First Advisor

Bill Griesar

Date of Award

Summer 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Psychology and University Honors






Hallucinogenic drugs -- History, Hallucinogenic drugs -- Therapeutic use, Traditional medicine




In recent times, psychedelics have come back into the public eye, mostly through scientific intrigue about their healing potential. In the past decade, hundreds of studies have been conducted to explore the possible benefits, or risks, that these substances could bring to people – and there is great potential being found. This is the psychedelic renaissance, and with this phenomenon in full swing, it is important to take a step back and look at the full picture of our history with these substances. By doing so, it starts to become clear that psychedelics have guided human perception and understanding of our world for a very long time. The recognition of how important these substances are did not start last year or within the decade, or even back in the 20th century with Albert Hoffman’s discovery of LSD. Humankind have been utilizing these substances for thousands of years, perhaps longer – and the spiritual significance they contain for Indigenous people is almost unfathomable. That being said, the current psychedelic renaissance is being guided almost entirely by science and academia – as it has been since the colonization of Indigenous people, followed up by a Western takeover of the psychedelic healing paradigm starting in the late 1940’s. This literature review aims to catalog and make clear the role of Indigenous practices within psychedelic healing, and explores how a White-dominant scientific understanding of the same phenomenon has overshadowed these previous understandings, and why that is problematic. It’s not that one understanding is better than the other – but due to factors of structural racism, the same individuals who have been utilizing these healing practices for thousands of years are now being barred from the current conversations.

There are multiple sections to this paper. First, an extensive history section that outlines both ancient history, as well as modern history starting in the 1940s and moving through to present day. Then, to gain an insight into the current scientific understanding, I shall outline the research behind why these substances are coming back into current conversations of healing. I will then make a case for the convergence of Indigenous knowledge and science, ending with a request to the scientific community to be more aware of the role BIPOC communities have in the renaissance – and to be aware that they are not being included as they rightfully should. By not including Indigenous voices and knowledge, we lose the thousands of years of experience and insight into the benefits these powerful substances can have, as well as the possible risks and how best to avoid them.


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