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The Hummingbird and the Red Cap

The Hummingbird and the Red Cap

(p.89) 10 The Hummingbird and the Red Cap
Devon G. Peña
University of Chicago Press

This essay enunciates an indigenous view of land and water ethics in the acequia irrigation communities of the Upper Rio Grande watershed in order to explore the “relationality of wildness.” The incomplete control of water gives rise to the “cultural landscape” of the Culebra River acequias as anthropogenic features that shelter wild medicinal and food plants, birdlife, and even fish and small mammals. Cohabitation of the watershed is presented as a virtue of local democratic self-governance that includes more-than-human beings in the circle of conviviality. The best practitioners regenerate the land by capturing sediment suspended from the mountain cirques and parks all the way down to the irrigated fields. This induces a “coeval biophysical process” that replenishes soil horizons and diverse habitat niches. Acequias extend melting snowpack flows through water webs that assert the presence of wildness in the vibrant materiality of diverse species in niches across cultivated fields, orchards, riparian strips, wetlands, woodlands, meadows, and polyculture kitchen gardens of the farmers inhabiting this shifting mosaic. This signals a decolonial orientation or “un-possessive presence,” an adopted trait wherever a respectfully situated human person negotiates “going native” in a multi-species environment that eschews the snobbishness of human exceptionalism.

Keywords:   acequias, ethnoecology, epistemology, decoloniality, indigenous knowledge, land ethics, settler colonialism, relationality of wildness, cultural landscape, water ethics

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