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Major Project Areas

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Infrastructure for Research on Indigenous Languages

Preservation and teaching of indigenous languages of the Ecuadorian Amazon



Accelerated access to top rate native speaker informants.   Founded 1998, The Andes and Amazon Field School specializes in providing the human and physical infrastructure for the successful research, teaching and study of indigenous languages in Ecuador.   These include a network of native speakers of various languages skilled in narrating stories, testimonies and songs in their respective languages.  These persons have been carefully selected and screened for their openness, patience, and responsibility in working and long experience in working with foreign students.   Because they have worked with linguists and graduate students over the years at the Field School students over the years they are used to repeating when asked.

Historically research on Indigenous languages has been hampered by difficult access.   In the remote communities where these languages are spoken spare living conditions, lack of electricity, internet, security and healthcare severely limit the time researchers can spend there. Doctoral students travel to these areas for a few months when they are young but often do not return once they are tenured, have families,  or health problems that come with more advanced age.   Bringing native speakers to the urban universities is also not a very practical alternative because language needs to be studied in its lived context.  Often the most fluent older speakers cannot travel to the urban environments or do not feel at home there.   During the 1950s and 60s the Summer Institute of Linguistics developed a surprisingly successful solution to this problem by creating a central "base" similar to a large summer camp where American linguists and there families could live comfortably for an extended period of time.   These were usually located on a beautiful lake like Limon Cocha in Ecuador and Yarina Cocha in Peru in the heart of an indigenous region.  .






Janis Nuckolls and Tod Swanson, Amazonian Quichua Language and Life: Introduction to grammar, ecology and discourse.   325 manuscript pages.  Lexington Books.  2020.

Pieter Muysken,  El kichwa ecuatoriano: orígenes, riqueza, contactosEdiciones Abya-Yala, 2019 - 435 páginas

Janis Nuckolls and Tod Swanson. “Respectable uncertainty and pathetic truth in Amazonian Quichua speaking culture.” Invited chapter to appear in: Martin Fortier and Joelle Proust (editors) Interdisciplinary Approaches to metacognitive diversity. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pp 170-192 (22 pages). June, 2018. 

Janis Nuckolls, Diana Sun, Alexander Rice, and Sarah Hatton and Tod Swanson. “Lexicography in your face: the active semantics of Pastaza Quichua ideophones” Canadian Journal of Linguistics for a special issue entitled: “Structuring sensory imagery: ideophones across languages & cultures,” edited by: Solveiga Armoskaite and Päivi Koskinen, The Canadian Journal of Linguistics / La revue canadienne de linguistique 62(2), June/juin 2017, pp. 154-172. 

Janis Nuckolls, Tod Swanson and Belinda Ramirez-Spencer. “Demonstrative Deixis in two Dialects of Amazonian Quichua.” In Marilyn S. Manley and Antje Muntendam, Eds., Deixis in Phonology, Morphology and Syntax: Insights from Quechua. Brill, 2015, 75-100. 

Janis B. Nuckolls and Swanson, Tod D. (2014). "Earthy Concreteness and Anti- Hypotheticalism in Amazonian Quichua Discourse," Tipití: Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America: Vol. 12: Iss. 1, Article 4, 48-60 Available at: 

Erin O’Rourke and Tod Swanson. “Tena Quichua. ” Journal of the International Phonetic Association. (2013) 43/1, 107-120. 
“Singing to Estranged Relatives: Quichua Relations to Plants in the Ecuadorian Amazon.” Journal of Religion and Culture Vol. 3.1 (2009) 36-65. 

Social Relation To Nature

Ancestral knowledge and oral tradition

The Amazonian Social Relation to Nature: A Variable Pathways Digital Resource. CO-PIs Tod Swans and Janis Nuckolls.   Arizona Institute for Humanities Research. 2020-21  $15,000.


Tod Swanson, “Relatives of the Living Forest: The Philosophy Underlying Amazonian Quichua Ecological Action.” In Evan Berry and Robert Albro, editors, Churches and Cosmologies: Religion, Environment, and Social Conflict in Latin America.  New York: Routledge, 2018. 123-44.


Tod Swanson and Jarrad Reddekop, "Feeling with the Land: Llakichina and the Emotional Life of Relatedness in Amazonian Kichwa Thinking.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion.  In Press.

Tod Swanson and Jarrad Reddekap, "Looking Like the Land: Beauty and Aesthetics in Quichua Philosophy and Practice." Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Volume 85, Issue 3, 1 September 2017, Pages 682–708, https://doi-org.ezprox- 

Tropical Ecology and Forestry


​“Rules of Life: Quantifying the phytochemical landscape through Indigenous Knowledge, interaction diversity, genomics and network dynamics,”  PI Lora Richards, University of Nevada, Reno and CO-PI Tod D. Swanson, Arizona State University.   $2,999,559.  


“Historical Ecology of Waorani Ridgetops, Ecuadorian Amazon”  National Geographic.  Co-PI with William Baleé, Tulane University.  Co_PIs William Balée and Tod Swanson.  Funded: 2019-2020. $28,125 


You Will Miss Them When they are Gone:  Insects are Disappearing at an alarming rate that could be disastrous for the planet.   National Geographic Issue,  05, 2020.   Photographed in part at Iyarina Station, Gomataon Extension, Río Nushino by photographer David Liittschwager and team.


Building Human Capacity

Education and mentoring of indigenous youth for economic alternatives to extraction.


“Language for Sustainability: Sustaining Biodiversity and Bio-cultures through Indigenous Languages and Participatory Science.”  July, 2018-July, 2019. Global Consortium for Sustainability Outcomes.  Co-PI with David Manuel Navarrete


Ciencia Ciudadana, Universidad San Francisco de Quito hosted at the Iyarina Station extensions at Gomataon and Geyepade. 
“Language for Sustainability: Sustaining Biodiversity and Bio-cultures through Indigenous Languages and Participatory Science.”  July, 2018-July, 2019. Global Consortium for Sustainability Outcomes.  Co-PIs David Manuel Navarrete and Tod Swanson.


Christine Buzinde, David Manuel Navarrete and Tod D. Swanson, “Co-Producing Sustainable Solutions in Indigenous Communities through Scientific Tourism.” In Press.  Journal of Sustainable Tourism.

Building human capacity with indigenous youth and mentoring

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