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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.