Yarn painting by Gonzalo Hernandez. Photograph by Leon Wartinger.
Yarn painting by Gonzalo Hernandez. Photograph by Leon Wartinger.

I completed a Master of Arts in anthropology at the University of Alberta in 2005. My supervisors were Professors Gregory Forth and Leslie Main Johnson. My thesis is entitled “”It’s Good for Many Things”: Wixarika (Huichol) Ethnoecology of Amaranth”. It is based on three months of fieldwork with the support of the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and Traditional Arts based in the Sierra Madre mountains in Mexico.

Thesis Abstract
Wixárika (Huichol) people of northwest Mexico use two species of the plant, amaranth: Amaranthus hypochondriacus and Amaranthus hybridus. Wixárika interactions with the two species are examined based on Victor Toledo’s framework for ethnoecological studies. A. hypochondriacus is domesticated and its seeds have important nutritional and religious significance. Wixáritari (pl.) believe that these seeds are a manifestation of the ancestor deity, Amaranth Boy, who discovered maize in the form of young maidens. The undomesticated A. hybridus grows in areas where there are disturbed soils. Wixárika people manage this plant by allowing it to grow to an appropriate size and then harvesting it as a famine food during the weeding process. Wixáritari have both patronymic and phenological plant classification systems. Close Wixárika relationships with humans and plants demonstrate that Wixáritari view the natural world as being familiar and encompassing humans, rather than being separate from daily life.

PDF of my Thesis:

“It’s Good for Many Things”: Wixárika (Huichol) Ethnoecology of Amaranth

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