MONTERREY, Mexico (Reuters) - Mexican drug gangs are forcing Indian tribes to abandon their traditional crops and grow marijuana and heroin poppies, according to a study released on Tuesday.
The report by Mexico's National Anthropology and History Institute said armed drug gangs were driving communities of Tarahumara, Guarijio and Pima Indians to give up their age-old way of life in the mountains of Sonora and Chihuahua states.
More than 50,000 members of the tribes have lived in caves and log cabins in remote canyons in the Western Sierra Madre mountain range in the area for millennia, surviving on subsistence corn crops.
They mix Roman Catholic rites with traditional beliefs in sun and moon deities, and chew hallucinogenic peyote buttons to perform an ancient dance to cure the sick.
Researchers said drug gangs from neighboring Sinaloa state are entering the remote region and forcing the native villagers to stop growing traditional corn in favor of marijuana and heroin poppies.
"These three groups have been forced to abandon their traditional crops by the drug traffickers, and it is having a great impact on their way of life," anthropologist Alejandro Aguilar told Reuters in a telephone interview from Sonora.