Amazonia Foundation

Archive for June, 2008

GOING HOME – The Documentary

The Catalina Island Conservancy and the Amazonia Foundation’s joint project to document the Buffalo Repatriation were realized in the documentary film directed by Michael Stuart Ani, Going Home. It is featured at the Catalina Island’s Greeting Center and is viewed by over a million people a year.

1980-1989: Journey into the Alto Ocamo

Michael Stuart Ani (Amazonia’s founder and president) had been visiting and living with tribal people in the rain forests of the America’s for three decades. His journey began as a teenager amongst the tribes of Southern Mexico and spread South through the Amazonia territory. Because Michael was so young and arrived with no formal agenda, the Indian people were able to indoctrinate him into their system of belief. He has become a bridge between western and Pan-American indigenous cultures.

In the short span of time from adolescence to manhood, Michael has witnessed the most devastating destruction to the tropical rain forests of the Americas and its inhabitants since the Spanish conquest and the rubber boom. In the 1980s, after living with more than fourteen tribes, Michael came to the Yanomami, the last intact Indian nation left on earth.  At the time, they were in generally excellent physical condition.

A Powerful Hope


The Brazilian gold rush of 1988 and deforestation of the rainforest in Brazil contributed to the outbreak of epidemics among the Yanomami. The difficulties of bringing medical aid to deep forest, semi-nomadic people are obvious, and complicated further by the people’s general distrust of outsiders.

The data collected by the Amazonia Foundation was submitted to the Venezuelan government after 1991, and concluded these findings. The Yanomami population was now suffering from outbreaks of malaria and hepatitis, along with such typical jungle infections as Onchocerciasis (river blindness) and parasites. The Amazonia Foundation report concluded that the only possible way to deal with such an extreme outbreak was to establish an ongoing medical infrastructure.

If it was possible to just leave the Yanomami alone, that would have been the best situation, but the epidemics were so severe that all medical authorities agreed that the Yanomami could not survive without outside help. Although the Venezuelan Ministry of Health, missionaries, doctors, advocates and scientists agreed something had to be done, there was no unity among the different groups. It seemed almost impossible to bring together the various organizations that were necessary to create a medical infrastructure.

For 15 years, the Amazonia Foundation has participated in and aided medical efforts among the Yanomami. Five years ago the situation seemed completely hopeless and nothing seemed to work.


Working with unified goals, world-class expertise and a Venezuelan government that has probably had the best policy towards Indian rights in all the Americas, a goal that seemed at once unattainable can now be a reality. For the last three years the Amazonia Foundation helped support and create a new medical aid program with the Venezuelan Government. There still remains small, but effective, treatment programs currently operating on a tribal level that address all the aspects of Indian health care. They’re minimally invasive and always introduced with respect for the Yanomami’s culture, customs and beliefs.

It is possible, and imperative, to foster more programs with absolutely no political or religious agenda of any kind. There should be only one major goal: To stabilize the health of the last Yanomami tribes. Through its direct involvement, the Amazonia Foundation wishes to continue financing outstanding prevention treatment programs needed for the survival of the Yanomami.


  • To control malaria, the number one killer of the Yanomami, which has claimed the lives of more people globally than any other disease.
  • Help bring successful medical aid to more Yanomami Indians in Venezuela.
  • Preventative medical immunization for children and young adults.
  • Financial aid to support ongoing programs to erradicate Onchocerciasis (river blindness).
  • Continued financial and physical support for all villages of Yanomami.


To foster innovative and successful programs that can help stabilize the health of the entire Yanomami population.


To put into action the blueprint developed by the Venezuelan Ministry of Health for a working medical infrastructure that can be used to aid all remote tribal peoples.

Virology 101

Viruses manifest themselves differently. The average human being’s immune system is able to overcome some viruses with relative ease. Other viruses, such as HIV , weaken the immune system, increasing the host’s susceptibility to other microbial diseases. Some of these other diseases would not be apparent at all, had there been no primary infection or otherwise immunosuppressive condition.

A virus inserts its genetic material (“viral genes”) into a host cell. A host can be anything from a plant to an animal to a human being. Depending on the environment, the viral genes may take one of two possible pathways. Viruses thrive in conditions that are warm If conditions are favorable for further infection, the genes encoding for viral particles will be activated, causing the host cell to burst and to release many copies of the virus. When conditions are unfavorable, the virus’ genetic material will insert itself into the host genome, staying silent like a time bomb until the environment improves.

Subscribe to our feed to get updates on this thread in the coming months, as we cover the Big Five diseases striking tribes, and their unique effects on native people:

  • HIV and AIDS


Malarial Transmission

Once thought to be on its way to eradication, malaria has made a troubling comeback worldwide since the failed eradication programs of the 1950s and 60s. Now considered the world’s most prevalent vector-borne disease, malaria exists in endemic proportions in at least 92 countries.

“Approximately 41% of the world’s population is at risk, and each year 300 million to 500 million clinical cases of malaria are reported. Worldwide, approximately 2 million deaths per year can be attributed to malaria, half of these in children under 5 years of age,” according to Pim Martens and Lisbeth Hall in an article published in Centers for Disease Control’s Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Of increasing concern is malaria’s reemergence through human migration. And, for the United States and other developed counties, the part travel and immigration have played in that reemergence. The failure to understand how human migration impacts the spread of malaria played a significant role in the failure of eradication programs in the mid 20th century. And, according to Martens and Hall, “identifying and understanding the influence of…population movement can improve prevention measures and malaria control programs.”

Rapid urbanization, when accompanied by adequate housing and sanitation, can lead to decreases in malaria through reduced human-mosquito contact and eradication of mosquito breeding sites. However, in developing countries, unregulated urban growth can lead to an increase in malaria transmission because of poor housing and sanitation, improper drainage of surface water and use of unprotected water reservoirs that increase human-mosquito contact and mosquito breeding.

The alteration of the environment by humans plays a significant role in the spread of malaria, as demonstrated by the dramatic resurgence of the disease in Brazil since the 1960s. Massive population movement, facilitated by the construction of highways into the Amazon rainforest has meant that 98% of Brazil’s malaria cases in the 1990s were recorded in the Amazon region. With the settlement of agricultural regions, the construction of hydroelectric projects and the discovery of gold in the Amazon, some regions saw nearly ten-fold population increases in 20 years. Meanwhile, Brazil as a whole witnessed a more than 100-fold increase in cases of malaria over the same time period (50,000 cases in 1970 compared to 577,520 cases in 1990).

For developed countries, like the United States, a sense of safety may be leading to complacency. According to an article by Ellen Ruppel Shell in the August 1997 issue of The Atlantic Montly, “the United States has shown little interest in the problem. Malaria is transferable in blood, yet it is not screened for in the American blood supply. The country’s Anopheles mosquito population has gone unmonitored for more than fifty years…. Most Americans seem to think the disease has been eradicated or, at worst, is confined to the tropics. In fact there are few places on earth that cannot sustain a malaria epidemic.” Complacency, in the time of modern travel, can be disastrous.

Air travel has increased by almost 7% a year in the last 20 years and is predicted to increase by more than 5% a year during the next 20 years (1). As a result, developed countries have seen new means of malarial transmission in “airport malaria”. This transmission of the disease is defined by its spread from a tropical Anopheline mosquito to persons whose geographical history precludes exposure to this mosquito’s natural habitat. Generally, the mosquito is introduced to a nonendemic country via international air travel.

Martens and Hall noted “random searches of airplanes at Gatwick Airport (London) found that 12 of 67 airplanes from tropical countries contained mosquitoes (2).” In their article for the CDC, the authors cited the following cases of airport malaria:

“During a hot summer in 1994, six cases of airport malaria were identified in and around Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle Airport (3). Four of the patients were airport workers, and the others lived in Villeparisis, approximately 7.5 km away. Anopheline mosquitoes were thought to have traveled in the cars of airport workers who lived next door to two of the patients. In 1989, two cases of P. falciparum malaria were identified in Italy in two persons who lived in Geneva (4). Another five cases of airport malaria were reported in Geneva in the summer of 1989 (5). High minimum temperatures were thought to have allowed the survival of infected anophelines introduced by aircraft. In Britain, two cases of P. falciparum malaria were observed in persons living 10 km and 15 km from Gatwick Airport (6). Hot, humid weather in Britain may have facilitated the survival of an imported mosquito.”

Another area of concern for developed countries is “import malaria”. In this case, local, uninfected mosquitoes are exposed to the disease via contact with infected immigrants from malaria-endemic areas. The local mosquitoes then spread malaria to individuals who would not otherwise be exposed to the disease.

Increases in this form of malarial transmission have been reported in the United Kingdom (where import from Africa is thought to be the culprit), Italy (with the endemic area being India) and the United States (from Mexican migrant workers, among others).

In the case of the United States, a 1986 outbreak in California involved 28 cases (26 in Mexican migrant workers) during a 3-month period (7) and, because the epidemic curve indicated secondary spread, health authorities we able to confirm local mosquito-borne transmission.

While developed countries can count on good financial resources and established healthcare procedures to quickly and effectively quell malaria outbreaks, they should keep an eye to the increasing urbanization of underdeveloped countries. Encouragement should be made for adequate sanitation and regular malaria testing and treatment. And, there should be discouragement of unmonitored deforestation and sub-standard housing near mosquito breed sites. With immigration becoming global at an unprecedented rate, transmission factors must be closely monitored to ensure the health and well-being of all members of the global community.


1. World Health Organization. The World Health Report 1996: fighting disease, fostering development. Geneva: The Organization; 1996.
2. Curtis CF, White GB. Plasmodium falciparum mission in England: entomological and epidemiological data relative to cases in 1983. Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 1984;87:101-14.
3. Giacomini T, Mouchet J, Mathieu P, Petithory JC. Study of 6 cases of malaria acquired near Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle in 1994. Bull Acad Natl Med 1995;179:335-51.
4. Majori G, Gradoni L, Gianzi FP, Carboni P, Cioppi A, Aureli G. Two imported malaria cases from Switzerland. Tropical Medicine and Parasitology 1990;41:439-40.
5. Bouvier M, Pittet D, Loutan L, Starobinski M. Airport malaria: mini epidemic in Switzerland. Schweiz Med Wochenschr 1990;120:1217-22.
6. Whitfield D, Curtis CF, White GD, Targett GA, Warhurst DC, Bradley DJ. Two cases of falciparum malaria acquired in Britain. BMJ 1984;289:1607-9.
G, Romi R, Severini C, Cuccagna G, et al. Malaria in Maremma, Italy. Lancet 1998;351:1246-7.

7. Maldonado YA, Nahlen BL, Roberto RR, Ginsberg M, Orellana E, Mizrahi M, etMalaria on the Move: Human Population Movement and Malaria Transmission

School for Tribal Healthcare Medics


Many different facets of the project must work simultaneously to ensure the health of the Yanomami in Venezuela. The Venezuelan Ministry of Health has already created a working blueprint, which synchronizes all of these elements with numerous treatment programs. One of our many important projects is a school for indigenous healthcare workers.

Escuela de Medicine Simplificada

The success of the overall project depends on an ongoing infrastructure. Medical doctors and specialists supply the knowledge and experience that is vital to health care. Trained community health workers will supply the day-to-day maintenance of the project in individual villages. We have found that the Indian people quickly pick up the necessary techniques and knowledge in a six-week course. They travel through the jungle much quicker than outsiders, survive better and are much less invasive to their own communities.

Future Field Work Beyond Rosebud

Through the Ceremony House and hard work of Medicine Bundle Keeper Roy Stone Sr. a revival of the Native American belief system is taking place. The Ceremony House offers a place where tribal members from all across the United States come to learn Native American Traditional healing and ceremonies from one of the very last knowledgeable elders alive today.

Top medical officials of the State of South Dakota have recognized Roy Stone Sr. incredible record of healing patients with deadly diseases such as cancer. It is the Amazonia Foundation’s honor to help Medicine Bundle Keeper Roy Stone’s gift to all humanity.

The Amazonia Foundation has realized that Roy Stone is a key aid to fighting against the terrible Methamphetamine problem on the Native American reservations in the United States. The problem is so severe sometimes seven out of ten juveniles between 12 and 20 are addicted. By financing projects that bring young Native Americans to live and learn from one of the last daily ceremonial places on the reservation, we have assisted in giving children  pride in who they are and  hope for the future.

The Amazonia Foundations charter applies to field work, but it also has an educational aspect. We are now working with the Lakota Sioux, Hopi, Navajo and Jicarilla Apache to bring new educational material and literature to the reservations that portrays an honest and positive view of their cultural relating to what is happening in the world today.

Yanomami Aid Project in Venezuela

The Amazonia Foundation is once again beginning a new project to bring medical aid to the Yanomami and other tribes of Venezuela. It has been a very difficult journey for these tribes from free roaming bands to a reservation system and the epidemics continue to plague them. We are hoping to raise the funding to begin delivering very badly needed medical assistance at the beginning of 2009.

Indian Cultural and Economic Center in Panama

It has been a dream of the Amazonia Foundation to create an Indian Cultural and economic Center in Panama. The general purpose would be to bring all the tribes of the Americas and those that wish to work with them together in one spot. As Indians take more control, they will also be in more of a position of control over the resources on their lands. That Economic and Cultural Center would be the place a new form of development can take place. Just think, if an organized effort was made to grow healthy foods and botanical curse on organic soil for a fair price that can feed the world, in a healthier way. The hope and investment possibilities are endless.

Building A Ceremony House

In 2005, Volunteer Network International and the Amazonia Foundation non-profit organizations began the construction of a large Ceremony House on the Rosebud Lakota Reservation. Under the guidance of Lakota elder and Medicine Bundle Keeper, Roy Stone Sr. the house will serve the traditional community and all their relations.

In 1890 all Indian religious ceremonies were outlawed in the United States until 1978. This is the first large ceremony house on Rosebud since their religion was outlawed 113 years ago.

JUNE 2006, The Ceremony House was completed.

Buffalo Repatriation: From Catalina to the Lakota

December 2004, a joint effort between the Catalina Island Conservancy, California’s Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the Amazonia Foundation has repatriated 98 buffalo to the Brule, Lakota Sioux Rosebud tribe of South Dakota. Many members of the tribe are descendants of Indian heroes such as Crazy Horse, Crow Dog, Spotted Tail, He Dog and Swift Bear. The Lakota received these Catalina Island buffalo of unusually short stature in the tradition of their own “Give Away, gift giving ceremony. Do to the buffalo’s diminutive size there were some traditional Lakota, such as Leonard Crow Dog that called them Te-hen-chi-la; the Little Buffalo of the Sioux Seven Generations prophecy.

The first spring after the repatriation the herd broke lose of their fences and disappeared. They were found two days later heading toward the sacred Black Hills. After more then a hundred years the tiny herd instinctually rediscovered the bare remains of the same yearly route their ancestors had taken for centuries. The Lakota people refer to this route that now appears much like a dried riverbed as the Hoop of Life.

Since 1923, these Little Buffalo have been roaming free on California’s Catalina Island. Famed writer/director Zane Grey brought them to the Island, to film the movie Vanishing Americans. It was at a time when there were very few buffalo left in America. By 1903, 25 wild buffalos survived the original herds of over a hundred million. The Little Buffalo are believed to be direct descendants of this Yellowstone herd.

The book and movie Vanishing Americans were the first, published Hollywood outcries against the genocide of the American Indian people. In the final edit, the buffalo scenes were cut from the movie and the tiny herd was left behind. The Wrigley family, famous for their chewing gum, baseball stadium, and owning most of the island, adopted them. The family created the Catalina Island Conservancy, to protect the wildlife, flora and sea life of the island. Their beloved buffalo are an introduced species that was allowed to stay.

Through extensive scientific research, the Catalina Island Conservancy’s president, Ann Muscat concluded that the size of the herd had grown too big for both the Island and the animal’s health. Approximately 150 buffalo were left to continue roaming free on the Island and reproduce annually. This is the size of a herd that the Island can support.

The Morongo Band of California Mission Indians graciously financed the repatriation. Their 2004 Tribal Chairman, Maurice Lyons, represented them at the event.


Conservancy Chief Communications Officer, Leslie Baer and the Amazonia Foundation’s Michael Stuart Ani coordinated the event. Along with representatives of the Morongo, Tungva and Lakota, many tribes came to participate in the ceremony. It became a major ceremony for Indian people and event for the media. Almost all the major news services in the country, including international CNN and UPS covered the story.

The buffalo traveled across country in two trailers, escorted by Lenny Altherr and Michael Stuart Ani, representing the Catalina Island Conservancy, and the Amazonia Foundation. 67 million viewers worldwide watch the news coverage. The snows of December held tight until the buffalo arrived at their home, back on the Northern Plains. Within a year they each gained over three hundred pounds and a new, thicker fur coat.

Health Clinics on Rosebud Reservation

September 2005, Volunteer Network International and the Amazonia Foundation launched two medical relief clinics on the Rosebud Reservation. A staff of 14 volunteer doctors and health workers paid their own way to provide badly needed health care to the Lakota people. Many of the patients who came to the optometry clinic had been without glasses for over five years. Hundreds of pairs of prescription glasses were given out with the help of Indian Health Services.

At the same time, other doctors led by Flora Johnson MD and health workers ran a general health and diabetes clinic with Indian Health Services. We learned a great deal about the acute health issues among the Lakota and how diet has played a large roll in creating them. The average life expectancy on Rosebud reservation is 51.

National Congress of American Indians Support Amazonia Foundation

In 2004 the Nation Congress of American Indians (NCAI) officially voted to support the Amazonia Foundation and its projects to help Native Americans through out the Americas, North, Central and South. By doing this, Amazonia Foundation representatives are now able to bring projects to and speak at National meetings. It is a great honor and we thank the legal governing body of Native Americans in the United States for recognizing our efforts.

NCAI Resolution #ABQ-03-136 (Download the PDF)

Inipi (Ceremonial Sweat Lodge) on Catalina Island

Led by President Ann Muscat, the Catalina Island Conservancy not only backed the Buffalo repatriation project, it donated a gorgeous piece of land on the Island to build a traditional Lakota Inipi (Sweat Lodge). The Sweat Lodge is a monument dedicated to the Buffalo and the Islands 85 year old history of awareness and actions related to the plight of the American Indian. It was traditionally built by Roy Stone Sr, John Red Bird and Michael Stuart Ani.

A wildfire scorched the entire side of the Island that the Inipi was built on. Everything on that side of the Conservancy was destroyed except the Inipi. The fire came within three feet of the Sweat Lodge, and burnt all around it, but never touched it. Recognizing this extraordinary event, the Catalina Island Conservancy and the Boy Scouts of America, dedicated a bronze plaque honoring the Buffalo, Grandpa Roy Stone Sr., and the Native American people.

2002 – Yanomami Medical Outreach in Venezuela

In January 2002, Michael Stuart represented the Amazonia Foundation, as part of an international, medical relief expedition to Yanomami Indian villages in Venezuela’s Amazon rainforest. The purpose of the expedition was to bring badly needed medical support to tribes still suffering from a 14-year epidemic of malaria, hepatitis, and River Blindness. For this expedition the Amazonia Foundations Michael Stuart Ani was made an official observer for the Venezuelan government relating to health and cultural issues between international doctors, outreach organizations, missionaries and the Yanomami tribe of the region.

Reports were filed on this expedition about the highly unethical activities of the New Tribes Mission. They related directly to specific instances of cultural genocide and ongoing extreme sexual abuse of Indian children. It led to the removal of all the evangelist and Mormon missionaries involved from the country of Venezuela.