Guardian of the forest and of the Sápara legacy. Change's and preacher of hope.
Medicine man. Guardian and musician of sacred ceremony space.
My name is Manari Ushigua Santi and I am indigenous, a forest defender, traditional healer and spiritual and political leader of the Sápara Nation in the Amazon Ecuadorian.
I was born in the Amazon Rainforest. My family were always travelling up and down Conambo river by canoe, learning from nature and the energies of different places in our territory. My father, grandfather and great-grandfather were powerful shamans. My parents knew that I would continue this lineage soon after my birth.
As I was growing I was always learning from the forest and my father. He prepared me to become a person who understood the jungle but who could also relate to the world outside. I began special dietas (fasts) and training to connect with the spirits of the forest and our ancestors. As a child I would always see spirits. My father told me that we need to study and do dietas to become accustomed to understanding these different worlds, that there were other beings and we didn’t need to fear them and we could learn from them.
Early mornings my father would ask us about our dreams and he would teach us their meanings. I dreamed of very ancient things, sometimes I dreamed of my grandparents, my great-grandparents. They would teach me things about how we should love our life, to appreciate all that we have and walk a good path. My grandfather would tell me that life could end very quickly so to love each moment.
The ways of plant medicine was another of my father's teachings. We used tobacco and chiricaspi. He would tell us what each plant was used for, how it was used, how it was prepared. When we were older, all the learning that our father left us, we started to put into practice in every space that we moved in. When he died in 1996 he began to teach me through my dreams.
I have been actively involved in the indigenous movement of Ecuador since 1999 as Vice President of CONAIE (The National Indigenous Organization of Ecuador) from 2013 to 2016, and as the President of the Sapara Indigenous Federation from 1999 to 2012. I have participated in international events like COP21 UN Climate Summit and the UN Universal Periodic Review of human rights, always with the purpose of raising awareness about the threat to my homeland.
As a defender of indigenous rights, I have managed to conserve more than 276,000 hectares of primary forest threatened by extractive industries. I am the co-founder of the Naku Center, a new economic model project to preserve Sápara culture and forest, where I do lectures and healing ceremonies. Naku Center is designed to support people from the modern world to connect to their spirit and respect all life, visible and invisible, so the story of humanity can continue.