According to one theory, the humpbacked flute-player that is
so common throughout the American Southwest, is a representation of a
historical pattern of lone traders traveling long distances to trade and swap
stories among various peoples. The hump on his back represents a pack full of
seeds (according to the Papao/Tohono O'odham people of the
Here's a description of this theory as told by Sharman Apt Russell (Songs of the Flute Player, Addison-Wesley Publishing, 1991: p.38--this IS a professor's blog after all--I'll try to keep citations simple and clear!):
"Most archeologists agree that Kokopelli 'diffused upward'
from the south to northern
So, what does any of this have to do with my travels?
Kokopelli has always been an important figure to me--one of
the earliest bead necklaces I made for myself has a kokopelli figure on it.
I seriously considered writing my dissertation on "genetic erosion" in food
seedstock caused by increasing corporate control over our food systems.Years ago I wrote a few dozen pages of a sci fi novel set not too far in the
future when corporations control the seedstock of all plants, and raising your
own food is considered a violation of patent law, and the people who make that
possible are "kokopellis" who carry seeds across the borders of corporate
This trip, I'm doing the same--bringing a few packets of seeds (sunflowers especially, as requested by Mami Petrona when I last visited) across international borders--hope they get through in my luggage.
I also feel like one of my roles is to go to hear and gather
stories about life in another part of the world and share them with my
community in MN-WI, with my students, with the scholarly world; as well, I want
to share stories from my community and place with folks in Ecuador--the two
times I've visited Saraguro, the people who have become my friends have been
very curious about what life is like in my country and in my place. Perhaps
this small exchange is part of what makes new kinds of "globalization from
below" that serve human interests instead of "globalization from above"
serving primarily the interests of capital and the elites who control it?
So, I'm a "techno-pelli," carrying good will, stories, a few seeds, way too many gadgets (one of the nicknames I've been given by Anita, my beading teacher in Saraguro is "un hombre of muchas cosas/a man of many things), a battered Olds Ambassador cornet (the folks in Saraguro play flutes way better than anything I could do!) and hoping that by these small steps towards cross-cultural understanding I can contribute my meager talents and voice to a more holistically connected world where people treasure their own places, as well as the stories and places of others.