Voice of the Shipibo

Archive for March, 2013

February 2013 Update





Traditional Shipibo Midwife Workshop

Girls for the World workshop

Support for Shipiba artesans and Maroti Shobo

Shipibo Council

Reading glasses

Would you like to help?


As I sit in my home, back in North America, I am contemplating our recent work trip to Peru from January 31 – February 18, 2013.  I will tell you about the wonderful work we were able to accomplish but our time with the Shipibo people is much more subtle and complex than simply reporting on the events.  The Peruvian Amazon and the Shipibo people are in transition.  Logging in the jungle continues; legal and illegal, most of it unsustainable.  LoggingBoatThe oil and gas companies send helicopters out daily and are negotiating with communities to begin drilling without honest consideration for the ecological impact on the jungle and her people.  The indigenous people find themselves in an untenable position of losing the ability to sustain their traditional way of life while developing a growing need to obtain money. The traditional diet of plantains, fish, yucca, and fruit is being replaced with white bread, white rice, pasta, and sugar. The Shipibo communities that are closest to the jungle city of Pucallpa are the most heavily impacted by the dominate culture, evangelist missionaries, water pollution, commercial overfishing, and resource extraction. Shipibo communities along the river are increasingly enticed by extractive companies who offer them a pittance for their resources and perhaps a few menial jobs.  Because of the lack of education and this growing need for money, communities may choose to sell their resources not realizing that they are being ripped off in the long and short run.  Provision for today seems to take precedence in the collective psyche over planning for tomorrow.   It is a matter of survival.  There are no easy answers.

The mirror of the Shipibo against the reflection of my own western thinking is always a profound lesson in perception.  They help me remember what it is like to be in the world of pattern, flow, and the natural rhythms of community.  Something that is sorely missing in North America where “the developed world” has caused us to forget who we really are in relationship to the natural world.  At times, when I have asked a question in a group of Shipibo,  there is a moment of silence and a perplexed look on the faces before me. I realize that my question comes straight out of my own cultural conditioning.  I love those moments because it is then that I get to reflect on my own conditioned perceptions and get out of the domesticated box of my own thinking.  We cannot impose Western thinking on a group of people who have lived in the rhythms and patterns of the rainforest for thousands of years.  The relationship of the Shipibo to the jungle is expressed in their textiles, pottery, painting, and in the Icaros that are sung by the healers.   They are the keepers of a deep and intimate knowledge of the plant world.   It is this gift of indigenous wisdom, held by the Shipibo, that we should collectively admire, treasure, and appreciate.  Yet, one cannot expect the Shipibo people to stand still in a changing world.  As you read about our projects below, please be sensitive to the fact that these are people who have an innate cultural wisdom but who are also struggling to find ways to move forward in a changing world.  It is the intention of Shipibo Joi to be a respectful bridge, to honor the Shipibo’s right to self determination and to learn from each other.



We held our Traditional Shipibo Midwives Workshop in Yarinacocha February 7-9, 2013.  Twenty Shipibo midwives and apprentices from four communities were able to attend the workshop. Nina Christiane Uhlich, a German midwife volunteering with Shipibo Joi for the next year,  began the workshop by inviting a dialogue among the midwives.  As the midwives began to share, we were so impressed with the wisdom of the women.  Their knowledge of plants to facilitate birth,  a prenatal diet for the mothers to make child birth easier, the use of massage beginning at 7 or 8 months to shift the baby into the right position, and ongoing care to prepare the mother for the best possible delivery without complications was impressive in ways that make “modern” medical births seem primitive. The workshop also included presentations on nutrition to address the changing diet of the Shipibo, hygiene, and complications.  We discussed creating a birthing kit tailored to their specific needs.  We began exploring a traditional Shipibo midwife certification to address a growing need for recognition as to the important role that Shipibo midwives play in their communities.  Shipibo Joi brought medical supplies for the midwives that included sterile gloves, face masks, gauze, alcohol, receiving blankets, and a few other miscellaneous items.  The workshop was organized and supported by both Shipibo Joi and our collaborator Alianza Arkana, another NGO working with the Shipibo.  Alianza Arkana provided invaluable on the ground coordination and I want to especially thank Paul Roberts, Nina Christiane Uhlich, and Mariana Orta for their hard work.  Dr. Roberts has written an excellent blog with further details on the workshop.  Please follow the link below:


Shipibo Joi also assisted in funding a midwife workshop in the Shipibo community of San Francisco in December of 2012 with the Alianza Arkana who coordinated the event.  It is wonderful to see this initiative grow out of discussions I had with two midwives from the same community 3 years ago.   Below is the link with further information on that workshop.




Girls for the World is a 5 day retreat program for adolescent girls (www.girlsfortheworld.org).  Karen Hanson, the director, has focused her work in India but graciously accepted Shipibo Joi’s invitation to bring the program  to Peru. Through the support of Shipibo Joi and Girls for the World we had our first girls retreat at the healing center of Elisa Vargas Fernandez from February 11- 15, 2013.  We had 13 girls attend, two Shipibo mom’s plus our wonderful translators Amanda Garratt and Mabel Toribio from the Alianza Arkana, Peruvian based NGO. The Alianza Arkana also provided on the ground coordination instrumental in making this a successful program.  It was amazing to watch the girls who are naturally reserved and shy become more confident, self expressive, and open as the days progressed. Karen skillfully imparted concepts of positive change  and leadership through the expressive arts using drawing, movement, drama, music, journaling and meditation.

IMG_0224Many thanks to Karen for answering the call to come to Peru. There are plans in the works for Karen to return to Peru to follow up with our first group of girls and to offer the program in other Shipibo communities. A strong facet of the program is to build a community network of support and mentorship between the Shipibo girls and mothers.  I was particularly touched by how the teens talked about caring for the environment and wanting their culture to be respected.  Providing resources to Shipibo youth is important in supporting future Shipibo leaders with a clear vision for their culture, and their lives. Amanda Garratt wrote a wonderful bog on the retreat.  Link below:



shipibo-konibo congress 146Shipibo Joi continues to support the sale of artesania created at Maroti Shobo, a collective of 24 Shipibo women in Yarinacocha.  Many families rely on the sale of the art work to support their families. We began a building improvement fund last year through the sale of textiles donated by the women.  So far we have raised $1,700.00 but we are in need of a great deal more funds.  The biggest problem is the metal roof that has so many holes that parts of the building flood when it rains.  There is also an open area behind the market section of Maroti Shobo, often used by Shipibo groups as a meeting area, that also floods.  We am planning a fund raiser called “Raise the Roof” this year to obtain the needed funds to assist Maroti Shobo.  Shipibo Joi also participated in a fair trade market last year to sell their work and to educate people on the Shipibo tribe.  The work was very well received.


I was able to meet with the Coshikox, the Shipibo council while in Peru this year.  They are still finding their identity in becoming a meaningful organization for the Shipibo people.  One idea that emerged was to begin researching the possibility of a fair trade business in plantains.  This will be a challenge for the Shipibo to bring them to market.  The reality is that middlemen who buy plantains from the Shipibo purchase them at very low prices and then make huge profits when they are resold in Lima.

READING GLASSESGivingGlassesinPaocoche

It has become a tradition for Shipibo Joi to bring reading glasses to give away to any Shipibo who would like a pair.  This year the supply ran out quickly and we plan to bring many more pairs on our next trip.


If you would like to donate to our programs please follow the link on the right side of the blog.  If you are interested in a hands on experience you may consider volunteering on one of our trips.  You may contact Shipibo Joi for details.   If you are interested in buying Shipibo art please contact Shipibo Joi.  The sale of the work helps to support Shipibo families and we are in great need of fundraising assistance for our “Raise the Roof” project for Maroti Shobo.


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