our story

Tod Dillon Swanson grew up in Ecuador to missionary parents. 20 years ago, Tod and his wife Josefina, a Quichua woman native to Santa Urku in the Napo Province of Ecuador, began Iyarina, the Andes and Amazon Field School (AAFS). Iyarina means to contemplate the future by remembering the past. For the Quichua, memory is recorded in the land and they have relationships to it. Tod and his family created the school as a means to support these relationships. They wanted to preserve their environment and culture, enhance the livelihoods and practice the cultural traditions of their community all while learning through their relationship to it. The school is known for hosting the Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) graduate students interested in learning the Quichua language, Wao Tededeo and Achuar. The school is also a hub for undergraduate students and researchers wanting to study Amazonian Ethnobiology.

Our field schools operate as satellite research centers where we’ve linked our network with other indigenous communities networks. These networks are primary. They build off of the Quichua concept of the Ayllu, or community. The Ayllu is the basic social structure of the Quichua and, according to Tod Swanson, is for most of rural Ecuador. As such, information, connections, opportunities, money and social norms flow according to known relational networks anchored to a specific place. We work within this cultural current to incorporate international support rooted to place.

Our development program is inspired by the success and rooted in the principles set forth by Tod, his family and their vision with the AAFS.