In recent times, Indigenous communities have raised their voices to safeguard their sacred traditions and ancestral medicinal practices as the use of psychedelics becomes more prevalent. Members of these communities, under the banner of the Native Coalition of Colorado, have recently staged protests at the Psychedelic Science 2023 conference held in Denver. Their concerns revolve around the potential for cultural erosion and exploitation as psychedelic substances gain popularity and commercialization escalates.
One passionate advocate is Kuthoomi Castro, a resident of Boulder and a clinical counselor, who underwent extensive training under Indigenous elders in Ecuador. This training equipped them to lead traditional ceremonies and administer ayahuasca, a plant-based psychedelic brew, in a culturally sensitive and sacred manner. Castro and fellow Indigenous activists argue that those who have used plant-based substances for generations should not only be included in discussions concerning psychedelics but should also take the lead.
The core concern of the Native Coalition of Colorado is centered on the decriminalization of psychedelics and the potential for powerful entities to capitalize on their misuse. They are concerned that the commercialization of these substances might hinder Native communities’ access to the plants essential to their practices. The group is committed to raising awareness about these issues even as an advisory board collaborates with the state to establish regulations for psychedelic sales and healing centers.
Castro emphasized at the conference that plant medicine has been a longstanding tradition within Indigenous communities. It is crucial to acknowledge their role in its history and recognize that these medicines were shared to foster healing, not to be appropriated or erased by outsiders.
In 2022, Colorado voters passed Proposition 122, known as the Natural Medicine Health Act, which decriminalized certain psychedelic substances. However, this step prompted discussions about balancing the potential benefits of these medicines with the cultural concerns of tribes and Indigenous peoples.
Efforts have been made to incorporate Indigenous perspectives into the regulatory process. The Natural Medicine Advisory Board includes Indigenous representatives, and various subcommittees have been formed to gather input. Despite these initiatives, some Indigenous activists like Castro feel that their voices are still marginalized and that decisions are being made without their meaningful involvement.
The Indigenous pushback is not limited to Colorado. Gabriela Galindo, in an article published in May 2023, highlighted the co-opting of Native medicines and traditions. She pointed out that laws like SB23-290, which legalize and regulate natural medicines, often fail to include the perspectives and concerns of Indigenous communities. Galindo, who has Mexican Indigenous heritage, emphasizes the historical significance of plants like Peyote in Indigenous traditions and argues that these practices should not be regulated by external entities.
The preservation of Indigenous practices and the regulation of natural medicines are complex issues that demand thoughtful consideration and inclusivity. While there have been steps taken to involve Indigenous voices, it is clear that more work needs to be done to ensure that their cultural heritage is respected and protected as the landscape of psychedelic use evolves.
- “Indigenous protest Colorado’s new psychedelics law, saying it allows outsiders to exploit traditions” – Source: https://www.denverpost.com/2023/08/28/indigenous-protest-colorado-psychedlic-law/
- “The mass co-opting of Native medicines and traditions” – Source: https://boulderweekly.com/opinion/the-mass-co-opting-of-native-medicines-and-traditions/
- SB23-290 Natural Medicine Regulation And Legalization – Source: https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb23-290