the project by communing with their ancestors in their own traditional way.