January 20, 2009 Introduction, Space and Social Organization

TEWA ETHNOBIOLOGY NorthernNew Mexico College

Course PIS 283-201

Spring 2009



"Tewa Ethnobiology: Plants and Animals of the Tewa World”


Each culture names and behaves in particular ways toward the natural resources in its environment. These are part of what social scientists call “ethnoscience,” or the way the world is organized and acted upon by the cultural groups that live within it. The Tewa, other Pueblos, Spanish people, and Anglos are no exception.


 This course will examine a particular part of the “ethnoscience” of the Tewa Pueblos in the Tewa Basin or Greater Espanola Valley. It will describe how the plants and animals, including birds, are named by the Tewa and how the names are organized into biological taxonomies and useful purposes. The names will be taught in the Tewa dialect of Ohkay Owingeh but words in the other Tewa Pueblos will be taught. The Spanish and English names will be used as well since names and meanings (translations) have been borrowed from the Tewa during the 400 years of contact with European cultures. The Tewa and Spanish names are for your information. You do not have to learn them unless you wish to do so.


 The course will examine how the Tewa cultures reproduce ethnoscientific knowledge over the generations through an acute knowledge of nature, the telling of stories about plants and animals, and their respect for elders. Knowledge will be viewed from the perspectives of gender and social organization and  and how it is shared differentially throughout each Pueblo for the benefit of all.


 Part of this knowledge of nature is how the named organisms are used for food, medicine, utilitarian purposes, and religious activities.  The course will teach common knowledge (household) and not ceremonial secrets.


 Each culture has rules for behaving toward nature. The results of their actions determines, in part, the distribution and amount of the useful organisms, their survival over time, and changes in their appearance and structure. The Tewa are the stewards of their traditional homeland. Because of their rules for interacting with nature the Pueblos at contact had a landscape that was more diverse and richer in organisms that we find today. Even the appearance of plants was different because of Tewa management practices.


 The Spanish colonists and later American settlers introduced new crops, medicinal plants, animals, and “weeds.” How they were integrated into the Tewa World will be an important aspect to understanding Tewa ethnoscience.


 The course will contrast Tewa ethnoscience with the Spanish and Anglo ways of environmental management.  By doing so, the similarity and differences of these interacting cultures will be better understood.  Tewa Ethnobiology is important for Pueblo Indian Studies and is useful for Biology and Environmental Studies students.



Dr. Richard I. Ford will teach this course

         Curriculum vitae - Richard I. Ford

Adjunct Professor

Pueblo Indian Studies

Northern New Mexico College

E-mail:  riford@umich.edu 

Cell phone:  505/699-6224


 Course Outline and Assignments: http://tewaethnobiology.googlepages.com/ 


 Directory of Lectures and Assignments

January 20, 2009 Introduction; Space and Social Organization

January 27, 2009 Insects

February 3, 2009 Reptiles and Amphibians

February 10, 2009 Other Animals (Fish, Mollusks etc.) 

February 17, 2009 Birds  

February 24, 2009 Small mammals 

March 3, 2009 Large mammals

March 10, 2009 - MIDTERM EXAMINATION (90 minute)

March 10, 2009 The Tewa Anthropogenic Ecosystem - lecture

March 17, 2009 - SPRING BREAK

March 24, 2009 Trees and Shrubs

March 31, 2009 Medicine and Hygiene Plants

April 7, 2009  Plants for Crafts and Tools

April 14, 2009 "Wild" and Cultivated plants

April 21, 2009 Traditional Agricultural Plants

April 28, 2009 Spanish and Anglo Agricultural Plants

May 5, 2009 - Intellectual Property Rights, Ethics, and Applied Ethnobiology


 May 12, 2009 - Voluntary Fieldtrip (2 hours)



JANUARY 20, 2009 -- Introduction to Course

  • Requirements: attend lectures, complete readings before class, do any special assignments, think systematically
  • Textbooks: Dunmire and Tierney, WILD PLANTS OF THE PUEBLO  PROVINCE

o         Other readings - Weekly assignments on Library Reserve and the Internet


o         Special Assignments - short written exercises 

  • Grades - 20% discussion and Special Assignments, 30% mid-term, 50% final exam

               Mid-term exam will be an in-class exam.

               Final exam will be in-class.


Who is Richard I. Ford?

             Curriculum vitae - Richard I. Ford     

Who are You?  (Please complete index card with your name address, telephone, e-mail)

Who are the Tewa?

What is Ethnobiology?

o         Osha (Sp.), osa pu (Tewa), Porter’s lovage (English), Ligusticum porteri (Latin)

What does it took like?

Where does it grow?

What eats it?

Why is it important to the Tewa? Spanish?



o         Model of Cultural Ecology


A systemic perspective of the natural world

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  • Model of Ethnobiology
  • Ethnogeography - Landscape Ecology

What is TEK?

Special Assignment:  Use Google and Google Book Search to find references to "Tewa Pueblo New Mexico plants and animals." Create a bibliography of books and articles. We will discuss them on January 27.


Read on Reserve:

            Alfonso Ortiz (1979) “ San Juan Pueblo.” Handbook of North American Indians,

Volume  9: 278-295. Smithsonian


                                             Space and Social Organization



p’in                              mountain


okú            hill


ahkon                           prairie, flat land                        

            p’ohtsaa           meadow


kôn                              arroyo


kwi¶ónú         irrigation ditch


p’ok’ay                       river


p’oekwîn                      lake


nan                               land, soil


p’oe                             water



Social Relations


                        Summer Moiety ------------- Winter Moiety

                                                Sacred Societies

                                                 Bear Medicine







Government:  Governor

                        1st Lieutenant Governor

                        2nd Lieutenant Governor



                        War Captains (Towa é) - 6


                         Fiscales - 4



Course Resources



           Plants Used by Native Peoples of the American

           Native American Plant Bibliography

           Native Americans in Agriculture and Ethnobotany

           Ethnobiology Bibliography

           Journal of Ethnobiology

           Internet Resources

           Southwest Plant Uses http://www.lsa.umich.edu/umma/research/onlinecatalogs/


           Ethnographically Documented Uses of Plants

           Native American Useful Plants

           Fire Effects on Southwest Biota

           Southwest Plants