Flavio Santi, Ayui Yu
Flavio Santi is an Indigenous Ki-Shuar leader, hereditary shaman, and plant medicine healer of the Ayuy Yu clan of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Since the 1990s, he has led an international effort to buy back thousands of acres of jungle in his ancestral territory. As the founder and director of Escuela Wayusa, he is focused on Indigenous youth education in his community and establishing an alternative model of development that empowers Indigenous wisdom-keepers to use their land for cultural education and traditional healing practices. An international speaker and plant medicine workshop leader, Flavio has travelled across North America to raise awareness of the environmental threats facing the Amazon jungle.
The Ayuy Yu Clan of the Ecuadorian Amazon are renowned for protecting sacred sites, traditional medicine teachings, and the essentials of the surrounding ecosystem. But they have suffered greatly for it. Due to their resistance over the last half-century of industrial invasion, their community was targeted by the military and their homes were destroyed. They have been afflicted by military assault, assassination, illegal jailing and interrogation, the division of their community by oil company bribery, and the contamination of their ancestral land by potent petrochemical toxins. Having failed at violent resistance, they are now developing a new model of activism, employing elders and shamans to protect and restore their cultural inheritance. And miraculously, it seems to be working.
The Ayuy Yu’s last remaining hunting territory was invaded in the late 1990s by ARCO Petroleum. They were forced onto a reserve downriver of the city, which is now overcrowded. Hunting and fishing are poor, due to water pollution. But they were culturally prepared for this. The Ayuy Yu have long received visions instructing what must be done to save the culture and the land. In 1993 they knew they would be betrayed by indigenous politicians. The uprising of the 90’s became poisoned by corruption, greed, and deceit. The Santis began to raise funds to privately protect sacred sites by buying them back from settlers with funds raised through the international eco-activist community. The leaders who vilified the family for their “backwards view of development” now repent.
To date, the Ayuy Yu have raised close to $1m through NGO partnerships and private relationships, and recovered 1500 Ha (3700 Ac) of territory, focusing on the sacred sites used for healing ceremonies, initiating youth, and medicinal sanctuaries. They have now recovered 80% of the land required to survive the monster of industrial colonization. And they have learned that the most successful struggle happens at the spiritual level. Visions from plant
medicines have clarified their intent, sharpened their vision, and attracted new allies. They are currently establishing a Wayusa school to preserve and spread their spiritual vision for the benefit of their indigenous youth, and, brilliantly, for the benefit of the global community. They are, in this way, giving birth to an international eco-spiritual movement. Their school is a spiritual embassy for this movement, and through it, they hope to help humanity find ways to save itself from its greed and blindness.