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Elizabeth Eklund – “Living with the canals: Water, Ecology, and Cultural Memory in the Sierra Madre Foothills”

April 15, 2019 @ 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm MST

The storms dump monsoon rains on the Sierra Madres, water percolates down into the aquifer, draining along the rivers of Northwestern Mexico. One of the rivers, Río Sonora, has been used to irrigate cropland for millennia. Precise historical details remain unclear, but around the time of the Entrada (circa 1530’s), Cabeza de Vaca reported an area with “permeant houses and many stores of maize and frijoles” (2003[1542]:152). Continuity with this pre-Hispanic past has been supported by the research of geographer William Doolittle. That particular historical narrative is displayed in Banámichi’s Plaza Juarez / Plaza de la Piedra Histórica (Plaza of the Historic Rock), as a corn stalk and four Ópata-inspired figures representing four Río Sonora pueblos founded by Father Bartolome Casteñedos support a petroglyph that Doolittle interpreted as depicting the pre-Hispanic canals and fields in the floodplain below.


This particular project focuses on the canals of Banámichi. Today’s canals can be dated to the 1930’s and 1940’s and are fed by a spring north of town, sometimes augmented by well water. The canal system, though, is older. The question I focus on is not the antiquity of the canals, but rather how this public display of the archaeological past shapes how the water managers define themselves. While archaeological research and ecological models present a degree of uncertainty about Río Sonora pre-Hispanic population density or scale of farming, these canals are part of usos and costumbres (traditional uses and customs) and modern managers see a clear connection to the past.


April 15, 2019
7:30 pm - 8:30 pm MST
Event Category:


Pamela Pelletier


DuVal Auditorium, Banner-University Medical Center
1501 N Campbell Ave
Tucson, AZ United States
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