Maya Society of Minnesota

The Maya Society of Minnesota (MSM) for over 40 years has promoted study of the ancient and modern Maya. Our vision is that people have the opportunity to appreciate the Maya and to celebrate and respect their culture and history. Monthly programs and lectures on the Maya and other Mesoamerican cultures are supported by annual memberships and are open to the public. The society also cooperates with and supports schools and other arts and cultural organizations in community education programs.  The Maya Society of Minnesota adheres to the Society for American Archaeology Principles of Archaeological Ethics.

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Winter/Spring 2021 Lectures

The Maya Society of Minnesota will be hosting a web based lecture series this Fall.The presentations will be of the same quality that you are accustomed to hearing, but the Covid 19 issues will prevent us from hosting lectures in our traditional lecture hall setting. To maintain continuity we will still hold the lectures on Friday evenings. As appropriate there will be Saturday morning workshops as well.

We will miss your presence at the meetings, the social interactions, but hope this will all pass as soon as possible. We hope this format will provide you with the learning and information that has been the core of our organization. Thank you for your understanding and patience as we go through this process.

While the Board has chosen not to collect membership fees due to the economic impact of the pandemic, we still have program expenses. If you are able to do please consider donations.

How to Join Online Lectures
We will use Zoom for online lectures. Members receive a postcard with a link. Follow the link and you are presented with two options:
If you already have Zoom installed, click "launch meeting" to automatically be added to the lecture session.

If you you do not yet have Zoom installed, click "download and run Zoom." Follow instructions to install Zoom. It should automatically bring you into the lecture. If not, once Zoom is installed, go back to the link and then choose the first option, "launch meeting."

If you want instructions on how to pre-install Zoom, click here. You will still have to click "launch meeting" to join the lecture.

January: Francisco J. Gonzalez J.D. &  Annastacia Belladonna-Carrera, J.D. 

Location: Zoomed to the comfort of your homes!

Lecture: Friday, January 29th, 2021, 7:00pm

Taino daka...I am Taino: Origins, development and survival of the Taino Arawak peoples of the Caribbean 

This presentation is intended to provide a community-based overview of the history, culture, resistance and resilience of the Taino Arawak people of the Caribbean. The Taino, a branch of the Arawakan ethnic family of South America, were skilled navigators, agriculturalists and artists that settled the islands of the Greater and Lesser Antilles (West Indies), their culture flourishing beginning around 600 AD until the arrival of the Spanish in 1492. The Taino culture shared several traits with Mesoamerica, such as practice of the ball game and the construction of associated ball courts, and Spanish chroniclers observed the presence of Taino individuals in Yucatan as well as certain products from Mesoamerica in Cuba, pointing to some seaborne contact and presumably trade.
 The Taino were also recruited to participate in the early Spanish explorations of Central and South America, and many words of Taino origin passed into Spanish and other languages in the last 500 years.
Despite the catastrophic population losses caused by the arrival of the "Guamikena", the "covered ones" or Europeans, and the erosion of their native culture, the Taino are still present today, a key component of the cultural heritage of the peoples of the Caribbean.


February: Lisa J. Lucero, Ph.D. 

Location: Zoomed to the comfort of your homes!

Lecture: Friday, February 12th, 2021, 7:00pm

The Power of Water: The Rise and Fall of Classic Maya Kings

Everything in Maya life, including kingship and agriculture, was rainfall dependent.  The Maya adapted quite well to the seven-month dry season in various ways.  Kings became water managers, sponsoring the construction of massive and sophisticated reservoirs that increasingly became interlinked with urban layout.  They applied their traditional ecological knowledge to keep reservoir water supplies clean throughout the dry season, sustaining tens of thousands of farmers.  When a series of prolonged droughts struck the Maya area between c. 800 and 900 CE, kings eventually lost the support of their subjects when reservoirs dried up and crops died.  An urban diaspora from the interior of the southern Maya lowlands ensued.  While each of the hundreds of Maya centers had its own king, suite of resources, circumstances and histories, the reasons for the diaspora were dire enough to be permanent; the Maya had abandoned centers permanently.  The majority of Maya, however, persevered; they achieved this through what I term a cosmology of conservation.

Workshop: Saturday, February 13th, 2021, 9:00am

The Maya Cosmology of Conservation and Our Future

For the first part, the focus will be on detailing and discussing the Maya inclusive worldview and how it allowed the Maya to live sustainably as farmers for 4,000 years without destroying their environment.  Their world is the opposite of our current anthropocentric worldview, one that has led us to the Anthropocene.  The Maya worldview is expressed in their daily existence—rituals, farming, hunting, socializing, etc.  A cosmology of conservation espouses that humans are one of many entities (animals, birds, trees, clouds, stone, earth, etc.) with mutual responsibilities to maintain the world.  Everything was animated and connected.  The Maya thus worked with nature, not against it.  As such, it was a non-anthropocentric, sustainable existence.  I will show how such a view promoted biodiversity and conservation based on how the Classic Maya (c. 250-850 CE) interacted with their environment.  This embedded system worked for the agricultural Maya for millennia and supported more people in the pre-Columbian era than presently—and without denuding the landscape.  The second part will focus on how we can implement and insert insights from the Maya to our sustainability planning.

March: Brent Woodfill, Ph.D. 

Location: Zoomed to the comfort of your homes!

Lecture: Friday, March 12th, 2021, 7:00pm

War in the Land of True Peace: The Fight for Maya Sacred Places

For the ancient and modern Maya, the landscape is ruled by powerful entities in the form of geographic features like caves, mountains, springs, and abandoned cities—spirits who must be entreated, through visits and rituals, for permission to plant, harvest, build, or travel their territories. Consequently, such places have served as points of domination and resistance over the millennia. Guatemala’s Northern Transversal Strip has always been a  strategic region with its wealth of resources—fertile soil, petroleum, and the only noncoastal salt in the Maya lowlands, and it is also home to some of the most sacred Maya places. In this talk,   Woodfill delves into archaeology, epigraphy, ethnohistory, and ethnography to explore the biographies of several of these places, covering their histories from the rise of the Preclassic Maya through the spread of transnational corporations in our time, and show how they have continuously served as battlefields between foreign conquerors and local struggles for autonomy.

Workshop: Saturday, March 13th, 2021, 9:00am

Collaborative Research and Community Engagement in Guatemala and Mexico:  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of 21st Century Maya Archaeology

Archaeology—especially in the Maya world—is often depicted as a romantic endeavor in which great individuals head into the untamed jungle to make great discoveries.  While this has certainly happened, it is increasingly rare due to several factors.  Guatemala currently has the second-highest population density in the New World, meaning that humans have encroached upon and taken up residence in most of the far-flung corners of the country.  After the brutal civil war in Guatemala and the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, the Maya have been able to take increasing ownership of their patrimony, history, and ancestral places.  Hydroelectric dams, mining operations, African palm plantations, and illicit landing strips are proliferating in the few remaining areas without a strong local presence.  Because of all of these reasons, more archaeologists are working closely with contemporary Maya communities and finding ways to combine archaeology with initiatives that address local interests, be they development, education, or human rights.  In this workshop, Woodfill will lead a frank discussion of the challenges, goals, advantages, and accomplishments of his 20 years of conducting community research in Guatemala and Mexico.

April TBD

Questions? Contact the Maya Society at or 952-542-9851 (Tom Olson)