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From Sápmi to the Amazon and Back

Sàpmi - 17 Jun 11

Urbi “Jungle” Svonni returns home to the Swedish Sápmi territory for the Indigenous Terra Madre gathering, June 17-19, after years learning from Amazonian elders.  

Urbi Svonni grew up in Giron, the northernmost city in Sweden in the indigenous Sápmi territory, and he always knew that he would like to see more of the world. The trip he eventually set out on became much longer than he expected. It all started in Canada, followed by Greenland and South America. Rainforests in Peru were to become his home for many years and it was here that he found what he had long-sought. 

Not far from the city of Iquitos, a large city situated in the Amazon, Urbi found the teachers he had been seeking. Called curandero, they were healers or sharman and they came from two of the hundreds of Indigenous groups living in the jungle, Witoto and Jaua Indians. He learnt to live and survive in the jungle, using plants and herbs to cure various diseases and ailments. Although Urbi, or “Jungle” - the name he was given in Peru - remained there for five years, he says he still has much to learn. But he has acquired enough knowledge about jungle medicine and how to use it to help others and to call himself a curandero too.

“To live a healthy lifestyle,” says Urbi, “it is vital to eat a healthy diet based on natural foods. The forest provides animals and humans with good food and outside the cities this tradition is strong today. However, in the cities, people seem to do everything possible to copy the American fast food culture.”


“Here in Sápmi,” says Urbi, “nearly all knowledge of traditional healing and natural medicines has disappeared. The Sami are thus entirely in the hands of modern medicine, and reliant on the use of medicines produced using chemical processes.” During his youth Urbi focused on learning traditional knowledge from his people, the Sami, but to his disappointment he found that traditional medicine knowledge had disappeared or was almost gone. This was one of his motivators for seeking knowledge abroad.

Urbi was both surprised and delighted to be invited to the Indigenous Terra Madre meeting in Jokkmokk. Having dedicated his life to learning about and practicing the traditional knowledge of rainforest people, he will share his experiences and knowledge with participants from around the world.

Indigenous Terra Madre is opening today, Friday June 17, including an official opening in the bright light of the solstice midnight sun, and finishes on Sunday. On Saturday Urbi will make his presentation at the seminar on traditional knowledge and food production where modern and traditional business models will be discussed with participants from all over the world.

For more information on the event program and participating Indigenous communities, please click here.


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