The Salt River Winter Youth Gathering was held December 28-30 at Salt River High School during the winter break. The gathering was hosted by the Salt River Advisory Council for Children and Youth (SRACCY). This year the focus was on the O’odham and Piipaash cultures, to give the youth a chance to learn and embrace the Himdak/Uudoyshish.
“We’re really excited about how big the turnout was,” said Stephanie Manning, a member of the subcommittee of the SCRACCY. The first two days were for youth ages 13 to 17 from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Manning said, “We had 25 youth from the sister tribes of Ak-Chin and Gila River.”
Over the three days, participants had the opportunity to learn more about their traditions and ways of life from several invited presenters.
O’odham Basket Weaving was presented by Alice Manuel from the O’odham Piipaash Language Program (OPLP), who shared stories of her life as a basket weaver. She explained to those in her workshop how her baskets have traveled all around the United States and said, “People from all over really understand the traditional value these baskets have.”
OPLP O’odham Language Teacher Mary Garcia shared traditional stories with her workshop. The youth sat in a circle and listened as she went through several traditions and expressed the importance of keeping them alive. Garcia would also share songs and dances of the O’odham.
Tara Kisto, youth development specialist with the After-School Program, provided an introduction to making shell bead necklaces.
“What I thought was really great is that they got to take something home. The guys got to take a gourd home [and it was] a shell necklace for the girls,” said Manning.
Other hands-on learning took place when Ron Carlos and Gabriel Martinez, both teachers of the Piipaash language at Salt River Elementary School, shared the fine art of making gourd rattles.
Cultural Preservation Program Manager Shane Anton spoke about the history of the O’odham and Piipaash. Gila River Indian Community Historic Preservation Officer Barnaby Lewis told a story, The Story of the Blue Coyote, in O’odham and translated it into English. Lewis said he hopes that the youth will retain some of these stories and continue to pass them on to their children, grandchildren, family and friends.
“I thought it was fun. There were a lot of presenters to get the youth involved,” said Jr. Miss Salt River First Attendant Ki-Ana Reina on her thoughts about the youth conference.
And even the youth got involved in sharing their knowledge on social dances. Youth Development Specialist Anita Rivers said, “The Youth Council held a few classes on a few of the social dances on the last day.” The members of the Youth Council helped other youth with various activities during the conference.
Assistant Director of Cultural Resources Roberta “Bobbie” Carlos taught the young females how to play toka, which is an O’odham game strictly for women.
Overall, youth had good things to say about the conference and learning about their culture and traditions.