Post #8: Final Thoughts

I had plenty of time to reflect on the trip while almost everyone else in the class was having a great flying experience courtesy of American Airlines. I used this time to lounge by the pool and do a couple blog posts, and think about the trip as a whole. I enjoyed the trip greatly, and I do honestly plan on returning at some point in my life. In a recent blog post, I mentioned that I feel a sort of requirement or duty to do something to attempt to help, and I think this will drive me to return. It’s difficult to learn so much about a culture and a group of people without feeling inherently connected, especially when this group of people is in an underprivileged situation. Poverty is an attack on human rights, and Native Americans are disproportionally facing this attack as a result of failed government intervention and in many times no fault of their own. The last few generations of Tohono O’odham and Native Americans around the United States have been born into reduced opportunity, born into reduced capabilities, and born into a situation of manipulation and oppression. This trip cemented my desire to contribute to social justice on reservations near my home and around the United States, and informed me greatly on a Native American group that I was unaware of.

Post #7: Ajo

Ajo was the perfect town to end the trip in. It was a very picturesque town in a beautiful area with a rich history. The mural project was awesome to see, in my town we have an alley called “art alley” with a lot of murals as well, and I love the use of otherwise empty space to voice ideas and contribute to art in the area. The art also simply creates a more beautiful, enticing space. I also enjoyed the tour and thought it was interesting and impressive how the Sonoran Desert Alliance was working to revive Ajo through many different ways. The Culley school was a beautiful, cool building and I could imagine myself staying there in the small desert town for a year attempting to write a book. The refurbishing of the school for low income housing was a cool way to attack the problem of homelessness and poverty as well as utilize a space that would otherwise be empty. The local farming was exciting and impressive because in America today most people are extremely disconnected from their sources of food, and to implement growing and connectedness in schools and in the community will help re-connect Ajo to their food. This is especially important with the extremely high amount of Native Americans with diabetes from the shift in diet to more western, processed foods. Planting and eating original foods that were grown in the desert has been seen as a deterrent or solution to the problem. The food and the shops in Ajo were cool as well and I enjoyed the whole of the town.

Post #6: Archeological Recovery and Repatriation

While we sat in the museum for a long, but fruitful, seven hours, there were many interesting things I learned. One of those things that Peter and a few others touched on and that I was reminded of throughout the trip was the amount of work and effort put into archeology, preserving artifacts, and essentially being the safekeeper of history/culture. It was fascinating to understand more fully the amount of work as well as gain a deeper appreciation for the things that archeologists and historians do. Archeology had always seemed to be somewhat of a dying field to me and I could not have been further from the truth. Another thing that was interesting to see was the amount of paperwork done to release reports on all types of things and how each agency had to read through a book full of reports before responding. I’m sure there is a massive amount of legal documents archeologists have to deal with just to mark a site for excavation or discovery, and that’s just the beginning.

Repatriation is another thing I got to see at a personal level, I had heard about the importance of it in locating artifacts but to see it adding to the history and being a key in preserving O’odham ways was fascinating. When Peter told us there was something coming in from Princeton and how many O’odham artifacts were scattered due to colonialism I couldn’t help but wonder how many artifacts were still in hiding or lost and how finally the O’odham were claiming their history back. Although by the end of the seven hours I was just straight up not having a good time, the information was very pertinent and all of it was worth it.

Post #5: At the Border

I have now entered another country and consider myself a world traveler. I wouldn’t call myself the most cultured man in the world, but some might. I thought I had achieved it with a simple step under the fence, but to my dismay, Peter told us it was actually a little farther back so I ran under the metal rod type fence. I found the border to be a very interesting visit and was honestly surprised at the type of patrolling and security surrounding it. I envisioned more of a fencing type situation or a more permanent border, but evident in the different places along the border we saw, it is more of a shifting type of border with patrolling cars along different areas. It makes sense when thinking about it, the Sonoran Desert is a large area and any type of fence would most likely be subject to weathering or simply tactics to get over or around it, so the best way includes a mix of a wall for things like car barriers as well as patrolling. From what was communicated by Kendall Jose and others we talked to about the border, and supported by facts, the remote desert areas experience far less smuggling than one would be led to believe because of the simply vastness and difficulty of traversing the long distances without being spotted. It was a great thing to be able to see because it allowed me to continue to shape my beliefs regarding the border and cemented the non-need for a wall. Crossed the border! (failed attempt )

Post #4: The Inherent Hypocrisy

Isn’t it funny how we, from one of the richest schools in the nation, went to learn from one of the poorest ethnic groups in the nation for the purpose of education. In anthropology and sociology and in studying impoverished and oppressed groups, there lies an inherent power gradient and hypocrisy. I would almost push this to the point that if we do not actively advocate or do things to solve the unjust poverty Native Americans and the Tohono O’odham face, then we have failed. We now possess more knowledge about the O’odham than the majority of the world, and in possessing this knowledge and having experts and residents take time out of their day to educate us, there may be responsibility with it. 38 percent of the Tohono O’odham are in poverty. Around 25 percent face unemployment. The real crisis on the border is the alarming humanitarian crisis unfolding in front of our eyes. And we’re going to chalk this up to a cool learning experience, or a nice trip to the Southwest. Don’t get me wrong, the opportunity and ability to learn about a resilient, beautiful culture is amazing, but I wonder about the opportunity of the O’odham to learn about the things they are passionate about. I wonder about the opportunity the O’odham had in the past to learn about themselves in boarding schools with their language and culture stripped. I wonder about the woman at the museum who told us many O’odham were scared or hesitant to teach their children their own language, in fear they would be punished for it. Becoming more educated about a subject can never bring harm, but I ask if there’s something wrong in seeing injustice and letting it slide. Of this we’re all guilty, and I don’t know the answer. 

Post #3: Youth Council

At the museum today when we learned about the Tohono O’odham’s efforts to involve youth and incorporate the younger members into political and overall issues the tribe is facing, I was impressed and excited for the tribe. This seems like a very effective way to encourage participation in issues and stir support or pride in O’odham ways as well as help create possible avenues for O’odham to pursue considering the low amount of opportunity and high poverty rates on the reservation. This seems like a very promising program and I could even see it helping across America in all neighborhoods to encourage civil participation and work in government. I think the incorporation of the Tohono O’odham youth has been correctly recognized as the key to preserving the O’odham ways of life and guaranteeing a passion for their heritage that has become increasingly easy to lose today. Although the O’odham went through periods where their heritage and culture were attacked through forced assimilation and boarding schools, with these types of programs there seems to be a resurgence of pride for the culture. It’s exciting to see and I hope that programs like these can revitalize this unique culture that has dwindled within the last hundred years.

Blog #2: Questions Surrounding the Wall

The following blog post is speculation and may be somewhat of a hot take:

The Tohono O’odham are caught in the middle of a racist administration attempting to scapegoat Mexican Americans as the problem in America. With the information told to us by Richard Saunders that the majority of drugs coming through the remote border areas are marijuana, it is increasingly apparent that the call for a wall and the crackdown on immigration is purely a political stunt. The executive branch and the federal government are not worried about marijuana, and if they were, they would’ve passed laws against states like Colorado or instructed federal agents to arrest those using marijuana in states that have legalized recreational use. The simple fact is that the US executive branch is falsely painting Mexican Americans as criminals and narcotic smugglers, while in reality the majority of those crossing on Tohono O’odham land are simple people, families, or at the most marijuana smugglers. Most narcotics and high-grade drugs are smuggled through ports of entry as told to us by Richard Saunders. Even more interesting, the idea that we should attack the entry of the drugs rather than cohesively looking at the reason there is a demand for dangerous drugs and attempting to ebb the flow at the same time, further points to a disregard for the actual health crisis and leads us to a see an irrational or quick jump to scapegoat a whole nationality. The border issue has been efficiently weaponized  by the Trump Administration. The Tohono O’odham are unfortunately caught in the middle, and while they remain vigilant and cooperative with border patrol in the area of drugs and violence, they are hesitant to trust a government that has so often disregarded their culture, way of life, and saw them as a hindrance in the scope of the world.

Post #1: Sonoran Catholicism

As we spent time at San Xavier Del Bac and when generally reading about the Tohono O’odham, I always find myself asking the question: why do the O’odham practice catholicism in any form, and are there still feelings of resentment involved? I, personally, don’t understand why they would incorporate catholicism when Spanish colonialism in general had a surplus of negative affects on the O’odham. In one of the articles we read about Father Kino, the author tells of a slaughter by the Spanish Missionaries of many O’odham, including innocent children and women. The story of white colonialism is brutal and horrific in many cases, including forced assimilation, mandatory boarding schools, and an overall disregard for the culture and way of life of anyone other than themselves. The famous Carlisle Indian School developed by Richard Henry Pratt, ran on the motto of “Kill the Indian, save the man”. Why then, were the O’odham more accepting and even embracing of catholicism and the Spanish ways?

Looking at many native American tribes, the O’odham were no doubt a very welcoming one. In the story of the Corn man, the O’odham women welcome him as a stranger and let him stay the night. Perhaps an open and loving culture could’ve led to the adoption of catholicism. Furthermore, because the O’odham were more open to the Spanish, the missionaries may have been more giving and understanding, and done what they could to help the O’odham. The Spanish interactions with the O’odham and the Apache for example were detailed very differently, and the O’odham even worked with the Spanish against the Apache. Because of this and evident in this is a joining of forces and an acceptance or a cohesion between the two. An in depth examination would most likely bring about a variety of answers, including the social acceptance and stronger cohesion, the introductory nature of catholicism and how new it was to the O’odham, and the new, easier way of life possibly introduced. At the end of the day, I still wonder why a tribe who suffered many deaths, were forcefully assimilated, had their culture disregarded and destroyed in many cases, lost land and wellbeing due to exploitation, and who suffered a plethora of negative effects still remained open and interactive with catholicism. Religion is interesting.


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