Placecenteredness. Belonging. Your lands.
I have many places that I call home. Washington and Lee University. New Orleans, Louisiana. Muskegon, Michigan. And, soon, St. Andrews, Scotland. While all of these places hold a special place in my heart that often pulls me back, I yearn for them the way I yearn for crawfish from New Orleans or to swim in Lake Michigan again. While I have a sense of loyalty and favoritism for these places, I see them as a part of me, not necessarily me as a part of them.
I do not have the ideology that is rooted in the Tohono O’odham perspective on their land. To them, the land has been there since the beginning and it is where they belong. They do not exist without their land and its Creator. However, I have felt since I was young that I would leave New Orleans and not return. Not because I do not love it, relish in the food, or miss my family that lives there, but because it is not inherently and crucially a part of who I am. I felt that I would find myself in the world outside of New Orleans, likely in lots of different places. No matter where the Tohono O’odham live, whether on the reservation, in a nearby town, or across the country, the feeling is that they are always connected to Baboquivari, to the saguaro, to the desert.
Perhaps in 10 years or more, I will find myself returning to New Orleans the same way that the assistant director of the Tohono O’odham Department of Water Resources did when he quit his job as a petroleum engineer at Exxon to return to his home. However, as of now, I still am content with wandering further from home, though, of course, never forgetting where I have come from.