We are all indigenous to the human family but we have forgotten it.

For centuries, the voices of oral cultures have been ignored while our world continues on a path of self-destruction. To change course we need to recover the full potential of our humanness and hear those who have kept alive the memory of our ancestral connections.

Many authors, including Walter Ong and others, have theorized on the superiority of the written over the oral. While true regarding information that can be written or calculated, this approach disregards invisible or non-quantifiable data that lies outside those parameters. 

Long before the invention of writing, modern man relied on purely oral information passed on from generation-to-generation through oral traditions and rituals. Local languages and traditions served as the repository of collective wisdom and rituals gave the community access to the information.  In oral cultures, information developed and maintained by these practices includes levels of nuance relating to the interconnectedness of the indigenous with their environment, as well as more concrete information that might qualify as viable for written history or science.  Thus, a comparison based on the memory capacity of written cultures versus oral cultures is not a true comparison.

The oral contains the memory of potential and, therefore, is an infinitely wider and more complex repository than the written. Oral cultures have survived by honoring the reciprocal exchange that fuels the creative process of the cosmos. This awareness is beneficial to the life-force and sustains the cultural and biological diversity upon which life depends. We believe that peoples who have maintained a cultural continuum, such as the San of South Africa going back 120,000 years or the Aboriginals of Australia with 50,000 years of history, hold a knowledge that may be critical for the survival of our planet.

Oysi's structure is inspired by the understanding of the reciprocal exchange, as seen by indigenous cultures. We have modeled Oysi as a self-organizing network. It is a knowledge-based system that learns from itself. It responds to the input of its users in a virtual reciprocal exchange. Our intent is to follow the fractal patterns of oral cultures that, in turn, reflect the quorum sensing capabilities of living cells. In this model, a positive feedback loop continually informs the whole creating new meaning. We think that only a change of worldview can reorient human culture toward sustainability. The question is: how can we learn from the democratic values of oral cultures, their wisdom and way of relating to each other and the world? This learning process has the potential to bring about a worldwide transformation of consciousness.

While there are many important websites devoted to supporting the interests of indigenous peoples, such as Survival International, Amazon Watch and others, Oysi facilitates the encounter between the creative forces emerging from indigenous cultures and the fields of art and science.

– Cecilia Vicuña and James O’Hern


Cecilia Vicuña James O’Hern


Oysi, Inc. is a New York based non-profit 501 (c) (3) corporation dedicated to providing a forum for the exchange between artists, scientists and oral cultures around the world.


Oysi, a creation of James O'Hern and Cecilia Vicuña, is a wordplay that can be read in different ways. In Spanish it could mean “Do you hear? Yes!” It could also mean “Today? Yes!”. Soundwise it recalls Oisín, the legendary poet of Ireland. In ancient Gaelic, it means “young deer”.