We are excited to share with you some more details on our most current project: installing the Huichol Herbarium at The Huichol Center for Cultural Survival in Huejuquilla el Alto, Jalisco, Mexico. Why is this project so incredible? It is the first and only herbarium that will be entirely indigenous owned and operated! Herbaria, for centuries, have been primary tools of cultural appropriation, so giving this powerful tool to an indigenous community to use for its cultural preservation is a radical step forward. (Stay tuned for a future post hashing out the difference between this critical and often overlooked “nuance” between cultural appropriation and appreciation).
The Huichol People (also called the Wixárika by the people themselves) have lived in the Sierra Madre Occidental range of what is now Western Mexico for over 15,000 years. Throughout this entire time, they have actively resisted religious conversion during Spanish colonization and preserved their cultural heritage. Recently, they have been fighting to protect the San Luis Potosí desert and its sacred mountain, Wirikuta, against global financial interests. Although they have garnered international attention in this ongoing struggle, their community, land rights, and environment remain threatened. Our intention here is that the Huichol Herbarium project will help address these imminent threats by providing a critical facility to the Huichol people and their longstanding efforts to preserve and protect their cultural heritage, economic independence, and environmental stewardship.
So what is a herbarium anyway? [herb-]: a plant; type of vegetation + [-arium]: a location or receptacle for something = [herbarium]: a collection of dried plant specimens used for dozens of scientific and educational purposes. However, the Huichol Herbarium will also be legally-protected and equipped with seed bank technology so that the community may conserve traditional crop varieties and other endangered genetic material. Since the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival is already a centralized resource for about 20,000 Huichol people in Western Mexico, creating the herbarium here is a great location to keep this Traditional Knowledge (TK) in the hands of the people. Our anticipated “grand opening” of the facility will take place in September of 2017. In the meantime, we will be engaging in a large fundraising campaign and organizing several events this Fall.
We envision this project becoming a critical resource for the Huichol community in their fight to preserve their ancient culture. Interested in getting involved? We are looking for volunteers to help with fundraisers around the U.S. (Austin, San Francisco, New York City), with social media support, and are accepting financial donations. Contact our Director of Research, Jane Bradbury (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more details.