Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
December 11, 1999
Botanist to Speak on Rain Forest's Medicinal Plants
Adapted by Garnet 1654 from an article
By MICHAEL OVERALL World Staff Writer
|A modern-day botanist, like himself, is a lot like
Christopher Columbus, as Mark Plotkin likes to say. And, not just because botanists have made many important discoveries
in the field of medicine -- much like Columbus was credited with discovering America.
Plotkin says, "in both cases, the Indians got there first." Don't be surprised if Plotkin spends a lot
of time talking about native tribes during his speech to Tulsa Town Hall, the annual lecture series.
he's supposed to speak about "New Medicine from Nature's Drug Store." As the executive director of the
Ethnobiology and Conservation Team in Washington, D.C., Plotkin has spent the last 20 years studying the medicinal
value of plants and fungi from the Amazon rain forests.
Medicinal Plants from the Rain Forest
But talking about the "new" medicines
means talking about the men who have been using them for thousands of years, the shamans of the Amazon Indian tribes.
by the title of his 1993 book, "Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice," Plotkin learns about Amazon medicines
by venturing into the rain forests of South America and studying directly under the aging medicine men.
are hundreds of medicinal plants that have not yet been documented," Plotkin says. "And time is running
out to do it."
industrial logging destroy between 5,700 and 17,000 square miles of rain forest a year, according to various estimates.
Part of his
job is to find ways to preserve the plant species that have potential medical uses. And that, of course, means
preserving the rain forests.
the rain forests, in turn, requires the preservation of the native cultures that live there, Plotkin said.
always hear about how fast the rain forest is disappearing. But I tell you, the Indians are disappearing much faster."
goes much of the knowledge that Plotkin has spent his life trying to gather.
example, taught the world about the quinine alkaloid, which led to the cure for malaria.
To carry on
that kind of knowledge, Plotkin has established the Shaman's Apprentice Program, which pays for young Amazon tribe
members to return to their villages and study traditional plant medicine with their elders.
Apprentice Program is funded in part with donations from the Tulsa Zoo.
To find out more about the Rain Forest and how you can help save it visit
KIDS' CORNER: RAINFOREST ACTION NETWORK
The Rain Forest - Index
Let's Go Around the World
Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments
. We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright
material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed
without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C.
Canku Ota is a copyright of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.
- The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site
and its design is the Copyright © 1999 of Paul C. Barry. All Rights Reserved.