A lot of us said that the reason we took this class is because we did not know almost anything about the Tohono O’odham or the history of Native Americans in general. Throughout the course, we have studied how the US, and Mexico, mistreated the Tohono O’odham by slowly stripping away their sovereignty by leaving them out of treaty negotiations, trying to assimilate them to the dominant culture, and often offering well-intentioned, but misguided help that ended up hurting the Tohono O’odham in the long run. We placed a lot of the blame, rightfully, on the US for not allowing the Tohono O’odham to have enough control over themselves, which resulted in a weakening of the culture.
However, we talked about this issue only with respect to the tribes in the US and did not have the opportunity to compare it to similar situations in other countries. For example, in Australia, where I will be spending part of the summer, there have been similar issues between indigenous peoples and encroaching settlers. Indigenous Australians were also forced to move due to settlers and in general have much higher rates of poverty, alcoholism, and drug abuse than the average Australian. Sounds familiar.
While I am staying on a Warlpiri compound outside of Alice Springs, Australia, I will have the opportunity to hear personal perspectives of Warlpiri tribe members and work with them as well. I wonder if their sentiments will echo the ones that we heard from a variety of Tohono O’odham people at the cultural center. Given this widespread issue of struggling indigenous peoples, it seems that if one community could be helped that a similar solution could be applied to other communities around the world. Clearly, helping indigenous communities that have been negatively affected by new settlers is a common enough issue that we should develop a method to help. Not that there will be one, end-all-be-all answer, but when people are suffering in similar conditions for similar reasons it seems like it is time to find a solution.
Or, maybe that is unrealistic because people have been trying for many decades to help their indigenous peoples and who am I to say that we need a solution when I do not have one to offer myself. It makes me wonder what it is that I can do to help. I don’t have money that I can donate to help them or launch a huge campaign to make sure people even know of about the issues so many people in our nation and other nations are facing. Not everyone can take a class trip to Arizona and spend time intimately getting to the Tohono O’odham people and their culture. I suppose I’ll start the traditional, millennial way with social media and hopefully I will come up with more ideas of how to disseminate the knowledge that I have only recently attained myself.
Thanks to Professor Guse and Markowitz as well as everyone who imparted their knowledge on us in Arizona!