Virola theiodora

Indigenous healer and spokesperson Davi Kopenawa collaborated for decades with French anthropologist Bruce Albert to produce The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman, an amazing and inspiring life story that Albert calls a “cosmoecological prophecy about the death of shamans and the end of humanity.”

The book recounts, in excruciating detail, the struggle of the Yanomami to save their land and cultural traditions from the incursions of missionaries, road builders, government workers, gold prospectors and cattle ranchers.

These conflicts have become far more violent, frequent and potentially apocalyptic under the current racist Brazilian government of Jair Bolsonaro, who recently said, “Indians are undoubtedly changing…They are increasingly becoming human beings just like us.” 

Kopenawa, as a young man, decided he needed to learn Portuguese, saying, “Isn’t it up to me to defend our forest?” 

In The Falling Sky, he declares: “We do not want our forest to die, covered in wounds and the white people’s waste. We are angry when they burn its trees, tear up its floor, and soil its rivers…The paper skins of their money will never be numerous enough to compensate for the value of its burned trees, its desiccated ground, and its dirty waters.” 

His insights and social activism are enhanced through his lifelong relationship with yãkoana (Virola theidora, from the Nutmeg family), a powerful visionary snuff made from the resin of the great tree’s bark. 

He says, “I defend the forest because I know it thanks to the power of yãkoana.” 

He goes on to say: “If we do not feed the spirits with the yãkoana, they sleep in silence and our thought remains closed.”


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