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Sustain Community

A key purpose is to improve the quality of life for our community of relatives by providing sustainable green employment  that can: 1) be carried out in a language environment that includes Kichwa; combines ancestral knowledge with science and technology; integrates  traditional indigenous values in a modern work environment.  We do this by combining traditional forest productivity with the cross cultural sharing of Amazomian knowledge through digital humanities production, hosting study abroad and other foreign learners. 

Research on Amazonian Kichwa & Indigenous Languages 

Iyarina specializes in teaching and research on the Amazonian Kichwa language on the Wao Tedero and Achuar languages.  FLAS Eligible Kichwa is taught in English by Professors Tod D. Swanson, (Arizona State University), Janis B. Nuckolls (Brigham Young University), Armando Muyulema, (University of Wisconsin at Madison), and several native speaker course assistants.  In addition to teaching grammar and vocabulary, the Kichwa language is used as an anthropological linguistic window into Amazonian culture and worldview.  The class frequently goes into the forest with traditional elders to learn about plants and animals in Kichwa. Origin stories and songs to species are recorded in Kichwa and translated in class. As ability in Kichwa improves, students formulate their own research questions in Kichwa. While studying Kichwa students also receive a grounding in Amazonian cultural thinking about the environment from top experts in the field. The program includes a 4 day canoe trip into the Waorani territory with Kichwa native speakers.  Students make lasting contacts with native communities for future dissertation work and often return for several summers.  Life changing for many.   Each summer 12-15 graduate FLAS Fellows attend the Field School.   235 Fellows from more than 40 universities have attended to date.    Achuar and Wao Tedero languages are also taught on demand.

Learning and Sharing Ancestral Knowledge

The “social relation to nature” refers to an Amazonian way of engaging the nonhuman world as though it had the full range of human emotions.  Plants, animals, or even earth are believed to feel lonely and to desire company across species lines; but also to be shy, desire privacy, to sometimes be resentful or to withdraw from human company.   Empathy for human needs sometimes causes them to be generous, offering themselves for food or medicine.  On the other hand, they can be ambivalent, resentful,  take revenge for the death of their relatives.  The presernt project links short videos of testimonies, stories, and songs that engage various the forest world to the Kichwa and scientific species names of the  various plants and animals present in the narratives.   It also links species and nature to the stages of the human life cycle through which nature is experienced socially..    Kichwa traditions on particular plants or animals can be searched by species.

Collaborate in Funded Research

We seek to add a high quality indigenous knowledge component to funded research in the Life Sciences, Anthropology, Linguistics, and Sustainability Studies.  This includes providing a network of knowledgeable indigenous elders and as well as younger indigenous technicians and administrators skilled in project management, human resource management under Ecuadorian law, data collection, filming, transcription, and translation and forestry.  Recent projects include: Lora Richards (PI), Tod Swanson (Co-PI) URoL:EN Quantifying the phytochemical landscape through indigenous knowledge interaction diversity genomics and network dynamics, University of Nevada: Reno (November 1, 2021 - October 31, 2026).   “Historical Ecology of Waorani Ridgetops, Ecuadorian Amazon”  National Geographic.  Co-PIs William Baleé, Tulane University and Tod Swanson.  Funded: 2019-2020.  “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.

Piloting Productive  Forest

Iyarina has managed 600 hectares of forest on the Rio Napo for 30 years.  Over the last 3 years we have embarked on a new pilot project in this area called Kawsarik Sacha, a Kichwa term for forest renewal.  Our goal is to simultaneously increase the productivity and the biodiversity of this forest so that it can better sustain both human and animal populations.  This includes replacing excess weedy species with endangered trees from nearby undisturbed forests, especially those that produce food for human and animal consumption as well as medicine and lumber.  It also means adapting the forest to multiple uses such as 1) Preserving the watersheds from which nearby communities draw their water; 2) serving as a living seed bank nursery from which neighboring communities can restore their own forests; 3) Serving as a laboratory for developing best sustainability practices in the face climate change; 4) Serving as a living classroom in which both local young people and visitors can learn to live sustainably from the forest.  IIt also means ncreasing accessibility for birding, camping and sustainable recreation that bring income for the community.  We see this as an incubator for the future where volunteers can come to live and learn from the forest.

Solar Innovation

This project is developing an affordable solar-powered canoe and recharging station for the Curaray river in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Affordable solar-powered canoes will revolutionize how riverine communities meet their mobility needs, disincentivize road construction and foster alternatives to the extractive model.


Explore the 'Social Relation to Nature" Through a selected species

Click the following icons to search plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, invertebrates groups. 

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Explore the 'Social Relation to Nature" Through the human life-cycle

Cycles of a Body Shared with Nature





     Aging, Death, and Ancestors 

All Videos

All Videos

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