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?