Medicine Stories: Indigenous Perspectives on Mind-Altering Substances

Conference/Symposium | October 16 | 5-8 p.m. |  Hearst Museum of Anthropology

 Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Townsend Center for the Humanities, Center for Latin American Studies, Department of Anthropology

This gathering will center indigenous perspectives in dialogue on the complex issues surrounding globalization of mind-altering substances.

About this Event:
Since the beginning of human existence, people of the world have altered their minds with countless practices and substances. They have done so for many reasons, ranging from pleasure to health to ceremony, with effects both harmful and benign, inconsequential and profound. The Hearst Museum’s current exhibit Pleasure, Poison, Prescription, Prayer: The Worlds of Mind-Altering Substances, explores the complex histories and narratives surrounding mind-altering substances from tobacco and caffeine to opium, peyote, coca, and more.

However, even as the “psychedelic renaissance” unfolds, conversations around the legalization, therapeutic effects, and commodification of powerful and sacred substances like tobacco, peyote, psilocybin, and ayahuasca too often leave out the voices of the indigenous communities that have stewarded these plants for centuries.

The Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at UC Berkeley has collaborated with representatives from the educational organizations CosmoVisiones Ancestrales and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies to bring speakers from a number of different traditions to discuss these themes in Berkeley on Wednesday, October 16 2019.

This gathering will center representatives of Native and indigenous perspectives in dialogue around the complex issues surrounding the globalization and increased use of psychoactive plant medicines and substances, including integrity of use and appropriation. Participants will share their perspectives through a discussion and other forms of communication and storytelling.

The event will start at 5pm with an outdoor circle gathering where participants will share prayers, songs, and calls to action. Then, participants will share their perspectives during an interactive panel at 6pm, before ending with a reception.

A note on the date: We chose to hold this on a day other than Indigenous Peoples’ Day to avoid drawing attention away from the many indigenous-led events that are happening around the Bay Area on that day. We encourage you to attend those, and then to join us later in the week!

This event has been generously supported by the following sponsors:
The Townsend Center for the Humanities
The Center for Latin American Studies at UC Berkeley
The Department of Anthropology at UC Berkeley

The Museum’s newly renovated Gallery strives to provide excellence in accessibility for all visitors. The entrance and all exhibit spaces are wheelchair accessible and located on a single floor. Automatic door push-buttons are available at the front entrance. Content is provided at standard heights with all text in large, legible fonts. A variety of furniture is provided throughout the Gallery to provide resting points for all guests. All exhibit cases and displays are cane detectable. Public restrooms are located near the Gallery. With advance notice, we are happy to provide additional support for guests with specific needs. Please email for more info.

Image: Peruvian coca divination ceremony. Benralexander, Pixabay.

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