Spanish version

Interamerican Council on Indigenous Spirituality (CISEI)

VII Forum “Honoring the Spirit of Grandfather Fire”

The Interamerican Council on Indigenous Spirituality, (in Spanish: Consejo Interamericano Sobre Espiritualidad Indígena CISEI), in its Argentina Chapter together with the Civil Association Runa Wasi, put on the VII Forum “Honoring the Spirit of the Grandfather Fire” from the 22nd to the 25th of November 2012.

During the forum, fire was presented from many perspectives, views, visions and knowledges. We know that fire is a chemical reaction, the visual manifestation of an exothermic process of combustion. But fire is also, together with earth, water, air and the ether, one of the elements that regulates life on earth.

Fire is the fountain of light and heat, the beginning of life, and the purification of matter. In our bodies it acts in the circulatory system, the heart and the small intestine. Fire is as much a force of destruction as it is a force of cleansing. It is transforming and purifying.

For all cultures and ancestral traditions, Fire is associated with the spiritual energy and is used in ceremonies to purify and transform. Fire is sacred, it is the heart of the Universe, and within it, is the power of the spirit, the representation of the soul awoken, of strength, of vital breath, and of the divine spark. Fire is the representation of God, the Great Spirit.

Fire, as an excellent element of transformation, acts upon the other elements: it turns water into vapor, wood into ashes; it melts metal, consumes air and changes the composition of the earth.

The incineration of matter purifies and transforms. Therefore, the VII forum honored Grandfather Fire and a ceremony was held to burn all that is expired and harmful and transform it into a new energy: solidarity, respect and love.


President: Vilma Díaz y Zárate

Vice President: Anita Huachi Espín

Secretary: Milagros Mutti

Treasurer: Sacha Domenech

General Coordinator: Lucrecia Seligra

Contributors: Rosina Soto, Gustavo Lencina, Maud Farrugia, Javier Semeñenko, Victoria Lanusse, Arturo Blas Bisogni, Martín Febré, Kumara, Silvina Andino, Cecilia D´Urso, Dalia Goldman, Georgina Barreiro, Andrés Chung, Marina Morixe, Alonso López Mar, María Palumbo, Rosario Durini, Mariana Ramírez, Olga Cisneros, Yolanda, Diego Bossetti, Diana Favaloro, Joaquín Rodríguez Kalmbach, Nerina Sturgeon, Mercedes Rodríguez, Marcos O´Farrell, Susana Monaji, Cristina Camesella, Daniel Martins, Benoit Desilly, Sebastián Strikic, Marisol Quiroga, Mariana Schulkin.





We, the Interamerican Council on Indigenous Spirituality (in Spanish ‘Consejo Interamericano Sobre Espiritualidad Indígena – CISEI’), representatives of the Pemón, Wayuu, Kari’ ña, Mapoyo, Ye’ kwana, Maya, Navaja, Kolla, Quechua, Mapuche, Comechingón, Kuna people, alongside with participants from Argentina, Ecuador, the U.S., Mexico, Panama, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela declare that we wish to continue our task of promoting and protecting Indigenous Spirituality. We wish to do so in Forums where we focus on Natural Elements: the Spirit of Earth (Mexico 2004), the Spirit of Water (Guatemala 2007), and the current Forum on the Spirit of Air. Gathered in the Entertainment Center ‘Cachamay’, on the ancestral grounds of the Wayana people, which is now the city of Guyana (Bolívar State, Venezuela), after 10 days of meeting in April 2010, we denounce:

– the dramatic situation in which humanity finds itself due to air pollution and over-exploitation of all the sacred and irreplaceable natural assets of the Earth.

– the irresponsible human conduct that caused the pollution of the air and consequent health problems for children, adults and elderly people of our people. This conduct, in addition, triggered physical, electromagnetic, noise and odor pollution, as well as induced climate change, acid rain, and the destruction of the ozone layer together constituting sever damages for all living beings.

– the inadequate use of air and other natural gifts that have caused the exhaustion of rivers, the disappearance of lakes, wetlands, fauna, and native vegetation, as well as the loss of ecosystems.

– all the actions that have lead to the destruction of indigenous’ lifestyle. More specifically those affecting indigenous’ spirituality, which is directly connected to Mother Earth since because she is conceived as a Living and Spiritual being.

The ‘Air’ topic and environmental difficulties have been addressed in various environmentalist conferences, but always from a scientific, technical and materialistic perspective. The intercultural and spiritual perspectives that indigenous people of this continent consider fundamental for our existence have always been omitted.

The Air is a lot more than oxygen, it is vital breath, the start and the end of life, it is movement, the conveyor, a the medium of silent and noisy communication, it is a source of inspiration, a climate regulator, it carries the sacred chants, orations and invocations. The Air is the fuel for the spiritual mind, and since it is dynamic, generous, noble and universal, the Air is the master of detachment, sharing and interdependence.

Transgressing all the aspects related to the spiritual dimension of the Air brings about symptoms such as ego growth, exacerbated reasoning, over-valuation of the mind, degenerative diseases, memory issues, compensatory behaviors, escapism and addictions, depressive syndromes, and other nervous system and personality disorders; violence and stress. Likewise these transgressions cause a rise in the Public Health System cost. Accordingly, this Forum recognizes that indigenous people invaluably contribute to the planet’s survival with their holistic and interdependent knowledge and sustainable technologies.

This Forum also recognizes the advances the legislation on Indigenous People have made, although it regrets the absence of efficient legal instruments available to Indigenous communities that would allow them to take advantage of the legislation advances.

We note that in spite of these legislative successes, indigenous people remain in situations of chronic poverty, abandonment and dependency.

As such, the council members recommend:

– elaborating public policies based on successful experiences in the fields of inter-cultural learning, so that they later can be spread as models to be followed

– spreading indigenous knowledge

– introducing in each level of formal education the indigenous cultures. Organizing large scale awareness campaigns about indigenous issues.

– facilitating the professionalization of young indigenous people

– favoring socio-cultural exchanges between indigenous communities

– revitalizing and securing intercultural bilingual education

– broadening and strengthening intercultural health centers, as well as incorporating them into formal systems

– promoting urgently an effective and massive reforestation

– urging governments to strictly follow the 169 Convention of the ILO in order to prevent exploitation of natural resources on natural indigenous territories, without previous consent and approval of indigenous communities.

– substantially reducing the exploitation of non-renewable energies

– promoting the use of renewable energies to contribute to the sanitation of the Air and other natural elements

– declaring in all National Constitutions and International Legislation bills that the five elements (Earth, Water, Air, Fire, Ether) are common, public and vital goods for the living beings of the Universe

We confirm that the growth of human societies is completely capable of growing with the environment’s and Nature’s protection, as Indigenous People have demonstrated so far.

We declare ourselves in favor of a decisive change with regard to the model of consumerist, competitive and predatory development, that privileges the accumulation of wealth before life.

We urge individual and collective consciousness to do the necessary and urgent changes towards the making of a civilization that is new, supportive, including and respectful of everything that was created and of all that is sacred in life.

Fifth International Forum on the Spirituality of America’s Indigenous People: ‘The Spirit of Water’.


During the month of November, the Inter-American Council on Indigenous Spirituality, CISEI A.C. and the Grand Confederation of Councils of the main Ajq’ijab of the Guatemalan Mayan Community, with the support of Tinamit Junan Uleu (United Earth Communities), gathered in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, and declared that:

Today humanity is faced with problems of fresh-water resources due to its negative behavior towards the environment. The inappropriate use of water has caused the exhaustion of natural springs, disappearance of lakes and swamps , and reduction of many rivers’ water level. This has caused the loss of native vegetation and ecosystems.

The future of these regions has been affected in the last few years by the overuse of limited underground water and climate change’s deteriorating conditions, such as severe, long-lasting droughts.

Additionally in a rising number of regions, these underground water resources could be the major, and sometimes the only, source of water. As such, they become a strategic resource which administration and control must be carried out efficiently in order to ensure a healthy land.

The issue of water has been addressed in various forums and conferences with a scientific and technical vision. Nonetheless, the intercultural and spiritual perspectives that account for the ‘spiritual management’ of water of our ancestral cultures is omitted.

In this forum, we thereby recognize the ancestral practices related to the ‘Spirit of Water’ , and acknowledge the fundamental contribution such practices make to the sustainable management of drinkable water in the world.

We therefore summon everyone around the world, those in civil societies, academics, governments, and international organizations to bear in mind the appropriate use of water of native communities.

This is necessary in order to encourage political strategies on a national and international scale to provide free access to pure water and fundamental human rights for all living beings.

IV International Forum on the Spirituality of America’s Indigenous People

Spirit of Mother Earth”

Morelia, Michoacán, September 21-24, 2004

This 4th Forum incorporated change into its’ organization and development, with the objective of weaving bridges of understanding between ancestral communities and the western world.

Every afternoon, the Ocampo Theatre was a place where we listened to the voices of elders , and spiritual leaders coming from unique indigenous traditions. Thus we received their messages, their benedictions and we got closer to their cosmovisions, as we listened to their words.

In addition, the Culture House and the Michoacano Regional Museum welcomed us in the morning, and made it possible for members of the indigenous communities and academics to participate in reflection circles. The topics that they debated over are the same as which had been developed in the three previous forums:

Indigenous culture, spirituality, and religion. Ethnobotany, biodiversity, medical science and new sciences

Judicial perspective: the right to spirituality

The forum included 80 participants, 40 representatives from indigenous nations and 40 renowned academics from the following countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, the United States, France, Guatemala, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela.


Circle 1: Indigenous communities’ culture, spirituality and religion

Traditional indigenous knowledge and scientific knowledge are complementary. The CISEI is meant to be a gathering place where they can both converse, exchange and mutually enrich themselves on an equal footing.

Within Western science, the so-called ‘new paradigms’  constitute an opening that converge with a lot of principles of America’s indigenous cosmovisions.

We intend to promote the convergence of indigenous knowledge with the new currents of Western science, in order to contribute to the construction of a holistic paradigm that allows for a new vision of the world and of reality.

For this reason, it is important to find a methodology that combines both worlds in a systematic way, and that is based on an equal intercultural dialogue

This will allow the elders to comprehend keys terms used by Western science, making the academic language more accessible and therefore assisting in the intercultural dialogue.

The conference will consider studies carried out in neuroscience, new physics, chemistry, modern day biology, and the contributions of indigenous knowledge , in order to obtain a better understanding of human behavior in terms of spirituality.

Spirituality is fundamentally a practice, and particularly for indigenous people who enact their spirituality in ceremonies. It is essential to live the experience of sitting down and listening to the elders, in order to truly understand the indigenous world.

Indigenous spirituality is a contribution to the crisis-ridden Western world, because it gives us tools to find a way to adjust to the complicated modern daily-life routine.

What has manifested itself as the most difficult part of the conference was to talk about indigenous spirituality. As such, it became clear that the best way to understand it is through ceremonies.

Additionally, the conference concluded that native communities have, for thousands of years, been the guardians of Mother Earth and of all things sacred.

The ancestral Master plants are used to exercise traditional medicine.

Each community has their own cosmovision and it should be respected equally in order to achieve a better understanding of their culture.

CIRCLE II: etno-botany, biodiversity, medical science, new science

The discussion between indigenous traditional medicine and Western medicine, specifically the discussions pertaining to psychological science, provides a path for the quest for identity, the appreciation and acceptation of human diversity in order to obtain a healthy co-existence.

The interconnection between indigenous ancestral shamanism, therapeutic work of deep psychology and transpersonal psychology allow for a transformation of the self through the use of ancestral medicine .

The work accomplished by ancestral master plants and traditional medicine in the process of conscience transformation , helps give way to a thorough investigation of the archetypal processes of human conscience at group and individual level .  

The connection with the spiritual is made possible with integral health. This type of health is itself achieved by transcending dual-states of mind such as in the case of the ‘subjugated-subjugator’ dynamics.

In their natural state, the distinct ancestral medicines and psychotropic substances are instruments for investigation, in a therapeutic sense, of the unconscious of a person.

The ‘life sciences’ are legacies of ancestral traditions that can inspire the ‘health sciences’ by means of cultivating a sense of awareness of the self and of the universe, an understanding of body language, the appropriate use of energies that appear in the sacred elements of nature.

CIRCULO III     Legal Perspective: Spirituality Law

The Forum has agreed to use the relevant laws and international legal instruments to strengthen and protect indigenous communities’ rights.

It also recognizes that ancestral communities have difficulties accessing the protection of their rights. Finally, the Forum observes that such communities struggle to exercise their spirituality legally in a juridical context based on the colonization era.

Consequently , indigenous communities must take control of the strengthening process of their own societies.

We acknowledge the legislative processes that are taking place in Ecuador, Venezuela, The United States, and Panama, and that strive to incorporate indigenous communities in laws related to  freedom of religion and the ability to practice traditional medicine.

Indigenous communities  are unaware of the international instruments that recognize their spirituality , ceremonies, use and management of species in sacred contexts.

It has become necessary to spread the knowledge of these legal instruments, as well as the relevant information regarding their ratification in various countries.

It is important to promote the formation of organizations that check the application of these instruments, and to train people to be in charge of these applications at both national and international levels.

In order to properly manage and apply such international instruments it is necessary to consider sacred places and Spirituality as part of a cultural heritage, a lifestyle, a religion and/or a belief.

Building a relationship between and inside indigenous organizations is fundamental to mutually reinforce each other and to demand their rights.

An important strategy is to monitor indigenous organizations’ decisions to make sure they follow and respect regional and international laws. It is specifically important with regard to free commerce agreements, which tend to restrict more and more the rights of indigenous communities.

Indigenous University

Indigenous Universities y are now a reality in certain countries such as Ecuador, or in others where they are in process or at least a project. Without a doubt, Indigenous Universities are a central theme to be developed.

This forum recovers the intercultural vision of the Indigenous University, a vision that hopes to combine the knowledge of Western civilization with the ancestral culture of the Americas.

Since the first Forum, the CISEI has advocated for an Itinerant Indigenous University that brings together the Western and the Ancestral world. The Itinerant Indigenous University would plow the way for a revitalization of humanity’s spirituality, and contribute to the development of a culture of peace, with respect to diversity and an understanding of different cultures. In the next few months we will present our proposal to the UNESCO.

Morelia, Michoacán, September 24th, 2004.


Caguas, Puerto Rico Declaration

The Fifth Meeting ‘Indigenous of the Americas’ and the Third Forum of International Forum on Indigenous Spirituality took place in the autonomous municipality of Caguas and the University of Puerto Rico.

Delegations of indigenous people and indigenous organizations, spiritual leaders, and indigenous political leaders, along with academics, intellectuals, artists, governmental and non-governmental organizations assisted to the event.

During these 5 days, the participants took part in working groups, conferences, workshops, celebrated rituals and spiritual ceremonies that strengthened a sense of solidarity between participants and the indigenous cause.


They also achieved the following extremely important agreements :

I. – Indigenous people’s rights and their territorial, political and natural duties.

II. – Indigenous people’s self-determination as a inalienable right and a duty recognized by international law.

III.- Indigenous people’s right and duty to have free access and custody of their cultural and natural heritage.

IV. Indigenous people’s sustainable development and autonomy .

The final result was a declaration signed by all of the participants that is transcribed below.

In the desire to uphold the ancestral principles of indigenous wisdom, the signatories agree that:

To urge governments to fulfill civil, political, economic, cultural and social rights, as well as fundamental liberties already recognized as ‘indigenous rights’ in international legislation.

To support and promote the transmission of ancestral knowledge within indigenous communities, collaborating in the strengthening of their educational system and encouraging incentives to create their own universities.

To demand the recognition of indigenous people’s collective rights and duties of their health related heritage.

1. We denounce what the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) refer to as ‘looting’ and ‘patenting’, in the case of bio genetic and natural resources of indigenous people. For example, the sacred medicinal plants such as the Amazon Ayahuasca (U.S. Plant Patent 5751: 1986) and the Chilean Canelo. We insist that the agreements of TRIPS be changed in order to become coherent with the Convention of Biological Diversity.

We equally insist that the work initiated at the World Organization of Intellectual Property (OMPI-GENEVA) thoroughly take into consideration the concept of “collective property” regarding traditional knowledge.

2. We insist on the legalization of the use of religious medicine and sacred plants, including their psychoactive elements, considering the absence of addictive effects when consumed in their natural form. In addition, we encourage their investigation and use in light of their demonstrated potential for the treatment and remission of drug dependency. We request the revision of the Vienna Convention of 1971 regarding narcotics and psychoactive substances, which obligates signatory nations to penalize all  involved with plants and substances. The treaty wrongfully includes plants that are considered sacred ancestral plants.

3. We also denounce the wrongful appropriation of indigenous people’s cultural heritage to a commercial end on behalf of both indigenous and non-indigenous people. For example, ‘Shamanic Tourism’, ‘Pseudo-sacred Folklorism’, received by the indigenous and non-indigenous in terms of commercial fines, like “Chamánico Tourism”, the “Pseudo-sacred folklorism” and the fragmented or reductionist syncretism that transforms Indigenous Spirituality into a supermarket product.

4. We urge   governments to take the necessary measures for indigenous communities not to be the testing grounds of biogenetic projects. We also demand the end of the shameful practice of trafficking our brothers’ organs.

We call for the free circulation of ceremonial elements for the guardians and holders of ancestral traditions (Article 13 of the United Nations’ Declaration on Indigenous People’s Rights, adopted by the subcommittee in order to prevent discrimination and protect minorities, resolution 1994/45).

We suggest to create an International Indigenous Initiative for Peace, which considers the recognition, respect and exercise of Indigenous People’s self-determination. Similarly, it is essential to accept Indigenous People’s ancestral wisdom, seeing as their concept are essential to establish the basis for Peace in the Americas and the world.

Finally,  we also want to express our solidarity with all the Indigenous Communities over the world that are affected by foreign occupation. These damage Indigenous Peoples’ trust and natural heritage , such as in the case of the Vieques Islands in Puerto Rico. We’re urging governments to respect Indigenous Peoples’ territories, due to their vital importance for the survival and practice of Indigenous spiritual culture, a heritage for humanity.

1. We call upon governments to comply with international treaties and peace agreements and to respect the free access and use of sacred places for the ceremonial practices of native communities.

2. We beg states, governments, and corporations to stop the irrational explotation that destroys nature and gravely risks the survival of the planet and biodiversity. Seeing as the survival of indigenous cultures is closely linked to their territories, it is necessary to protect both the planet and biodiversity.

3. In order to resolve conflict in indigenous territories, we require that there be no interference of repressive forces considering that there exists other means to find agreements.

4. We require equally the end of forced displacement of indigenous communities from their homeland.

We wish to start a body of international laws for Indigenous Communities that would be based on the Universal Declaration of Indigenous People. These laws ought to be promptly adopted by the Member States of the UN General Assembly, and should be drafted along with Native Communities’ consensus.

Within this framework, we want  to highlight the necessity to respect the preexistent indigenous legislation by taking into consideration the international references (For example, the Rio Summit, 1992).

We recommend the acceleration of political, judicial, and administrative mechanisms in order to apply Points 6 and 7 of the Machu Picchu Declaration (2001), regarding the promotion of laws and liberties of Indigenous Communities. This Declaration was endorsed by 5 countries in South America; we urge the other countries to follow in their example.

We regret the divisions within indigenous communities that are provoked by interests, and religious and ideological fanaticism. In this context, we especially value the open mindedness of various representatives of the Catholic and Evangelical Church in the documents signed on November 21, 1987 in Seattle, Washington. This action implies the respect of the indigenous world view, and the development of native communities’ spirituality. We urge other religious authorities to join in with the signatories of the current document.


We recommend our brothers in indigenous organizations to agree with:

1. The Friendship Agreement and Mutual Recognition between the Indigenous Communities of the World, promoted by the Organization of the United Native Nations.

2. The Religious Unity Initiative for an Inter-religious World Cooperation. We reiterate our respect to native communities’ sacred prophecies that mark the return of indigenous knowledge and the promise of a new era of Peace. We aspire to the growing summation of effort and initiatives in order for the spirit of the Eagle, the Condor, the Quetzal,the Falcon, and all th sacred animals emblematic of Indigenous Communities to meet again, as announced in the prophecies.

Caguas, Puerto Rico   April 26th, 2002.