Jay Courtney Fikes

Jay Fikes

Title: Social Sciences Educator

Location: Reno, Nevada, United States

Jay Courtney Fikes, Social Sciences Educator, has been recognized by Marquis Who’s Who Top Educators for dedication, achievements, and leadership in securing religious freedom for members of the Native American Church, who venerate the divine spirit in peyote.  Professor Fikes’ extensive research with Huichol shamans & Native American Church ritual leaders prepared him to defend their religious freedom, to publish ground-breaking books on Huichol myth, ritual, and shamanism and debunk the books of Carlos Castaneda, the consummate anthropological hoaxer of the twentieth century.

Dr. Fikes’ commitment to social anthropology developed in response to political chaos born from Vietnam war protests, assassinations of  President John F. Kennedy,  Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy and the 1973 conflict at Wounded Knee between American Indian activists and their adversaries. These tragic events prompted his lifelong research on what makes certain societies more cohesive and peaceful than 1960s America.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts in comparative culture from the University of California, Irvine in 1973, followed by a M. Ed. in bilingual education at the University of San Diego in 1974. At the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Dr. Fikes completed a Master of Arts in anthropology in 1977 and his Ph.D. in anthropology in 1985.

Dr. Fikes’ career in higher education spanned more than three decades.  In 2016 he resigned from his position as professor of social anthropology at Yeditepe University in Istanbul, after teaching classes there for more than fifteen years. Prior to serving at Yeditepe, he was a visiting Professor at San Diego State University in CA, in 1999, an instructor of research methods in the social sciences from 1985 to 1987 at Marmara University in Istanbul, an adjunct professor of anthropology at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, NM, in 1989, an instructor of anthropology at the United States International University in 1985, and an instructor of anthropology at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, CA from 1975 to 1976. He began his career in higher education in 1974, as a tutor for Palomar College, on the Pala Indian Reservation in CA.

Complementing his educational achievements, Dr. Fikes served as a land use planner with the Navajo Nation in Window Rock, AZ, in 1983. He applied his expertise on Native American societies while working as a lobbyist for the Friends Committee on National Legislation in Washington, D.C. from 1990 to 1991. While lobbying on behalf of Native Americans, Dr. Fikes established relationships with leaders of the Native American Church. They asked him to join them in persuading Congress to enact federal legislation to defend their religious freedom, because their sacrament, peyote, had been defamed by a landmark 1990 U.S. Supreme Court decision. His dedication to enacting the federal law which now protects their religious freedom prompted his being honored in 1994 with a Certificate of Recognition by the Native American Church.

Dr. Fikes plans to publish more about ways in which key cultural symbols shape personal identity in diverse social contexts, building on what he learned about Native Americans’ “key symbols” such as water, deer antlers, eagle feathers and peyote. Their celebration of mind manifested in nature unites them in performing rituals which emphasize their enduring partnership with ancestral spirits who sustain life. In contrast multi-cultural modern societies have certain symbols (Koran, Bible, Torah and national flags) which are divorced from nature and which often divide citizens or countries from one another. Dr. Fikes insists that anthropology must enable people in all societies to understand that their own profound emotional attachment to specific symbols is acquired via a universal human learning process and that all key symbols may be replaced or modified as social circumstances change.

Dr. Fikes is the author of “Huichol Indian Identity and Adaptation,” “Step Inside the Sacred Circle,” “Carlos Castaneda, Academic Opportunism and the Psychedelic Sixties,” “Reuben Snake, Your Humble Serpent,” “Huichol Indian Ceremonial Cycle” (a documentary film), “The Man Who Ate Honey” and “Unknown Huichol: Shamans & Immortals, Allies Against Chaos.” He co-edited “Huichol Mythology” and has written numerous articles for books and professional journals.

In addition to his political & educational accomplishments, Dr. Fikes has recently become involved in real estate investing through a Texas based corporation, Soils Organic Solution, Inc. He also celebrates 39 years of marriage with Dr. Lebriz N. Tosuner-Fikes.  They have one child, Leyla T. Fikes. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, yoga & watching films.


For more:

Press Release


Lifetime Achievement

Contact Dr. Fikes

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