Amy Eisenberg has returned to Tucson after working with Yup'ik Eskimos of Curyung on the Bering Sea in the bush of Alaska. Her book, "Aymara Indian Perspectives on Development in the Andes," a collaborative cultural and environmental impact assessment project with the Aymara people was recently published. She is a 2002 Ph.D. graduate of the Graduate Interdisciplinary Program in Arid Lands Resource Sciences: Ethnoecology with a minor in American Indian Studies.
Her book is for the benefit of the Aymara people who are struggling to protect their sacred resources from further mining and water appropriation in a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve - Parque Nacional Lauca in the highlands of Chile in one of the most arid regions of our world, the Atacama Desert. Her thesis also dealt with the Aymara perspectives in ethnoecological studies. For a glimpse of her thesis, please see her abstract below.
Thesis Title: Aymara perspectives: Ethnoecological studies in Andean communities of northern Chile
Author: Amy Eisenberg
This dissertation presents participatory ethnographic research, which was conducted with the Aymara Indians of the northern Chilean Andes, from November 1998 through January 1999, in an attempt to understand Aymara perspectives of recent development that has taken place within their ancestral homeland. A study design was developed that would engage Aymara people directly in the assessment of their cultural and natural resources along an altitudinal gradient from the coastal city of Arica to the Altiplano, the high plateau at Lago Chungara.
This interdisciplinary study in Arid Lands Resource Sciences draws upon the fields of ethnoecology, American Indian studies, applied cultural anthropology, botany, agriculture, history, physical and cultural geography, and social and environmental impact assessment. Ethnographic interviews with Aymara people were conducted in sixteen Aymara villages along an attitudinal transect from sea level to 4600 meters. A systematic social and environmental impact assessment was executed along International Chilean Highway 11, which connects Arica, Chile with the highlands of Bolivia.
For Andean people, economic, spiritual and social life, are inextricably tied to land and water. The Chilean Aymara comprise a small, geographically isolated minority of Tarapaca, the northern border region, who are struggling to maintain their sustainable and traditional systems of irrigation waters distribution, agriculture and pastoralism in one of the most arid regions of the world, the Atacama Desert. Ethnoecological dimensions of the conflict between rapid economic growth and a sensitive cultural and natural resource base are explored through participatory research methods. The recent paving of Chilean Highway 11, the diversion of Altiplano waters of the Rio Lauca to the arid coast for hydroelectricity and irrigation, and Chilean national park policies regarding Aymara communities, their natural resources and cultural properties within Parque Nacional Lauca, the International Biosphere Reserve, are examined from the perspectives of the Aymara people. The potentiality of indigenous resource management of this protected area is discussed within the context of human-land reciprocal relations.
The findings of this study, based on Aymara Indian perspectives, are designed to aid in understanding and appreciating the cosmological vision, and the needs of Andean communities in the poorest province of Chile. The Aymara are actively involved and committed to having their perspectives and cultural concerns expressed and incorporated into historic, natural and cultural resource preservation legislation and policy.