Our hike near Baboquivari did not go the way we expected. From the start we were following ill-defined cattle trails and by the end we were scaling a mostly unmarked landscape. We did get to soak in some incredible views and enjoy nature but we ended up far from our destination. While I was trampling across dense underbrush I developed an appreciation for the skills the Tohono O’odham must have in order to navigate the mountainous desert. The largely desolate landscape originally led me to believe that hiking would be easy. This could not be further from the truth. With less landmarks and clearly defined trails navigation becomes difficult in the Tohono O’odham homeland.
When I was researching for my paper on Drug Smuggling I came across articles and literature that mentioned how difficult it is to track smugglers across the desert. From our experience on the hike I can understand why this is an issue. Even if you can see your destination it can be very hard to know how to make it there quickly and effectively. This is where Tohono O’odham knowledge of the environment becomes very useful. For both smugglers and law enforcement the ability to get Tohono O’odham who are familiar with the environment on your side must be a huge plus. If law enforcement is to effectively prevent illegal immigration and drug smuggling they must work with the tribe to understand, respect, and navigate the desert.