The History and Work of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies
By Michael Harner
© Shamanism, 25th Anniversary Issue 2005, Vol. 18, Nos. 1 & 2

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Aside from the mission to bring shamanism and shamanic healing back to the West, I wished the Foundation to be of service to indigenous peoples who might want help in reviving shamanism after decades, and even centuries, of persecution. After all, indigenous or tribal peoples had long been the sole remaining custodians of shamanic knowledge, and the world owed them a tremendous debt. Therefore, I initiated the Urgent Indigenous Assistance Program (formerly called Urgent Tribal Assistance Program).

We began a program of specific expeditions to help indigenous peoples, when requested by them, to bring shamanism and shamanic healing back into their lives. Groups thus assisted outside the United States have included the Sami (Lapp) people of northernmost Scandinavia and adjacent Russia, the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic, the Buriat people of Siberia, and the Tuvan peoples of central Asia. Such work has also taken place in the United States, again when requested, such as with the Ramapough Mountain Indian people only an hour from New York City across the Hudson River, who were just beginning to emerge from centuries of hiding their identity and now wished to reconnect with the spirits. Of all these programs requested by indigenous peoples, the longest lasting was that in the central Asian republic of Tuva, where the Foundation maintained a ten-year program of assistance until shamanism and shamans were successfully restored. Critical to that success was the long-term work by Paul Uccusic, the European director of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, his wife, Roswitha Uccusic, as well as by others.

Aside from the field programs, the Foundation has long maintained a fifty percent tuition scholarship rebate program for Native Americans (“First Nations” in Canada) to assist them in taking Foundation workshops and training courses. So far representatives of 54 tribes have taken advantage of this offer. In our expeditions and in the scholarship programs, my intention always was not to alter the spiritual cultures of indigenous peoples, but to help provide them with a gateway to the spirits, so they could wake up their own potentialities and traditions.

The Foundation is also trying to “wake up” the medical community to the value of shamanic healing and its potential to complement regular institutional medical practices. The Foundation took this role upon itself because of the difficulty of getting governmental or institutional support for such research. Despite this obstacle, we felt it was important to lead the way until others might be likewise inspired. As a result, the Foundation set up the Shamanism and Health program under the direction of Dr. Sandra Harner, who is a clinical psychologist as well as a shamanic practitioner and teacher. Aspects of her research results on immunological and psychological effects of shamanic journeying have been published in a variety of journals.

In conclusion, and in a bit more detail, here are examples of some projects of the Foundation:

Training Westerners in Shamanism and Shamanic Healing

We are working to develop a broad range of educational and training opportunities founded specifically on fundamental and near-universal shamanic principles and practices that will help revive shamanism and shamanic healing around the Planet. Developing such courses and offering serious training is a top priority of the Foundation, and it currently offers 203 courses to approximately 5,000 individuals annually. Introducing individuals to the wisdom and consciousness of shamanism continues to be one of the most important and broad-based efforts the Foundation can make toward healing the Planet. Our workshops and training programs are reaching more people, and in a broader geography than ever. The Foundation’s European leadership has expanded significantly, and we are continuing to contact and work with tribal peoples in the United States and around the world.

Other areas of educational expansion have included: maintaining a web site (address: with schedules of upcoming workshops and training courses; bringing indigenous shamans to work with graduates of the Three-Year Programs; and upgrading the Foundation’s Newsletter to a semi-annual members journal, Shamanism, including significant articles, an annual members’ voluntary telephone directory, and resource guide.

Cross-Cultural Research and Experimentation

Quality research is necessary for quality teaching. Basic to the quality and success of our educational programs has been cross-cultural research on shamanic knowledge and practices in hundreds of the world’s cultures to provide authentic and time-tested information. My research work, aided by graduate students and the Foundation’s staff, has made it possible to rediscover or recreate practices long thought to be lost. Teaching them to Foundation students has assured their revival and persistence. The various research activities of the Foundation, including my experimentation based on fragments of almost forgotten information, have resurrected for practical contemporary use many remarkable types of shamanic healings and experiences. Today these are especially available to advanced students in the Foundation’s Three-Year Programs.

The Mapping of Nonordinary Reality Project (MONOR) has also contributed to the rediscovery of much shamanic information, such as regarding the ultimate nature of reality and cosmology. This is a basic form of research destined to go on for years, comparing both indigenous and Western experiential data. It also constantly provides surprises of immediate benefit to our long-term in-depth teaching.

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