Juan Camilo Niño Vargas
Universidad de los Andes, Colombia


The simplicity commonly attributed to the Ette of northern Colombia disappears once the borders of human society are crossed and the relations maintained with other inhabitants of the world emerge. The existence of different ontological orders and the density of the network that bring together humans and non-humans is particularly notable in the cultivated fields. These indigenous people transform sacred forests into profane gardens and profane gardens into wastelands through an original combination of shifting cultivation techniques, including slash-and-mulch, slash-and-burn and fallow. While triggering those processes, they establish relationships of domination, reciprocity and subordination with rain deities and forest spirits, wild trees and crops, and, among other entities, game animals and bestial creatures. Far from being a set of knowledge and practices aimed towards the satisfaction of material needs, agriculture is permeated by the modes of identification and relatedness that shape the universe thought of and experienced by the Ette.

Keywords: Ette people, cosmology, symbolic ecology, shifting agriculture, modes of identification, modes of relatedness.