Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Ocean and O’odham Salt Pilgrimage

In Joe Joaquin’s interview (Markowitz 2000) about the Tohono O’odham Salt Pilgrimage he said, “The salt was always a part of us. We needed the salt in order to sweat. When you eat salt, you sweat. This made it good for the health also.” Joaquin asserted the importance of salt to the health of the O’odham people, and he reaffirmed the O’odham idea of being intimately connected to their food, which was a part of them. He mentioned that it was a place where a young person would “come here to obtain a vision from the sea. As I was saying about the sea, everything is about the ocean. So they would come with that in mind to request to the sea for some kind of a vision that would be beneficial to him and his people back home…” The desire for a vision was both a personal quest and desire to learn how one might use one’s life, and a community mission so that one could help one’s people.

 Joaquin emphasized the necessity of coming “with a clear mind, clear conscious as to what you want to achieve by this trip.” This imperative mirrors the mindset with which one must go to other revelatory places such as I’itoi’s cave on Baboquivari, where one must go without negative thoughts but with reverence and respect. One also takes offerings to I’itoi’s cave just as offerings were taken to the ocean (Bernard Siqueiros).

The journey was three days, but was a “journey of endurance” (Joe Joaquin). The travelers had to “always sleep with their heads toward the direction of the ocean and must not spill a drop of water from their canteens or they would be punished by floods. Pilgrims were not allowed to talk while on the road” (“History of the Puerto Penasco Area” by Andrea Addison-Sorey). This type of fortitude reflected a cultural value of perseverance and strength, like that explained by Sterling Johnson when he described his experience working for two days straight in the 115-degree heat. Although the Salt Pilgrimage may not still be practiced, the traditional value of endurance remains.

From a personal standpoint, it was interesting visiting the biosphere, recognizing its vastness and imagining what it must have felt like to be walking through that terrain barefoot and in a straight line around giant craters. Then, of course, one could imagine arriving at the sea and seeing it for the first time to request a vision to help the community after days of difficult walking. Somehow being in that space, particularly the biosphere, helped me better understand the juxtaposition of different landscapes with which travelers would have been confronted. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Kristin for this post about how our visit to the El Pinacate Biosphere brought home some of the things that Joe Joaquin said about the salt pilgrimage. I was hard enough, as you know, to drive a minivan through that landscape. Walking for days with little water and no conversation presented an entirely different kind of challenge. Having been there makes it a little easier to understand why it must have been a truly life-altering even for those young men.