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Who We Are

Iyarina is a center for learning and research in the Ecuadorian Amazon dedicated to integrating indigenous knowledge and the academic arts and sciences.   It is located in a Kichwa speaking community on the South bank of the Río Napo with extension campuses in the Waorani territory on the Río Nushino and the Río Curaray.   For over 20 years Iyarina has housed the Andes and Amazon Field School where over 200 graduate FLAS Fellows (Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships from the US Department of Education) from more than 40 universities have received intensive language training in Amazonian Kichwa, Achuar or Wao Terero.    



We envision a future in which many indigenous people can work productively from their biodiverse territories in a green service economy connecting virtually to others who fill positions of leadership in regional universities and government.   From there they serve as bridges to facilitate productive exchange with global institutions some of which are also run by people informed by indigenous values.  To varying degrees all three groups will have increasingly complex identities which we hope will be shaped and informed by traditional Amazonian knowledge, creativity.  Out of this synergism will come solutions to the problems we cannot yet imagine.  



To this end, our mission is to foster high quality learning and research at the intersection of indigenous knowledge and science leading to a more sustainable future for the indigenous communities of the Ecuadorian Amazon.   As we explore these solutions we make them a reality in our pilot project, the Iyarina productive forest land trust.

The name of the station,"Iyarina," (ee-yah-ree-nah), is a Kichwa word that means to think by looking out at the land and remembering what has happened there; and from this remembering to envision the emerging future.   This act of remembering lies at the heart of our efforts to record and preserve Amazonian tradition as a resource for the future.  Our logo, the Iluku bird (ee-loo-koo) represents this way of remembering.  According to tradition the acts of creation separated Ilucu (Nyctibius grandis) from her lover who became the moon.  When the moon comes up she remembers him and cries. When people hear her plaintive sound they too remember the historical separations and sacrifices that have made our present world a habitable and convivial place.  ​



Iyarina was founded by Josefina Andi Aguinda and Tod Dillon Swanson in 1999.   Josefina was born and raised in an Amazonian Kichwa speaking community on the banks of the Río Napo.  She is a behind the scenes leader with real skills in cultural bridging and conflict management.  Swanson (her husband of Swedish-Irish descent, was born in North Carolina and came to the Ecuadorian Amazon in 1961 at the age of 6 where he grew up and continues to reside.   His father served Kichwa, Shuar, and Waorani communities as a missionary physician throughout his career.   After graduating from high school in in Ecuador, Swanson went to study in the United States where he received a BA in linguistics from the University of Minnesota and a PhD from the University of Chicago.   In founding Iyarina, Andi and Swanson had two goals.  One was to better preserve  the languages, culture, and environment of the Ecuadorian Amazon by integrating traditional knowledge and the sciences;  the other was to provide employment for members of Josefina's Kichwa community and to create economic alternatives to extraction and migration.

Institutional Relations 

"Iyarina Center for Learning" is the public facing name of Fundación Cotococha an Ecuadorian non-profit.   It has memorandums of understanding with Universidad San Francisco de Quito, Arizona State University, and the University of Nevada, Reno.   The Andes and Amazon Field School is an LLC registered in Arizona that contracts study abroad with Fundacion Cotococha.  Shayarina Amazonian Resilience is an American 503-C nonprofit registered in Arizona that receives donations in support of the work of Iyarina Center for Learning.  

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