Manataka American Indian Council









Power of the Plant

By, Gerardo Atkinson,

Honorary Elder of the Arawak Nation, Venezuela




Over five hundred years ago, a primitive yet perhaps a sophisticated culture was rendered dormant following the arrival of the Spaniards to the shores of Wayana-Kah (South America).


Before declining into its dormant state however, three very important aspects of this culture were blended into the culture of today’s Creole society.  The name of which the Arawaks identify themselves.  ‘Wai-Ko-Locono” meaning, “We the People” illustrates a form of democracy that existed among these primitive people that guaranteed them perpetual freedom.


According to the oral history of the Arawak people, it was this kind of freedom that motivated the Spanish colonists years later, to rebel against the Crown of Spain.


Hence, it may be said with conviction, that the form of democracy that rules the world today, is an aspect of the Culture of the Red Race.


Long before Columbus appeared on the scene, the Arawaks and their brothers had evolved from a fruit and nut collecting people, to an agricultural and commercial people.  At the time of his arrival, Columbus and his sailors were treated with great hospitality.  They ate and drank to satisfaction Arawak agricultural products.


Today, many of these products not only decorate the table of Creole society, but also form a vital source of economy throughout Latin America and other parts of the world.


Another important aspect of the culture of the Red Race is the medical science, which hails from indigenous knowledge of the plants.  Plants which are found only in the jungles of the South form the solution to many malignant diseases that plague Mother Earth and her inhabitants.


To justify this belief, let us take a look at one of their legends.


The Legend of the Hiaro-Shimara


Eons and eons ago, there lived in the jungle a lonely warrior whose name was Hashiro which means Giant Otter.  Hashiro’s everyday life was occupied with farming, fishing and hunting.  As his days went by, the hazards of living alone made him bored and restless, so on his hunting and fishing trips, he wandered farther and farther away from his hut. 


One day, however, when he returned from one such trip, he found his hut all tidied up, his meal that consisted of freshly baked Kassavah and a well-known yucca beverage, Pai wari was all prepared.  Hashiro thought passers-by must have done this good turn for him.  The next day, he again went fishing and when he returned, he once more found his hut was in neat order, his meal was cooked and Piwai was expertly brewed and sitting on the table.


Hashiro then knew instantly that the good works were done by a female hand.  On the third day he went hunting, but did not venture far from his hut.  Instead, he returned stealthily from another direction.  He hid near a large bush that provided good camouflage and waited. 


No sooner had he settled down to wait, he heard a whooshing sound from above.  To his surprise and horror he saw a huge bird heading for his hut.  The creature landed and furtively entered his hut.  As strong and fearless as he was, it took all his courage to attack the creature.  In a few leaps he was on the giant bird and began tearing at its feathers. 


There he stood; standing face to face with the most beautiful maiden he had ever set eyes on.  After a brief struggle, she surrendered and told Hashiro that she was from a land far away in the sky.  She told him that she loved to hunt and wander through the sky.  He then named her Hiaro-Shimara – Female Arrow.


The two loved each other on sight, but as time went by, Hiaro-Shimara wanted to visit her parents in the sky.  Hashiro was reluctant to leave the Earth Mother to go to a land he did not know, but after constant pleading, he agreed to accompany her.


Hashiro proved himself to be a superior warrior, hence he earned the respect of his wife’s father and brothers.  As time passed, respect turned into jealousy and then to hatred that finally erupted into a great war.  As the battles ensued in the sky, Hashiro, Hiaro-Shimara, and a few loyal friends found themselves heavily outnumbered and had no other recourse but to flee back to the Earth Mother. 


Upon landing they destroyed all their sky garments for fear of pursuit and discovery.  They swore never to return to the sky again.


Hashiro and Hiaro-Shimara grew very old together and when Hashiro died, Hiaro-Shimara turned herself into a great tree and promised to endow all her offspring with special powers – spiritual, medicinal, telepathic, military and many other powers.




Thus ends the Legend of Hiaro-Shimara, Female Arrow.  Even today, elders claim knowledge of her whereabouts.  Her leaves are so powerful that with the swipe of one single leaf, one warrior may claim the lives of more than one hundred enemy.  He bark is so venomous that if placed at a strategic point, it will contaminate an entire ocean.  At a certain time of the year, only a highly spiritual elder, together with a virgin may obtain her leaves. 


Others claim that she made an appearance in the land of Dishiquibo (today’s Esequibo) in the year 1780 and led a victorious battle against the Spaniards.  Positive evidence of this battle may be found in the form of two Spanish gun boats of the era that is now lying in the branch of Barbara Creek off of the Muruca River. 


As more mysterious diseases appear on the horizon, it is quite evident that medical scientists of the dominant society are engaged in a death struggle with some of these killers that remain a puzzle to them.


Meanwhile, after centuries of disinformation that led to adverse economic situations, elders of various ethnic groups are engaged in scientific research of their own.  In desperation, they turned to the power of the plant.


As a result of this age-old belief, malaria has become just a common fever among certain people: Namely among the Arawaks.  Arawak elders have reduced the danger of cancer in women to a great degree and are near a breakthrough to a positive cure.


The years between 1970 and 1990, huge deposits of gold and diamonds were discovered in indigenous territories.  The methods employed to exploit the mineral proved disastrous to several ethnic groups as a strange disease appeared in their communities.  Thanks to the wisdom of the Elders, answers to these killers were quickly found.


Spiritual plants play an important role in day to day life of both indigenous and Creole peoples.  There are plants that guarantee successful hunting and fishing.  With the help of a spiritual plant, Elders may compel a herd of wild boars to graze in the vicinity of their communities for a period of a week or longer.  The spiritual influences of some plants provide protection from hunger, severe illness, and imprisonment.  Some even guarantee victory in legal proceedings.


In days of old, when lovers or husbands and wives became estranged, or when warriors ventured behind enemy lines, spiritual plants were used to contact them telepathically.  Today, some people still use the power of the plants to inspire a spirit of reconciliation among disunited families.


Historic sites where great battles were fought serve to remind indigenous people of the military strategies, stealth and cunning that their ancestors possessed.  Together with plants and powerful chants combined, warriors were able to venture behind enemy lines in an invisible form.


Some warriors even propelled themselves at terrific speed over great distances, for example, from Miami to Washington, completed their mission and were back before daylight.


In the concept of modern day scholars, these irrefutable facts may undoubtedly seem as superstitious rubbish, but in as much as Christians have great faith in their saints, so do indigenous people have faith in their plants.


In contrast to the high priority given to modern technology, indigenous Elders are alarmed at the swift rate our planet is being singled out for destruction.


More convinced that ever, they that remember this dormant culture has tons and tons of untold wisdom that may yet in the near or distant future, emerge to save fellow humankind and other inhabitants of this planet from eventual extinction.  Such conviction has urged highly trained and inspired Piaie men to try to decipher petroglyphs found in caves in indigenous territories.  Anthropologists however, consider these very significant messages as were primitive attempts at literary expression, but Elders are aware that these messages contain vital information that may help to hasten the reemergence of the Red Culture. 


While some Elders insist it was the insatiable quest for gold that rendered dormant the culture of the Red Race, Dadai-Nashas know that it was the wheels of evolution that played the greatest part to this effect, hence the wheels of evolution will play its role to unearth the wisdom of this long submerged valuable culture.


In the light of these convictions, Elders, Piaie men, Dadai-Nashai and all ethnic groups of Wayana-Kah extend their hands to brother races of this planet in a spirit of peace and equal co-existence.


Together, one day in the near future may we turn to the powers of the plant for our general welfare and mutual benefit.


Gerardo Atkinson

Honorary Elder of the Arawak Nation, Venezuela


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