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Welcome to the 2021 ISSRNC online conference - Religion and Environment: Relations and Relationality.
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Saturday, February 20 • 1:45pm - 3:45pm
Native Responses to the Extinction of Animals

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(LIVE conversation with presenters. Please watch session video beforehand.)

This session presents Native cultural responses to the local extinction of animal populations and some expressions of hope for their return. At the same time it serves to introduce an ASU Institute for Humanities Research funded project: "The Amazonian Social Relation to Nature: A Variable Pathway Digital Resource." Traditionally the presence of animals was attributed to their relational affinity with a human community that treated these animals with respect. Thus care was taken to maintain their presence by heightening social relations to animals through song and empathetic speech. Hunting, and fishing depended on these cultural arts for eliciting an empathetic animal response. Over the last 50 years the world has lost 65% of its animal population. This session presents responses to the departure of the animals by Laura Tohe, Navajo Nation Poet Laureate and several members of the Amazonian Kichwa and Andwa nations. For the native communities this collapse is not just the loss of a resource but represents a breakdown in interspecies social relations upon which life has depended for centuries. For this reason Native responses have included laments and songs directed to the animals and not only proposals for replacing a resource. Our panel also presents some Native thinking on the possible return of animals.

Tod Swanson, Chair
“Introduction to The Amazonian Social Relation to Nature: A Variable Pathway Digital Resource.”

This presentation briefly introduces “The Amazonian Social Relation to Nature: A Variable Pathway Digital Resource.” The project organizes 125 short Kichwa, Achuar, and WaoTededo language videos of elders on the social relation to plants, animals, water and land. The videos have subtitles in English and Spanish and are linked to interpretive essays. The presentation will introduce the cultural themes around which the site is organized and demonstrate some of the possible variable reading pathways. It will also show how the site is searchable by scientific or indigenous language names of species.

Laura Tohe, Navajo Nation, Poet Laureate, “Japanese Garden.”

A reflection on the departure of the animals. The poem will first be read in the Navajo language and then in English. Laura Tohe will also respond to the presenters from the Amazon at the end of the session.

Pedro Andi, Quijos Kichwa Nation, “A Paca Salt Lick Closed by the Master of Animals”

Elodia Dagua, Andwa Nation, “The Master of Animals Slams the Door”

Belgica Dagua, Andwa Nation, “On the Disappearance of the Animals”

Delicia Dagua, Andwa Nation, “On the Departure of the Peccaries” and “Singing with the Toucan’s Orphans”

Luisa Cadena, Andwa Nation, “The return of the animals and the dead”

Janis Nuckolls. “Bringing grammar to life: speaking and moving in Quichua-authentic ways.”

Current work in Anthropological Linguistics is attempting to redraw the margins of language (Dingemanse 2018) beyond the traditional limitations of linguistic science, and into a wider field that includes emotions, gestures, and a class of expressions called ideophones, which are imitative words depictive of sensory experiences. The use of such words is significant for Quichua speakers' cultural ecology because they allow nonhuman forms of life to articulate a perspective and a voice by means of linguistic sound. For this presentation, I analyze portions of narratives from elder experts, which demonstrate that speaking Quichua is not a matter of learning to articulate abstract concepts familiar to speakers of English. Rather, they show the necessity of thinking concretely with language, by reproducing sensory experiences, which are communicated by 'whole body speaking', incorporating gestures with sound-imitative ideophones. I will illustrate this with several 10 second videos of ideophones and gestures evoking Quichua relations with plants and animals such as how a speaker gestures movements of a bird as it makes deceptive sounds to human hunters. Although gestures are often considered ancillary to language, Quichua speakers' gestures reveal that they are integral to their language ecology and discourse culture.

Elizabeth Swanson-Andi, Quijos Kichwa Nation, “On the Importance of Preserving for Future"

Generations the Voices of our Elders Responding to the Animals.” This presentation articulates the perspective of indigenous young people on the importance of preserving in digital form the way in which our grandparents, uncles, and aunts have responded to the forest across generations. For so many of us generational continuity is being threatened either because of migrating to jobs, the loss of forest, the loss of our language, or the loss of our older relatives. As we seek to respond to our environment in a different time the ability to see our elders speaking and gesturing in response to our ancestral land, to hear and feel their emotions expressed in our own language brings back a flood of memories. Digital access is especially important for so many of our generation who have had to migrate to cities for education or jobs. The videos are also important as teaching tools in indigenous schools. These 4 memories of elders will live in us helping to preserve generational continuity as we teach future children and respond to the earth in changing times.

avatar for Tod Swanson

Tod Swanson

Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Senior Sustainability Scholar in the Global Institute for Sustainability, Arizona State University


Elodia Dagua

Andwa Nation

Belgica Dagua

Andwa Nation
avatar for Laura Tohe

Laura Tohe

Scholar of Indigenous American Literature, Navajo Nation Poet Laureate
Laura Tohe is Diné.  She is Tsénahabiłnii, Sleepy Rock People clan, and born for the Tódich’inii, Bitter Water clan.  She grew up at Crystal, New Mexico near the Chuska Mountains on the Diné homeland.

Pedro Andi

Quijos Kichwa Nation

Delicia Dagua

Andwa Nation

Luisa Cadena

Andwa Nation
avatar for Janis Nuckolls

Janis Nuckolls

Professor, Quechua Instructor, Linguistics, Brigham Young University
avatar for Elizabeth Swanson-Andi

Elizabeth Swanson-Andi

Quijos Kichwa Nation

Saturday February 20, 2021 1:45pm - 3:45pm MST
Online (Live)