The Voice of a Nation

On Saturday we visited the mission at San Xavier and observed the beautiful Catholic Chapel established by Father Kino. Overlooking the church was a religious mound with a cross upon the top. It was here that we had the privilege of meeting with a prominent member of the Tohono O’odham tribe: Angelo Joaquin Jr. He gave us our first in-person experience of the culture of the tribe and advocated for a return to the traditional ways for his people.

Shot from outside the historic San Xavier Chapel

Listening to him, it was hard to disagree with what he was saying. He cited multiple negatives that his tribe had experienced since their modernization. For example, diabetes is extremely prevalent, traditional ceremonies are becoming more and more infrequent, and the language is beginning to disappear. It struck me listening to him how many people he was talking for. It genuinely seemed like his only objective was improving the overall status of his tribe and his commitment was remarkable.

Angelo Joaquin talks to the class as Professor Guse adjusts the itinerary

His talk and the whole of the experience at San Xavier was a fantastic introduction to the reservation and a great way to ease into the culture. I look forward to delving deeper into the lands and experiencing even more.

4 Replies to “The Voice of a Nation”

  1. Yeah, that was a great meeting. I was really glad that we got to meet with Angelo. He is one of those rare individuals who has been able to turn his life experiences into wisdom. I’m paraphrasing a little, but one of the greatest quotes of the trip for me was when he said, “the great thing about not being particularly great at anything is that I was able to collect a wide variety of experiences”.

    P.S. I wasn’t adjusting the itinerary (although that’s not a bad guess); I was taking notes!

  2. The trip to San Xavier seems like it was so long ago, but that conversation has turned out to be significant at every turn. Everywhere we go, it seems like some aspect of what Angelo was telling us that day popped up, whether expected or not.

  3. You make an enlightening point about Angelo’s perspective; looking back, I realize a lot of the tribal leaders and members that we got to listen to were speaking for the greater community, such as Selso Villegas who talked about the issue of water and climate. This type of commitment to greater, community goals leads me to believe the the O’odham think that their problems can only be solved when they work as a small, cohesive unit, rather than many voices and opinions. Personally, I think this mentality stems from the belief that a loss of tradition in TON can be accredited to a loss of ownership and control by the O’odham once colonizers came to their land.

  4. Since his uncle was Joe Joaquin, a prominent elder, I am sure he has learned A LOT about his culture and the importance of staying connected to his roots. He has had the opportunity to learn all about the issues of the nation and how to combat them (while staying true to their roots) from a very important person on the nation. Him speaking of the nation as a whole just furthers the emphasis the nation has on being community centered. When it is a problem for one, it is a problem for all.

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