Final Hike and Ride Home- Blog #8

It is finally our last moments in Arizona (where has the time gone?) and we are gearing up for the long journey home. We went on a hike in the Organ Pipe National Park and we got to see a cool, new species of cacti that we had yet to see. On the hike, we took a trip into the middle of a canyon, and Arizona did not fail to provide on the beauty. It was peaceful sitting in the middle of the canyon just listening to the hummingbirds fly past. We even got to see the first (and only) puddles of the trip. They were filled with little tadpoles. The wildlife in the Sonoran Desert is endless and amazing. It was yet another unique experience.

Then we spent the afternoon in Ajo where we had an extra few hours to see more of the beauty in the town. The city’s central plaza is visually appealing looking into the courtyard from the Curly School. And we had another amazing burger from the Farmer’s market. But our time in the quaint town was winding down quickly,  and we eventually had to move on.

So we picked all our bags up and moved to Phoenix. There we had a very spicy dinner at a Thai place (still think we should have gone to Rudy’s, Eric H. will back me on this one). We laughed about Jacob mistakingly ordering a spice level of 4 thinking it would be mild. Then we all definitely did not cram finishing our rough drafts the night before they are due and got a great night’s rest. Then the following day we flew home through 2 separate storms, finally getting into Lexington in the middle of the night, wrapping up a great trip. Sad to see it end, but it undoubtedly a great time.


Ajo- Blog #7

On Thursday, we learned about all the agricultural techniques used in the Sonoran Desert and the plants unique to the region. We even got to try some of the traditional foods, including mesquite flour, corn flour, “granola,” beans, and for those brave enough, chili pepper seeds. After seeing tanner choke on those, I was not inclined to try them. But I did however push away my picky eating for the morning to try the bland traditional beans of the desert. My second ever bean experience was quite tasteful, but I can guarantee unless it is those same beans, I will not ever eat them. Then we toured the urban gardens, which reminded me of the urban gardens from home. I think it is surprising that plants are able to thrive in this heat in the middle of a courtyard, but its techniques like this that show fresh food can be grown anywhere. Finally, we ended with a stop at the Ajo farmers market where I had a phenomenal burger.

Later that day, we got a tour of the small town of Ajo from the ISDA. It was interesting to see how they are trying to revive their old mining town through art. They provided ample opportunities for different artists to thrive in the town. I loved seeing all the murals throughout town and knowing that is how they are going to make progress moving forward. It really livened up the town as a whole and made every corner intriguing.

Border/ Kitt Peak- Blog #6

So, I finally had the opportunity to step foot in Mexico, even if it was only for about 3 seconds. On Wednesday, we went to the Mexican-American Border where we got to see the difficulty the Tohono O’odham people have when travelling throughout their own lands. The wealthy ranch owner on the Mexican side installed a fence that prohibits the Tohono O’odham people from travelling through their land. Vice chairman Kendall Jose spoke of an instance where the Tohono O’odham people had to carry a coffin over the border fence to be able to bury them on the Mexican. It is powerful to hear them tell stories of moments like this where their culture and tribe’s will to adhere to it overcomes every obstacle.

Later that day, we drove up almost 7,000 feet on the side of a cliff to Kitt Peak Observatory. The outlook onto Baboquivari and the desert of Arizona. Up there the air was chilled and the wind blew hard, which was a change of climate for the hot, dry air we had been experiencing. Once again, the beauty of Arizona is something you must see to understand. It is easy to understand why the land is so central to the Tohono O’odham culture. It is merely impossible to look at beauty such as that and simply ignore it. The top of Kitt peak will forever be one of my favorite views.

First Hike and Bill Broyles Dinner- Blog #5

Walking up to that mountain, I had no idea what we were about to get ourselves into. In my head we are going to be on a narrow path through a million different species of cacti and finally come face to face with a rattle snake. But the hike continued and we never saw a rattle snake. Though, we did see a million different species of cacti (so at least I was right on one thing). We never made it to the top of that mountain, but we did drive up to the top of another mountain. I began hiking up and found myself sitting at the top of several rocks starring into the distance, taking it all in. It was the type of scenery you have to see to understand. 

Then came Abby and I’s 3 hour intermission (or nap), rightfully earned after hiking for almost 5 miles. 

We then ended the night with a talk from Bill Broyles. He spoke with great knowledge about the Tohono O’odham people. But what I noticed the most from his talk is how greatly today’s controversial and modern political topics effect the Tohono O’odham people. Grappling with climate change and the border debate, the Tohono O’odham people are stuck directly in the middle of the battle for justice. 

Talks/ Mission- Blog #4

You can hear people talk about the traditions, culture, or even problems regarding their nation, but you never fully grasp the extent of their life until you are placed directly in it. The US society is focused on connection to one another through internet and political society. But on the Tohono O’odham nation, they are more focused on the presentation and continuation of their traditional ways placed in a world of 21stcentury problems. They are forced to reconcile their traditions with the pressure of a developing society. Joe Joaquin described his full belief in the success of his traditions and the skepticism of the outside world. As a class, we had the opportunity to understand the life of these people through conversation. We were directly placed into their lives and learned about the issues they face. We heard their voices and the passion that fuels it.

We were also given the opportunity to stay directly on the reservation in the San Solano Mission. From the outside, the church appears to be abandoned and run down. There are collapsed buildings and run down playgrounds. But inside, it is a home to migrants and friars. This is the connection they have to the reservation, providing a home for those passing through. It makes me thankful to have an opportunity to spend time on such an integral part of the reservation. While there, Grayson and I explored the area around and found the beauty in the land, especially with Baboquivari standing tall in the distance. We also had a unique opportunity to see the carpet shoes used by migrants to cross into the United States without leaving footprints. There are the memories you cannot experience elsewhere.

Tohono O’odham Museum- Blog #3

They always say a picture is worth 1,000 words, and after looking at the pictures and artwork in the Tohono O’odham Nation Culture Center and Museum. The old adage rang true. In every painting or picture, you could see the great joy the Tohono O’odham people felt with their ceremonies or fear they had of things turning bad if the ceremonies were not followed properly. The pictures showed the history and connection the Tohono O’odham people had with their roots and land. For our society in the United States, it is easy to lose focus of our roots and erase history from our minds. It is hard to imagine a society dedicated to preserving their historical roots.

Another aspect of this museum is their tribute to the brave souls form the Tohono O’odham nation who fought, and some who gave their lives, to defend our nation. After years of being impeded upon by the United States/Mexico, there were still individuals still willing to go defend us and their own people. When reading the reasoning behind their motivation for fighting, one said she went in fear of their land being taken by Communists. Though she was motivated by fear of communists like the rest of the nation. They wanted their sacred land to be protected. From back then until now, the Tohono O’odham people still hold the same argument. They just want their land to be protected.

San Xavier- Blog #2

Growing up Catholic, I was always taught that all Catholic churches across the world were the exact same. But after stepping into the Mission San Xavier Church today, that statement just did not hold true. The striking differences that I notices were the lack of the stations of the cross and paintings/figurines of Native Americans who appeared to be worshiped or treated equal to other saints. This truly showed the blend of Tohono O’odham culture with the Catholic faith. This church, like most Catholic Cathedrals, has exquisitely detailed carvings and decorations throughout the church that draws the attention of a viewer frontward and narrows their looking toward the crucifixion or a saint. The extravagant nature of the Catholic church still held true.

Saint Francis, an important saint for the Tohono O’odham people, had his own shrine on the left side of the church. They had a carving of his body laying at rest in all white. Typically, Catholics would go pray in front of these shrines and ask for the assistance of the Saint in their life. This just shows the importance of Saint Francis to their culture because he is the chosen Saint that is asked to help the Tohono O’odham people. While there, I saw several people going to light a candle at the foot of the shrines of Saint Francis and Mary or already lit candles. In the Catholic faith, a lit candle indicates that someone is praying. This just shows the amount of prayers that had been offered to these Saints, typically asking them for help.

On a less analytical note, the animals at the Desert Museum were awesome.

The Grandes- Blog #1

Today provided a new aspect to the way I viewed the lives of the Hohokam people. It is easy to imagine these people living a very basic life, barely surviving of the land (Not to mention I only imagined Arizona as having tumbleweed and an abundance of cacti). But staring up at the complexity of Casa Grande and hearing about the effort that was put into the construction of Pueblo Grande, my mind was completely changed. I now saw these people as incredibly intelligent in the way they were able to use such little material to make elaborate villages. They were able to thrive in a desert as an agricultural community. In both villages, they had a mechanism set up that perfectly shined light through holes on the Summer and Winter Solstices. Every detail of their lives was thought out in ways that today’s society does not have to account for because our technology.

But my favorite part of today was seeing the exotic wildlife and plants of Arizona. The saguaro cactus was honestly breathtaking. It’s like Arizona’s version of a really pretty oak tree. I saw my first ever javelina. And I even got to see my first ever owl. Whooo (pun intended) would’ve thought that sighting would occur in a desert. Looking out of the window while driving down the highway made me realize how the indigenous communities had such a strong bond with the landscape.  

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