Blog Post Eight – Caving in the national park…well not quite

After a long trip, a few of us went hiking in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument!

As we strolled along the trail, the views were truly 360.  However, once the pathway ended, we decided to walk along a creek/stream/river that either once flowed with water or sporadically flows today.  Regardless, walking through the rocks was quite fun even though it probably was not the greatest for my shoes, feet, and knees.

Near the middle of the hike, Pat, Katherine, Professor Guse, and I hiked up a mountain and made it to a cave.  Professor Guse showed some great rock climbing skills as he quickly and easily made it into the cave.  Pat and Katherine made their way into the cave as well, just slightly less swiftly than the professor.  When it was my turn, I knew that either I just did not have the necessary upper body strength or lacked the will to quickly pull myself up such a steep slope.  Eventually, Professor Guse laid on his stomach with Pat grabbing hold of his legs to pull me up.  Finally, I was able to get into the small cave.

I must admit that looking out at the scenery from the cave was truly a great experience and a wonderful way to cap off the fun and memorable trip to Arizona.

(P.S. the picture above is the view from the cave.)

Blog Post 7 – Efforts to Improve the Economy of Ajo…

We had a tour of Ajo and listened to someone tell us about efforts to revamp the economy!

Ajo used to be a mining town; however, when the major industry ceased production, the area suffered enormous economic consequences.  Being from West Virginia, the story of Ajo is not at all unfamiliar to me.  Small towns are declining everywhere in America.  On top of that, people are continuing to migrate to the cities, concentrating the American population in urban areas.

As we walked through Ajo, I was impressed by the strategies to improve the economic stagnation.  The city has been putting a great emphasis on the arts, decorating the downtown section and encouraging people to stay in affordable housing and work on whatever projects occupy their time.  I also admired how the city is trying to improve the infrastructure and appeal to organizations needing office spaces or headquarters.

Even though I saw hope in Ajo, the strategies for economic growth will probably not have a significant impact on the area.  The reality of the changing locational demographics in America just means bad news for a place like Ajo.

Blog Post 6 – Small Scale Farming

In Ajo, we learned about farming, ate some great food, and enjoyed some prickly pear lemonade!

On Thursday, we began bright and early with a talk by a small-scale farmer and a Native American quite passionate about promoting traditional foods.  As we sat at the table, we got to try some tepary beans, “old fashioned granola,” and spicy things (I think they were dried chilis, but not 100 percent sure).  The foods tasted very good to me! In regard to the small-scale farming, I saw a lot of positivity.  For starters, I believe that people who farm have a greater appreciation for the natural world and the food they have to eat, and secondly, endeavors such as these are great for bringing local communities together!

However, I would be lying if I told you that I do not have reservations about small-scale / traditional farming.  First, the food that is harvested requires much more labor than what is needed on a giant cornfield in Kansas.  Furthermore, the prices of locally grown food are EXTREMELY high.  The flower pictured above costs 12 dollars.  While I think it is great that local farmers encourage people to eat healthier, many people would not be able to consume enough calories even if they dedicated their whole food budget to foods such as the flower pictures above.

I don’t mean to spread negativity in this post; however, this is what I thought during the food tour, and I want my blogging to be an accurate reflection of who I am.

Blog Post 5 – The Border…

While the border has always been an issue in politics, the election of Donald Trump undoubtedly increased public discussion about the issue.  Visiting the parts of American closest to Mexico will undoubtedly play a role in how I look at the issue of sovereign borders.

While we were on the Tohono O’odham reservation, I could not believe how many border patrol agents were monitoring the area with an EXTREMELY close watch.  I will never forget what happened during an early morning run with Pat and Professor Guse.  A few feet away from me in a large vehicle, a group of agents either stopped or significantly slowed down as I ran on the road, (I cannot exactly remember) and they all seemed to be trying to figure out who I was and what I was doing.  For a moment, I was moderately freaked out.

After listening to a guest speaker at the souther border, (Needless to mention, many dogs in the vicinity made me smile even though a part of myself knew that they have sad and unfortunate lives in the grueling heat.) I now have a deep understanding of the reasons not to build the wall.  However, I disagree with those who say that people can always go over or under walls – I believe that really big structures (the kind one can see on the borders between Israel and the Gaza Strip) undoubtedly impede movement.  Nevertheless, for me it comes down to a cost benefit analysis – will the reduction of the need for border patrol agents cover the costs associated with a wall which will only significantly stop migrants if it is a tall and extremely expensive barrier?  My gut feeling is probably not, and when you look at the harm a wall would do to the natural environment and the Tohono O’odham people, America definitely should not invest in a small wall.  As for a larger, more expensive structure, building such a thing would probably not be worth it.

Blog Post 4 – 7 hours later

Today, we traveled to the Tohono O’odham museum to hear a few guest speakers.  However, the expectations one would get by looking at the itinerary would be different from what actually happened at the meeting.

We entered a room at 9:00 am and listened to many speakers before a lunch break after noon.  Because the itinerary says that the event is scheduled from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm, I expected to be done shortly after eating. However, it was nearly 4:00 pm by the time the last speaker finished.

Throughout my life, I have always been one who learns primarily through reading and observation. For whatever reason, my mind just does not function well when it comes to listening.  Textbooks are 150% more vital to my learning than teachers.  As you can expect, seven-hour lectures just are not my sort of thing.

However, I must admit that this post should not be perceived as an attempt to express frustration or vent negative feelings.  On the positive side, I must admit that I was very impressed by the knowledge, dedication, and determination of the speakers.  People spoke on behalf of organizations that promote public safety, natural beauty, youth empowerment, archaeology, and long-term planning. Nevertheless, there was one thing that frustrated me today: the speakers strongly emphasized concern for the preservation of culture and the natural environment while dedicating less time to discussing the physical health and financial prosperity of the nation.  With an unemployment rate above 25% and a per capita income of less than 10,000 dollars (part of my paper), I really wanted to learn more about issues along these lines.

While, the seven-hour talk was not my favorite part of our trip, I nevertheless feel grateful for the opportunity to have met many admirable people

Blog Post Three – The Importance of Education

Today, we visited the Tohono O’odham Community College and spoke with Paul Robertson!

Sitting around a room listening to the president (Paul Robertson) and a guy in outreach known as Danny, we learned a lot about the community college.  Later, two other employees joined us.  I was impressed with the amount of pride that those who work at the school take in it.  Furthermore, I felt that the employees have a strong desire for the students to succeed and genuinely care about those whom they seek to educate.

Having already researched education among the Tohono O’odham, I already knew of the community college before experiencing it firsthand today; nevertheless, many things caught my attention.  On a handout given to us, I saw how those graduating from the community college are experiencing significantly less unemployment.  I was also glad to hear about the amount of grant money being offered to the community college.  By and large, I got the impression that the Tohono O’odham Community College greatly values educational efficiency.  The school wants to enhance the skills of the students in such a manner that minimizes costs. For starters, the buildings are simple and modest, and secondly, the college does not seem to provide the excessive non-academic amenities found at other institutions.

Although the community college will not solve the developmental problems facing the Tohono O’odham overnight, it nevertheless serves as a beacon of hope for future generations to have more upward mobility.

Blog Post Two – Angelo Joaquin and San Xavier

On Saturday, we visited the San Xavier Reservation and talked with Angelo Joaquin!

While the interior of the Church was truly amazing, the highlight of the day was undoubtedly sitting on the bench pictured above and listening to Angelo Joaquin.  He gave such a great overview of the prior oppression endured by the Tohono O’odham, modern issues facing the nation, and recent developments within the tribe.  Looking out over the reservation and hearing the stories told by a man who has witnessed firsthand the lives of the people whom we are studying resonated intensely with me.

Among the topics covered by Joaquin were water issues, financial struggles, conflicts with the US government, strategies for economic growth, and the spiritual relationship between the Tohono O’odham and their land.  Clearly evident in a large part of the talk was how the industrialization of the United States and the rest of the world has had a lasting impact on the tribe.  Not only does climate change impact humans’ ability to use renewable resources but it also harms things (the saguaro for example) which play a role in what some consider to be spiritual matters.

As I walked around the church and stared at the surrounding mountains, I could not help but think about the harm done by the clash of cultures between Native Americans and those who set the groundwork for today’s society.  After doing research on poverty among the Tohono O’odham, a part of me experienced a sense of frustration.  However, I also see hope for the future, knowing that strategies such as casino building and educational opportunity will increase well-being.

Blog Post 1 – The Life of the Hohokam

On Friday, we visited Pueblo Grande and Casa Grande.  I have never had any interest in archaeology, but the day nevertheless gave me a greater appreciation for the field of study.  I must also admit that having prior knowledge about the Hohokam made the remains much more meaningful.

At Pueblo Grande, I got my first direct glimpse of the Hohokam people and their ways of life.  (On a somewhat related note, I also got my first dose of the reality known as the Arizona climate).  It is truly amazing to me that a group of people prospered for many years in the suffocating heat and bright sun.  ( If I had to guess, I would say that they probably did not have sunglasses).  Even more remarkable to me is that the Hohokam could utilize the land for farming without many of the modern technologies we take for granted, such as GMO’s, synthetical fertilizer, industrial machinery, etc.

Both Pueblo Grande and Casa Grande offered impressive architecture.  The mound at Pueblo Grande had a variety of sections, each serving a different purpose.  As we walked through the ruins, I imagined all of the people who came before me and did what was necessary for their survival and prosperity.  Many people just do not realize that societies such as these were quite organized and complex.  Casa Grande, pictured above, really was a “grand house.”  The two things that stick out to me are its height and its engineering.  I wonder how much engineering the Hohokam knew.  On a similar note, I also think about whether the society strategically built the building, using a basic understanding of statics and the laws of physics for example, or if they just knew that the materials would keep the structure in tact.

While Friday was not as thrilling for me as it was for a certain other person, (not going to name names, but willing to say that he carried around archeological sticks) Pueblo Grande and Casa Grande thoroughly impressed me.

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