Education in Poorer Areas

I had a few thoughts about what education means in poorer areas such as in and around the reservation.

  1. They should have access to education of the same quality and caliber as any other student in America, or at least that state. But what specific pedagogy do you use? I don’t mean to sound elitist, but I think the schools in the area should offer the minimum general education requirements and then focus heavily on teaching and certifying technical skills. These are realistically what the people from these area are able to find work in,  work that is vital to the community. Offering other courses such as those found at at W&L that are a bit more “fluff” like art history, music, drama are really not too useful to them. But if a student from the reservation would like the opportunity to study them, how do you prepare them when you focus on technical skills? I was very glad to hear the community college has an informal agreement with Arizona State and U of A to transfer students.


2. Culture. While I just said that the more “fluff” subjects be de-prioritized at the expense of technical education, I do believe that there is a place for education dealing with formal study of the student’s culture. Formal language , history and culture courses are essential if they want to maintain their culture. I am also impressed with how well they accommodate outsiders at the college. I saw they only had an about 85% Amerindian enrollment and the rest was other races. These people are given an amazing opportunity to study the culture. This is impressive to me because my own tribe (Kickapoo) limits who can and cannot learn about the culture, the language and the worldview.  Even I can’t learn the language. I applied to learn it when I read it was listed as an endangered language. I was denied because I am Kickapoo maternally, and they say culture must be passed through a male relative to be valid.


3.  After education, what’s next? This is the one I really struggle with, because I hope I can make this choice one day. After you graduate, after you get a great job, do you go back to help the place you grew up in? As we say in the water management office, it makes a huge difference to the community. If not it will face a massive “brain drain” where education may flow in, but the net benefits are realized elsewhere. As we also heard, they took a big pay gap when they went back to help their community. How can poor communities make themselves a valid option for the educated, the successful to come back and reinvest themselves in the society?



Any thoughts form the ECON portion of the class, I am super curious about #3


The Ranchero who shut down a border

Growing up on the border, I crossed the bridges between the Eagle Pass, Tx, and Piedras Negras, Coah. probably over 1,500 times. (twice a day for every day of school). My grandpa was even immigration chief for my Mexican home district.

Despite this, I had very rarely seen an trouble with the system, that is to say I had only seen the border shut down once in my life and I don’t really remember it. It was during 9/11. Despite my many border crossings, about 99% of them have been through a legal port of entry where each country agreed to set up formal customs and immigration authorities. (1% swimming in the Rio Grande, sometime even with friends whose parents are US border patrol). When we saw the San Gabriel gate my reaction was originally to be freaked out. What the hell is a gate doing that is unguarded from one side?


Hot take- when I heard about the man who owned the property and had actually welded the gate shut to prevent the movement through it, I thought I would have done the same if this were the case on our ranch on the border. I would not have tried to sell them the ranch through,  I just don’t want my home to serve as a hub for illegal crossings.


Did anyone ask him what he thought of having an unofficial border crossing on his property, especially one under the turf of the Sinaloa Cartel? (El Chapo’s people) I would be scared shitless. My ranch is one of the two places where people can cross the usually 100 ft. wide and strong currented Rio Grande on foot and we have the same problem, but with the Los Zetas Cartel.


While the Tohno are right in saying this was their land first, I find the argument of their right to free and unrestricted movement to Mexico absurd as a Mexican citizen claiming they have a right to move to Houston or San Antonio. (Both previously Mexican territory). The land was conquered and they should have no claim to it in Mexico and therefore no unrestricted access to an actual  sovereign country. Mexico for this reason does not recognize the sovereignty of indigenous lands.


We also have to take into consideration the sad fact that the living conditions of the Tohono coupled with their American recognized status have made them prime targets to be recruited as human and drug smugglers. I have met some back home in Texas- can you really blame anyone for not wanting that in your backyard?


I do not think that closing the gate was a solution, or even an attempt at one, but rather an unfortunate side effect of a broken immigration system and a bi-national failure on the war on drugs, with the Tohono caught in the middle. It wasn’t their fault, it wasn’t the rancher’s fault. Everyone acted rationally, can you really blame anyone for that?

Paternalism in Anthropology

I noticed that many times when we were discussing the culture of the Tohono and of the surrounding communities, we would have a native person give their experience on the subject t hand. This however was followed by an American explaining the more complex nuances of the situation. We saw this at the museum and especially at Ajo. Both groups of people were especially hospitable and I am very grateful they were so open to talking with us, but I almost have a sense that there was some paternalism in the actions of the Americans. This is a common problem in many places that have suffered colonialism, but I wouldn’t think I would see it so close to home. When I think of post-colonial paternalism, I think the former Rhodesia or the Dutch Indies, and even Latin America, but I don’t think the US. I don’t know why I had never thought of this, given we are all familiar with the history of colonialism spanning into the early 20thcentury and continuing now with Puerto Rico, Guam, Marshal Islands, etc.



There has to be a balance to being able to tell the story of not only Native Americans but all marginalized groups of people. While I agree that it may be necessary to have a white person help spread the story (given we live in a white hegemony), it’s not theirs to tell. I am reminded of Prof. Markowitz’s experience working with the Smithsonian, where a white institution aimed to do well and tell the story of the marginalized group but in their own way as opposed to the way the Tohno wanted it told.


Is this a problem faced by other exploration societies and museums, is National Geographic? Discovery? The American Museum of Natural History? Are all of these institutions complicit? I don’t know, but National Geographic released a special edition in 2018 that dealt with their history, especially on their earlier issues depicting the hierarchy of races with pictures from a Sub-Saharan expedition . But how do we really deal with this problem? While an apology is definitely a step in the right direction, it really doesn’t address the issue. We can’t expect every society studied to be able to review everything written about them like we can. We can say confidently that many of the most remote tribes and peoples that are fetishized and exoticized by explorers writing about them don’t have subscriptions to these publications.


I feel at minimum if you study a society you should do so objectively firstly, and then you should be able to provide the people the final draft of the results for their approval before publications. After all, it’s their history, and you want to make sure you have it right. To this end, I feel this is mutually beneficial.

More Archaeology (=

Defensive wall of the Pueblo Grande ruins. 70cm thick at base. Mixed limestone and motar. 9 ft tall.

N 33° 26′ 42.77”

W 111° 59′ 02.56″

Exterior dwelling wall at Casa Grande, adobe, no inclusions, no wattle visible. No bricks visible. 35 cm thick at base. Pueblo III and Pueblo IV Eras.

N 32° 59′ 37.52″

W 111° 32′ 37.52″

interior corridor, casa grande, adobe. 80 cm thick at base and at max hight. no bricks visible.
Exterior wall, casa grande, adobe. 80 cm, no bricks, built up from ground, not placed or daubbed
Saguaro support beam over the corridor in casa grande, adobe.
Broken tool, most likely a hand axe at casa grande. Greenstone or granite. found in northwest quadrant of building before the big structure.

N 32° 59′ 40.02”

W 111° 32′ 13.99″

Ponchie- the friar who baptized a cow

For my thesis I want to use archaeological data to reconstruct the life on a proposed Franciscanmission site in Mexico. However, the rocks and broken artefacts and only say so much. I really had to talk to someone who is currently living this. I needed to talk to a Franciscan friar who lives in a mission that serves an Indian community if I really wanted to see what I was expecting on the site in Mexico. I understand that evangelization has “progressed” from the 18thcentury to modern day but there must be an underlying modus operandi in the order that would ensure some continuity and uniformitarianism.


There did seem to be. Ponchie mentioned how he was there a guide. He never proselytized but rather catechized those who came to him, but he never went to them. He mentioned how this was a basis for the Franciscan order where instead of preaching, a missionary would go live with the “heathens” and then they eventually come to him. I found this interesting but I don’t think this would have always been the case, especially during the colonial era. Kino was Jesuit, not Franciscan, so the Tohono first had a different approach tried on them. Either way, it proved effective, with about 85% of the native population identifying as catholic. Ponchie did mention how while they are “Catholics” there is still a very strong influence of their culture and have never really been instructed fully in the catechism. For example, he was asked why he baptized a cow during Easter. He was originally taken back by the comment but then he remembered he said grace over the cow before it was killed and butchered for the dinner.


There was also the time he was asked to re-baptize a teenager. The mother came in with her son pleading he be re-baptized (a huge no-no for Catholics, it’s literally in the Creed). Again, his first reaction was “WTF”, but then he had to talk to her down and refuse, offering the anointment of the sick in the place of a baptism. She was pissed. This seemed to happen all the time. They are “Catholics” almost in name only. The Tohono still seem to have their own beliefs and they follow them in conjunction with at least exterior catholic influences.


Also, Ponchie went to Berkley. That’s awesome. He mentioned that’s where he learned to deal with more diverse opinions.


SAGPRA Ethics?

I also asked Peter about my other question, are the O’odham actually biologically descendant of the Hohokam? He shrugged and said “they say they are”. He mentioned the lack of real evidence to establish a very clear chronology of the settlements of the area. Quite frankly, I don’t think given the current archaeological evidence we can ever make solid determination. Especially with the rise of SAGPRA, this issue has come into question. Should the modern O’Odham have a legitimate claim to the burials of Hohokam if there is no solid evidence establishing them as the historic next of kin? This is further ethically compounded when you take into account the removal of archaic and prehistoric (Clovis) era human remains from what is now the nation. Do the O’odham have a legitimate claim to these artifacts? Should they have a claim to any and all artefacts found on what is now their reservation, including Spanish and American historical artefacts? Who knows if there is a right answer to these questions?

Lastly, I asked if there is any current DNA work being done on the artefacts or the modern O’odham themselves. This may be the only way to establish a link between these two groups as well as provide invaluable evidence that could be vital to healthcare of an medically underprivileged group. He mentioned how there is currently a complete moratorium on all genetic research on both of these groups. They discussed it as a tribe for the same reasons and decided against it. There was no rational provided for this decision but there is the growing trend against such work calling it “bio-colonialism”.


I got to talk to Peter today, the de facto archaeologist for the TO nation. It was awesome to have an in-depth conversation with a person who shared my niche interest of historic and colonial era archaeology. My first question regarded the recent work of the small mission site that was discovered half on the nation and half on adjacent land. The site represented almost a chapel as opposed to a mission site like that of San Xavier, but was known to be founded by Father Kino on his first trip to the area but the exact location had been lost due to the adobe being eroded by the rain over the last 3 hundred years. When it was finally discovered, it was done using an aerial survey technique, where a Franciscan and Jesuit friar went up in a plane and flew in circles over the proposed site as described in the oral history of the people of the area. They found long straight lines in the middle of a flattened out area of the desert and sure enough, it was determined to be evidence of human habitation after ground proofing via pedestrian survey. While this discovery, made by friars working for the Arizona State Museum, was made over 30 years ago, they missed something huge. The site was actually used previously as an Amerindian religious gathering place since the Pleistocene and into the archaic period with continued use through the Hohokam and the O’Odham. This dude Kino literally plowed over the past 9,000 years of religious history to set up a auxiliary chapel.


On a more technical note, I was very curious about the ability to perform a ground resistivity survey in the area due to the very low level of moisture in the soil and subsurface. Despite single digit percent humidity, it’s not only possible, but the results on Spanish constructions of the colonial era are incredible provided they not be in the foothills of magnetite or ore-rich soils. This is due to the earth-packing system that was used to stabilize the foundation of wattle-and-daube structures, like early iterations of churches and dormitories.

Meeting the people

I’d forgotten the difference being unable to contact the outside world has on a person. Entering the reservation, I lost all signal, that coupled with no Wi-Fi left my phone useless, and I couldn’t be happier.


I left the mission to go walk around and explore. I found an old adobe single room house full of the slippers the coyotes and smuggles use to hide their tracts. Walking back, I saw a half buried wagon that looked from the 19thcentury on a back lot of a modern house. It was right next to what looked to be an old ramada. Both of these finds showed that we were without a doubt in the modern wild west. The one thing however that I feel (sadly) would distinguish this site from a gold rush ghost town was the abundance of plastic Old English 32 oz beer bottles around the site. I do not exaggerate when I say that I passed hundreds on my 2hr walk. They were everywhere and in every state of decay. Some where sun-bleached from countless days in the sun while others look like they could have been left last night.



The most impactful moment however happened completely by accident on my back to the mission apartments. I met a lady who had taken her 2 children to play on the swings. I was coming out of the thicket and just said hi and waved. She did the same thing then as I got closer asked her children to do the same. She was young, only 29 years old, and as soon as I got within speaking distance, she asked who I was. I told her I was a student doing research on the reservation and that I was staying here with a class but has just gone out to take some pictures. She smiled, approvingly, and struck up a conversation. She was visibly drunk, and for the duration of the encounter she continued to drink from a large opaque cup. She introduced her children as sunshine and lady. In almost the same breath she mentioned how they were getting out of a meeting to endorse the new candidate for chairman, but how she was unable to vote due to her being on parole. She did not elaborate, and I did not prod. When she spoke, she swayed a bit, but she looked at me directly in the eye. I have never met an Indian that has done that. In Mexico and in Texas, they either look away or look down, each with a serious face. This time I was greeted with a warm smile and a “dude”. She spoke unprompted on death. The death of her parents. She told me she had a feeling the day it happened, they didn’t look well that morning. Then she spoke about the death of her boyfriend’s parents, who were in a van trafficking 7 illegal immigrants to Tucson when a pickup truck swerved into their lane and killed the everyone except the mother, who died two hours later at the hospital. She asked me where I was from and I responded Texas, and then asked if I was a Sprus fan, to which I replied yes. To which she replied that a book had been written about the death of the community members as well as the migrants and that Texas was a nice place because her sister’s boyfriend is from there.


She mentioned how the reservation is a time bomb, waiting for the government to decide it wanted the land or to let the people on it die. She mentioned the safety concerns of living on the “rez”, while breaking eye contact for the first time to look at her children. She mentioned the drugs and the alcohol and that yes, she partakes, but she knows her limits now that her parents are no longer around to ration her per cap so she won’t spend it on a case a night. (I assume she meant the tribal disbursement per capita) I mentioned we share may of the same problems on the reservation of our people, and then told her I was Kickapoo. Her face lit up and she welcomed me in her language with a big toothless smile. She mentioned how she doesn’t typically smile because people might ask if she’s part of “Indian love” where she said that the men beat the women constantly. “I lost my teeth from cavities, dude, not because not man knocked them out.”


At this point, the children ran away and towards a man walking towards us. This was her boyfriend. She called him over to talk to me, and he did so, very politely after a very soft handshake. When he spoke to me, he did so like every other Indian I had met. He looked at the mountain ranges and when he spoke, he did so towards the ground. He was a basket weaver and his girlfriend a traditional turquoise jewelry maker. He loved to play the guitar and loved Guns and Roses but could play Beethoven better. He left after a few minutes of small talk, never looking directly at me, never smiling, but always very pleasant. He shook my hand weekly as he departed. I spoke to his girlfriend a few more moments, and then said good bye. She did the same but with a smile.

© Joseph Guse. All rights reserved.