Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Purpose-Driven Spirituality and Threats to the Salt Pilgrimage Tradition

While learning about the structural obstacles limiting the proper practice of the Salt Pilgrimage leaves a disheartening feeling in the pit of my white American stomach, I take solace in realizing that, because the Tohono O’odham people pass down the knowledge of the tradition to those who seek understand the ritual, the culturally significant Salt Pilgrimage can still continue. The knowledge and customs of the sacred pilgrimage is supposed to be orally transmitted. However, the readings from Andrea Addison-Sorey and Ruth Murray Underhill present different histories and written explanations of the significance and spiritual process of the pilgrimage that could be tailored towards a scholarly audience. The knowledge may be transmitted unconventionally, but it causes to me to consider that perhaps the increasing scholarly historiography is still incredibly important in order to preserve the culture of the Tohono O’odham people when they are prevented from practicing the Salt Pilgrimage in the traditional way.

The interview with Joe Joaquin and the poem from the Ocean Power collection shed light on the crucial cultural and spiritual power of the Salt Pilgrimage as a coming-of-age ritual meant to inspire revelations and be completed with a clear sense of purpose. The enforced borders that cross the O’odham disturb the sacred land, peoples, and spiritual traditions. Joe Joaquin’s bitter acceptance of situation is painful and cannot be concealed in his responses. The tone of the interview that shows the depressing state of spirituality is echoed in the ocean poem: “We are not ready to be here / We are not prepared in the old way.” The Salt Pilgrimage must be inundated with and motivated by purpose. Yet, how can the Tohono O’odham instill this sense of purpose in the youth when two governments prevent them from adequately practicing their ancient, land and water-based spirituality?

Monday, January 30, 2017

Interviews with people on the Border

I strongly recommend this series of video interviews produced by the Arizona Daily Star in July 2016.


They asked a wide variety of people including some from Tohono O'odham nation four open ended questions about the border and proposed policy changes.
1. What has changed on the border over the last 10 years?
2. Is the border secure.
3. What would a wall along the border mean?
4. What would you like people to know about the border?

The interviews are accompanied by a series of stories related to the border.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Land: Sacredness and Cash Crops

There's no question that Native Americans have a special relationship with the land. Vine Deloria Jr and Clara Kidwell explain that Native American land is sacred because the people feel a deep connection with nature.This connection lies both in the physical and religious importance of the land. Although relationships with land vary among different people, it's difficult to understand the extent of this relationship and whether Native Americans have the same connection with the land as their ancestors.

Traditionally, Native American tribes treated their land with respect by only cultivating what they needed. However, if connection does indeed entail respect for the land itself, this raises the question of whether cash crops hinder that connection. According to the Tohono O'odham tribe, land doesn't belong to anyone because nature is not a possession. But once the Akimel harvested wheat to sell for a profit, they utilized the land differently. The land no longer was used purely for survival but rather for economic purposes. Compared to the pre-colonization period, this relationship is much different. Now Native Americans treat the land similarly to farmers because the land is now an economic resource. Does this mean the Tohono O'odham now think the land is owned? Since the O'odham tribes do continue to acknowledge that the land is a living entity, they don't think its necessarily possessed. However, the harvesting of cash crops does make the O'odham tribe's physical connection from the land different from hundreds of years ago. Now, the tribes manipulate the land for the sake of economic improvement.

Also, the O'odham's connection with the land is much greater than the physical. Native Americans believe land is sacred. Tribes view areas of land as inherently holy or a site of great spiritual importance.  Therefore, do cash crops affect the sacredness of the land? Although inherently religious sites like ceremonial areas aren't used for harvest, land formations the tribes consider holy are affected. These formations are grasslands, mountains, and valleys that Native Americans attribute to a higher power. However, their spiritual value is negatively affected if they are also meant for economic purposes. Thus, cash crops do lessen the sacredness of some land forms because their meanings for Native Americans changes. What once was land either untouched or used sparingly now aids in the economic prosperity of tribes. Therefore, the spiritual value of the land is not the only reason why the O'odham respect it. This alters the way in which Native Americans connect with the land and how they view the land itself.

Friday, January 27, 2017

One of the most sacred elements in Tohono O’odham culture is the Saguaro Cactus.  They believe these cacti are the reincarnation of humans.  Before the rise of commodity foods, and still to an extent today, the Saguaro’s provided an essential food supply and the materials for a wine ceremony.  The wine ceremony consists of consuming fermented Saguaro fruit pulp until nausea is induced.  Then people go out into the desert and vomit into the earth.  This is said to bring about rain over the summer months.  The ceremony is just another example of the Tohono O’odham’s culture of giving back to the earth. 

The gathering of Saguaro fruit and production of the wine follows a rigid process and order.  The fruit were knocked from the top of a cactus using a Saguaro rib, and fell into a bucket.  This bucket was then carried back to the gathering groups central meeting spot.  Here it is then processed into a syrup.  Two buckets of raw fruit and a bucket of water produces about a quart of syrup.  The families who produce the syrup do what they want with it, whether selling it or saving it.  But they always set some aside to contribute to the collective pot for the wine ceremony.  A few days before the ritual, the syrup set aside is collected and brought to the place where it is refined into wine.  Then every convenes at that location a few days later, having found out about it by word of mouth.  Then come a few days of singing and wine consumption until people “throw up clouds”, or the white, foamy combination of Saguaro wine and stomach acid.

Gary Nahban, "Throwing Up the Clouds: Cactus Wine, Vomit, and Rain," from The Desert Smells Like Rain

Thursday, January 26, 2017

NYT: Tohono O'odham Nation obstacle for Trump's wall.

Here's an excerpt from the NYT peice.

"There’s a slight problem with President Trump’s Great Wall with Mexico: the Tohono O’odham Nation.The Native American tribe controls about 75 miles of the border of the United States and Mexico that slices through its sovereign territory. Tribal leaders are already saying that the wall is not going to divide its territory."source: 

The article is not the result of new reporting by the NYT.  They rely on this story from Native News On Line:


Nevertheless, it is clear that Trump's Wall will focus national attention on the Tohono O'odham Nation.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Figure from Russell of Pima red-on-buff pots mentioned by Ezell:

Access to Haury Paper mentioned by Ezell