Northeast Amazon

Northeast Amazon


Northeast Amazon Program Overview

ACT’s efforts in the Northeast Amazon are concentrated in Suriname and the Brazil/Suriname border region. As one of the planet’s least disturbed and, to date, least threatened ecosystems, the rainforests of Suriname have long been considered a “Major Wilderness Area.”

One of ACT’s original program sites, as well as the site of ACT President and co-founder Mark Plotkin’s initial fieldwork, Suriname has been the incubator for many successful project prototypes. These include our Shamans and Apprentices program, ethnographic mapping (we have mapped over 30% of Suriname with our indigenous partners) and traditional medicine clinics, which have received international recognition by both UNESCO/Nuffic and the World Bank.


Current Projects

  • Traditional Medicine Clinics in Kwamalasamutu and Tepu

ACT supports an innovative program for the integration of traditional medicine in Suriname in which tribal healers operate and direct traditional medicine clinics built alongside primary care health outposts. Since the program’s inception in 2000, traditional healers of two Trio villages practice on equal footing with western-trained health workers and have been restored to full honor in their communities. Operating at the interface of western medicine, shamanistic healing, public health, and conservation, ACT’s Northeast Amazon Ethnomedicine Program has been recognized by UNESCO/Nuffic as a Best Practice for Indigenous Knowledge, as well as recently as a 2003 World Bank Development Marketplace Global Competition winner.

Northeast Amazon Ethnomedicine Program Portal

  • Shamans and Apprentices Program

One of the core values by which the Amazon Conservation Team operates is the vital importance of shamanic systems. In the areas where we work, the true “experts” on the flora and fauna are the Indians, who have lived there for centuries. When Indians are acculturated, they can lose centuries of knowledge within a generation. ACT provides support to shamans so that they can continue practicing their traditional medicine, and are able to transmit their knowledge to the next generation. We also give “scholarships” to younger Indians, selected by the shamans, so that they can be apprenticed to the shamans.

Selected Achievements

  • Mapping over 30% of Suriname

ACT has worked with Indians from the Tirio communities of Suriname to map over 15 million acres of forest. The Tirio came to ACT for assistance when they needed to draw a map. We hired western-trained cartographers to explain the mapping process, and to train them in the use of GPS technology. The maps they made, completed in 1999 with Native Lands and the government of Suriname, became official government maps. When the other Tirio communities saw the Kwamalasamutu maps, they wanted their own. Indians from Kwamalasamutu traveled to Tepu to train the Indians there on mapmaking. Again, with the Indians we created official government maps that became the first written record the Indians had denoting their own place names, beliefs and knowledge. The Suriname maps have received recognition from National Geographic and MSNBC, among other sources.

  • Tumucumaque Mapping
  • In January of 2003, the maps of the Tumucumaque/Rio Paru d’Este indigenous lands, on the Brazil-Suriname border, were released. These maps cover over 10 million acres–an expanse the size of the state of Maryland–in the most detailed maps of any portion of the Amazon Basin ever created. Again, the maps are official government maps, prepared in partnership with the Apalai, Wayana, Akuriyo and Tirio Indians, as well as FUNAI and PPTAL.




The work of the Amazon Conservation Team is based on ethical relationships with its indigenous partners.



A.C.T. receives top rating for 2nd year!


Combined Federal Campaign/CFC #10410

ACT President Featured in Smithsonian Magazine

Arlington, Virginia
ACT President Mark J. Plotkin is featured in a special 35th anniversary issue of Smithsonian Magazine. Mark is included with 34 other innovators who have made a difference over the course of the magazine’s life. Read more, download the PDF >>

Welcome to AmazonTeam.Org


ACT Newsletter

Completion of Surui Ethnographic Map – Western Brazil


ACT is pleased to announce the completion of the ethnographic mapping project of the Surui traditional lands. The effort yielded an excellent ethnographic map put forth by the Surui, totalling 620,000 acres of intact indigenous territory. read more >>


May 2008 Announcements

ACT Co-founders receive Skoll social entrepreneurship award >> Click here for press release

8/28/07 – ACT Tribal Partner on NPR

Amazon tribal leader, activist, and ACT partner Chief Almir Surui of western Brazil, appeared on NPR’s acclaimed radio show “Living On Earth”.

Click here to learn more

7/17/07 – ACT on NPR!

Dr. Mark Plotkin, Ph.D., President of the Amazon Conservation Team, featured in a live NPR radio interview on “Here on Earth”.

Click here to listen


3/1/07 – Almir Surui featured in Smithsonian Magazine.
Click here to view the article on


*New!* Find the Amazon Conservation Team on Come Join the Team!


The Amazon Conservation Team receives Charity Navigator’s highest rating for the second year in a row! Check out our latest Charity Navigator profile


Donating to the Amazon Conservation Team just got easier thanks to our new partnership with Use our new DonateNow page! – it’s Fast,and it’s Secure!

“Save Rainforests, Save Lives” – features Amazon awareness clip illustrating one of the most compelling reasons for saving biodiversity – your health! Click here to view


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All text and images ©2005-2006 Amazon Conservation Team unless otherwise noted.

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ACT Newsletter | November 2003 |


Dear Friends,

ACT Executive Director Liliana Madrigal is en route to Colombia with Carlos Salinas and Shayne Gardner, a new consultant at ACT Headquarters. They will be meeting with the Northwest Amazon Administration team to further refine accounting and reporting procedures. Leaders of some of the indigenous communities with whom we have the honor to work will be traveling to Bogotá to evaluate ongoing efforts and future directions.

In October, Carolina Alcover and the Brazil mapping team spent two weeks wrapping up the third Xingu mapping workshop. The Xingu mapping process is now in its final phase. One of the paramount chiefs informed Brazil Director Vasco van Roosmalen that this was the first time all 14 tribes of the Xingu had collaborated on a single project!

As part of a multifaceted project supported by the John & Marcia Goldman Foundation, ACT recently conducted a workshop toward the recovery of the traditional music of the Coreguaje Indians. Two elders taught 12 Coreguaje Indians to make traditional instruments and to perform traditional songs. The elders also taught better ways to make their traditional cusmas (dress), ceremonial collars, and rattles. This effort has inspired a series of requests from other tribes to ACT to sponsor similar cultural conservation projects.

Botanist Bruce Hoffman recently traveled to Suriname to begin his research in the southern part of the country. Aided by field assistant Beverly De Vries, he will be living with the Tirio Indians to study their use of the forest and to help them better protect their traditional lands.

As the Holiday Season fast approaches, ACT wishes to ask all of our friends and supporters to consider making a donation to ACT in honor of your friends or family as a holiday gift. For donations of $100 and above, we will send a card to your friends that states “A Gift in your Honor was made by {your name here}. Happy Holidays!”

You can send a check to us directly, or make the donation through our webpage at

We too are blessed by our widening circle of friends. As always, thank you for your support and confidence in our work!

The Amazon Conservation Team

ACT Newsletter | October 2003 |

ACT OCTOBER UPDATE October, 2003 Dear Friends, Excellent news! We just heard that ACT’s project with the Guaymi Indians in Costa Rica has been awarded the Ford Prize for Conservation and the Environment, in the category of Conservation of Cultural Inheritance and Education. ACT works with Fundacion TUVA to train the Guaymi in communications techniques which allow them to record their traditions and culture. Even though we are phasing out of Central America to focus all our efforts on the Amazon, we send most sincere congratulations to local representative Hugh Govan and our Guaymi colleagues. The Brazil Team has also been active in the Xingu, meeting with members and leaders to complete the tribal maps. Special thanks to all of our friends and donors who are making this possible! Tied to the release of his latest book, Mark has been appearing on several radio shows recently. On October 9th he was a guest on Michael Krasny’s show “Forum” on KQED in San Francisco. This week Mark and Liliana are traveling with the Young Presidents Organization. Mark will be delivering a lecture on conservation and the history of the Spice Trade. The Amazon Conservation Team

ACT Newsletter | September 2003 |


Dear Friends,

The World Parks Conference is taking place this week in Durban, South Africa. This meeting – held once every ten years – focuses on the state of the world’s protected areas and features innovative projects and approaches from all over the globe.

ACT is extremely proud of the fact that our efforts in the northwest Amazon are being highlighted at the conference. ACT worked in close partnership with the Ingano Indians and the Colombian Park Service to establish Indi Wasi National Park –  the Amazon’s first biocultural reserve. The presentation in Durban is being given by Mario Jacanamijoy (an Ingano shaman’s apprentice) and Ignacio Giraldo of our Northwest Amazon Program accompanied by Juan Carlos Riascos, Director of Colombia’s highly-regarded National Park Service.

We are happy to report that we were able to raise the $100,000 necessary to match the $100,000 challenge grant for the Xingu Reserve in the southeast Brazilian Amazon. The Xingu is home to 14 very traditional tribes and represents the largest tract of forest (7 million acres!) in  the southeast Amazon. Our special thanks to all of you who made it possible.

And a big thanks to Board Member Heather Thomas for arranging and hosting a benefit for ACT at the Hogan boutique in Los Angeles on September 9th.  Hogan is a purveyor of fine shoes and handbags, and they held a special preview of their fall and winter line to benefit ACT.  We will receive a portion of the proceeds from all shoes and bags that were sold.

This Saturday, the 20th of September, there is another benefit for ACT.  Proceeds from food and t-shirt sales at the Funkjunction concert in Apple Valley, Minnesota will be donated to ACT.

We would like to welcome some new staff to ACT Headquarters.  Dr. Darron Collins is joining the Team on Sept. 21. Darron is an ethnobotanist who will be working at ACT Headquarters as the Director of Development

The Amazon Conservation Team

ACT Newsletter | July 2003 |


Dear Friends,

Summer is here, but that has not brought any lazy days to the Amazon Conservation Team.  Most of you will be receiving our latest postcard update by snail mail next week which features a striking photograph that Liliana took on her recent trip to Brazil. ACT Brasil is currently hard at work mapping the rest of the Xingu Reserve–the second workshop was held in June.

We recently received three great pieces of news from our Northwest Amazon Program.  Marta Rosero, an Afro-Colombian who has been working with ACT, has just received a fellowship to complete her Ph.D. on the history and development of our work in Colombia.  The Ingano Indigenous Reserve of Yurayaco has now received official status–a big victory for our partners who live there.  And the Research Group on Traditional Health Systems sponsored by ACT has just been incorporated into the Colombian Academy of Sciences – a great honor, and an important step towards the establishment of a Masters Program in Ethnomedicine at the Universidad del Rosario.

ACT Staff members from four countries will travel to Colombia at the beginning of August for an institutional meeting.  We will be working on improving our internal communications and accounting systems–increasingly important as ACT grows.

Thanks for all of your support, and enjoy your summer!

The Amazon Conservation Team

ACT Newsletter | March 2003 |

ACT UPDATE   March, 2003

Dear Friends,

We have just received some very good news!

An anonymous donor has offered a “challenge grant” of $100,000, meaning that she will match every donation dollar-for-dollar until we (hopefully) reach the sum of $100K.

We have until the end of April to reach this goal. All donations can be sent to us here at headquarters. We thank you in advance for your continued support!

Meanwhile, Mark Plotkin, ACT President and Neville Gunther, ACT Suriname Director, recently spent two weeks in Suriname, visiting field sites and meeting with government officials to talk about our projects. They also discussed the new Tumucumaque map that ACT Suriname and the Indians worked on with Vasco van Roosmalen, Brasil Program Director, in Brasil. This map, as we wrote about in an earlier newsletter, covers 10 million acres of Amazonian forest in northern Brazil.

This map of the Tumucumaque Indigenous Reserve continues to garner accolades and attention. It was recently featured in an opinion piece in the New Scientist, an influential British publication.

ACT also expects to be featured in Scholastic News later this month, where 25 million students will read about our work.

Best wishes from your friends and colleagues at ACT!

The Amazon Conservation Team

ACT Newsletter | September 2006

ACT UPDATE   September 29th, 2006

Dear Friends,

As the Amazon Conservation Team’s 10th anniversary year begins to draw to a close, our work has only increased in scope and magnitude as we prepare ourselves for another 10 years of ground breaking work.

With the ongoing support from friends like you, we are poised to continue our unique and holistic approach to conservation in conjunction with our indigenous colleagues, who form the basis of our conservation strategy in the Amazon Basin.

Below are some of our most notable highlights over the summer months of 2006. The range and diversity of our work is a testament to our ability to coherently respond to the complexities and challenges facing indigenous communities and the natural treasures of Amazon. Please consider a gift to support our work – because of the Amazon Conservation Team’s structure and continued fiscal responsibility we have earned the reputation of being one of the most efficient and effective organizations around! [Click Here to see our profile on Charity Navigator]

Thank you for your continued support, your contributions continue to play an essential role in our success.

Dr. Mark Plotkin, Ph.D

  • New Ethnographic Map initiative launched in western Brazil
  • Park Guard Training in Macapá, Brazil for Government Institutions
  • South Suriname Indians establish the indigenous conservation foundation TALAWA
  • Colombian traditional health brigades provide medical treatment to remote communities
  • Construction of dormitory facilities for the Indigenous Women Healers of the Colombian Amazon
  • Key administrative support provided to ASATRIZY
  • 10th Anniversary Amazon Adventure

New Ethnographic Map initiative launched in western Brazil

In early August, at the request of Suruí traditional authorities, a team from the Amazon Conservation Team in Brazil traveled to Rondônia, Brazil’s westernmost state, to help address the social and environmental threats facing Suruí communities, territory, and natural resources. The meetings resulted in an agreement to create the first ethnographic map for the Suruí indigenous communities; the map is scheduled for completion in March 2007. The Suruí alone comprise approximately 14 villages, with a traditional territory of 612,239 acres (247,870 hectares). Rondônia is one of the most endangered areas of Brazil as a result of illegal logging and infrastructure projects. As a result, the most intact tracts of forest are located on indigenous territory. Since the 1980s, Rondônia has seen increasing interest in developing its natural resources—all too often in the form of poorly planned development schemes that rarely include or benefit the indigenous communities. High quality, professional ethnographic maps have been one of the Amazon Conservation Team’s most potent weapons in the race to protect the irreplaceable Amazon rainforest and to empower local communities to effectively manage their territory and resources.

Park Guard Training in Macapá for Government Institutions

From August 17-31, 2006, the Amazon Conservation Team, in cooperation with the International Ranger Federation (IRF), held the first-ever Park Guard training course designed for personnel from state and non-governmental institutions operating in the environmental sector or in protected areas in Brazil’s northeastern state of Amapá. The 120-hour, two-week certification course involved participants from many sectors and covered topics that included environmental education, monitoring and research, combating and preventing forest fires, and indigenous land rights. The course was fully accredited and approved by the IRF and benefited from the involvement of its vice president Juan Carlos Gambarotta, who has taught similar classes in Africa, Europe, Oceania, and Central America. A total of 29 participants were certified as Park Guard field assistants through this course and will greatly assist in the protection of protected areas in the state of Amapá.

55% of the land in Amapá is categorized as some form of protected area, including biological reserves, national parks and indigenous lands. However, many organizations and institutions lack sufficient resources to adequately train personnel to manage protected areas. Prospective park guard assistants received training from several institutions including the Brazilian environmental protection agency (IBAMA), the national fire brigade, the Amapá state water quality agency (CAESA), the Federal University of Amapá (UNIFAP), the electric company of northern Brazil (Eletronorte), and the Institute for Scientific and Technological Research of the State of Amapá (IEPA).

Managing protected areas is a constant challenge as they are continuously imperiled by illegal mining and logging activities; poaching; and unregulated tourism ventures. The Amazon Conservation Team is proud to collaborate with interested institutions to perpetuate conservation best practices that better address the threats to Brazil’s natural treasures and its indigenous peoples.

South Suriname Indians establish the indigenous conservation foundation TALAWA (Tareno ma Wajanaton-aKoronmato)

On June 3-4, 2006, indigenous communities from south Suriname and northern Brazil (Trios/Tiriyós and Wayanas/Apalai) will gather in the Surinamese village of Kwamalasamutu to identify and discuss the common problems of protection in the border area. A few days later, on June 6-7, NGOs, government officials, and other indigenous community representatives will convene in Paramaribo to establish trans-border strategies for identifying, communicating and formulating plans for environmental protection.

In addition to representatives from ACT’s tribal partners, the list of participating organizations includes: the Organization of Indigenous Peoples of Suriname (OIS); the Organization of American States; the French Embassy; the Surinamese Ministries of Spatial Planning, Land and Forest Management, Labor, Technological Development and Environment, Justice and Police, and Defense; the US Peace Corps; the National Institute for the Environment and Development in Suriname (NIMOS); the World Wildlife Fund; and Conservation International. Confirmed represented Brazilian institutions include Brazil’s Institute for Natural Resources and the Environment (IBAMA); the Brazilian Park Rangers (BPMA); the Secretaria Estadual do Meio Ambiente (SEMA); and the Federal University of Amapá. The Amazonian Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO) will also be represented.

ACT has provided the energy to realize this event by organizing all the necessary stakeholders, thereby creating a link between institutions and indigenous communities willing to protect the border area in order to present alternative strategies for its consequent protection and preservation.

The meetings represent a milestone for environmental protection in this region since it marks the first time that indigenous, NGO, and government stakeholders from both Suriname and Brazil have met to address environmental concerns across their shared border. Environmental problems frequently involve multiple countries in both their cause and potential solution; however, transnational solutions can be difficult to realize because conflicting political interests often hamper collaboration. These meetings will provide stepping stones toward the development of potentially innovative strategies for environmental protection and conservation by involving local, regional, and national actors. Of particular importance is the inclusion of indigenous community interests in these consultation processes, since historically these have been some of the communities most strongly affected by the causes and effects of environmental degradation resulting from development projects. The combined actions of indigenous groups and authorities can ensure improved protection in trans-border areas, as called for by the latest meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

Colombian traditional health brigades provide medical treatment to remote communities

In June and July, members of UMIYAC (the Union of Traditional Healers of the Colombian Amazon), conducted several large health brigades to administer medical care to outlying communities with little to no access to health care. In total more than 380 people received treatment for various ailments. The “health brigades” are initiatives designed by the indigenous elders of southwest Colombia who have seen the damage to their communities caused by an absence of social services, a scarcity of authentic shamans who can heal them with uncompensated traditional medicinal treatment, and a dependence on western medicine. Traveling groups of traditional healers and apprentices of UMIYAC travel monthly to remote communities of the Colombian Amazon lacking any form of health service, and typically spend several days at each site to provide basic traditional healthcare. Since January of 2006 over 350 families from the Yunguillos and Inga Kamtzá communities have been treated by the brigades.

Construction of Dormitory Facilities for the Indigenous Women Healers of the Colombian Amazon

The Amazon Conservation Team’s Northwest Amazon program is proud to announce the completion of an addition to the Women’s Center constructed by ACT in the Colombian department of Putumayo in 2004. The Center is currently used by indigenous women healers from 5 communities as a venue for holding community meetings, training seminars, and cultural events designed and organized by women healers. This is of particular importance, as members of several outlying communities must travel many hours by foot in order to reach events held at the center.

Two new dormitories, which have a capacity for 150 people, now allow community organizers to conduct multi-day events, which encourage closer collaboration between other women healers and leaders from neighboring communities. The initial structure was built at the request of the local women organizers in response to the lack of support given to activities oriented to and designed by women from the surrounding indigenous communities. Since its construction, the Women’s Center has hosted 14 cultural programs including multi-tribe gatherings of female indigenous leaders and indigenous legislation, life plan and agroforestry workshops. The new wing gives organizers added flexibility for their future programming.

Key administrative support provided to ASATRIZY

With support from the Spanish NGO EcoDesarrollo, ACT was able to provide the headquarters of the ASATRIZY indigenous association of the Colombian Eastern Tukano peoples with a solar generator, a printer-scanner, and a digital camera to increase its ability to conduct administrative tasks generated by their community initiatives. Additionally, the association’s president and treasurer were trained in the basic management of financial resources, and a bank account for the exclusive management of project resources was opened. In addition, with ACT support, the payés (shamans) of the Eastern Tukano peoples, through their union Kumuá Yoamará, held health brigades in two of the seven primary communities that comprise ASATRIZY.

10th Anniversary Amazon Adventure

In celebration of our 10-year anniversary, the Amazon Conservation Team, accompanied by some of our closest indigenous colleagues, guided a group of special friends into the Brazilian Amazon. During this weeklong adventure, the group was able to experience first-hand ACT’s unique approach to conserving this irreplaceable forest while protecting the rights and livelihoods of indigenous communities. ACT always strives to convey the message of interconnectedness that is fundamental to our strategy — nothing illuminates the mysteries of the Amazon more than having its traditional caretakers release its magic before your eyes. Special thanks go to our indigenous colleagues from Colombia, Suriname and Brazil and, of course, to our intrepid Amazon Adventurers!


Get Involved!

Do you want to get involved, and work to save the rainforest? Many kids have done just that! The most important step is to learn about the rainforest, the people and animals that live there, and the threats to their survival. If you are learning about the rainforest and you want to take action, here are some ideas.

Ideas to Try

Bake Sale

Everyone bakes something with a rainforest theme! Did you know that chocolate comes from cacao (cuh-cow), which comes from the rainforest?

Recycling Drive

If you live in a state where you can turn in empty bottles or cans for money, get all your friends to help you for one week. Many places let you recycle inkjet cartridges for $1 apiece.

Penny Drive

Every classroom has a large jar to collect pennies. The classroom with the most pennies wins. It’s a contest for the whole school!

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