Monday, April 10, 2017

The Wildlife in Tohono O'odham Nation

One thing became abundantly clear to me through this class. To the Tohono O'odham Nation, almost everything in the desert is sacred. Every fruit, shrub bush, rock, tortoise, coyote, javelina, and cactus carries significant value to the Tohono O'odham. They have electrified every patch of their home with immense cultural significance. Every vista is a religious experience and every action is an act of worship. But as I scanned through my little field guide on wildlife in southern Arizona, I found my self tremendously sad. Some of the inhabitants, who made this desert so significant for some many were gone. Cougars and Mexican gray wolves, who used to roam the mountains, had not been seen here for some time. Several species of birds were gone too. In their places, the only animals which carry no cultural signicacne to the Tohono O'odham were in abundance, horses and cows.

Another thing, which became abundantly clear to me through this class, is that the land is changing, changing irrevocably. What happens when a population, whose entire culture centers on their land, loses their land forever? This is worse than displacement. Displacement could be reversed, the land is still there. The Tohono O'odham face the the possibility of their land being changed into something else entirely. It is unfortunate really, Arizona sits in the middle of a huge chunk of land which is liable to morph into something new. As the earth's climate warms, the Sonoran desert specifically will receive significantly more rainfall. New species of flora and fauna will begin to thrive in the area, and the desert, with its unbelievable beauty and importance will be lost. Additionally, human intervention has and will, most likely, continue to introduce invasive species into the area which further alter the desert. Buffelgrass already threatens so much of the equilibrium of the desert. It takes everything the National Parks Service can do to keep the species off of the Saguaro National Park. Furthermore, continued sprawl from Tuscon and other population centers (its cheaper to build out than it is to build up) will continue to shrink and separate ecosystems. Species like the mountain lion and gray wolf, most likely, aren't coming back to the area, and more species will continue to be lost. Tortoises and Saguaros will continue to be killed by immigrants, and, if something isn't done, the Tohono O'odham people will lose everything, because to them the land is everything.

1 comment:

  1. While horses and cattle are not native to the Sonoran Desert, I'm skeptical about your claim that they carry no cultural significance for the Tohono O'odham.