|On Saturday, May 16, an opening was held for the Xalychidom Piipaash Nyvaash, previously known as the Lehi Cry House Project. Xalychidom Piipaash Nyvaash means “Towards the Water People’s House.” This facility, located northwest of the Lehi Cemetery, is a place where Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community members can host wakes, memorials and funerals in Lehi.
The project started in 2009, but it had been a dream for the Community for many years before. The SRPMIC Building and Planning Committee, various tribal departments, contractors and architects, and key members from within the Community all helped to make this 13,600-square-foot facility a reality.
SRPMIC representatives in attendance were President Delbert Ray Sr., Vice-President Martin Harvier, and Council Members Deanna Scabby, Jenelle Howard, Archie Kashoya, David Antone and Michael Dallas.
The Xalychidom Piipaash Nyvaash consists of two separate buildings: the Cry House building, which measures 5,500 square feet, and an adjacent dining hall, which is 8,100 square feet. Both include traditional design elements, such as the main doors facing east and red and black colors that signify traditional pottery. The combined facility can hold 300 people and has 110 parking spaces, a commercial kitchen and a surrounding patio area with landscaping that helps make the environment peaceful.
The opening event kicked off with a prayer by Community member and SRPMIC Building and Planning Committee member Leon Washington and a welcome by Michael Dallas Sr., SRPMIC Council member and the emcee for the event. Council Member Deanna Scabby also offered her remarks about the project.
“The reality is today. It’s a beautiful day. I think it was meant to be; the rain [came to] cleanse that land and bring the Earth refreshment. Today we are here to acknowledge and to share this building, which was a huge endeavor. Everyone who comes here is always welcomed, and [I hope that] you can find peace here,” said Scabby.
She went on to describe the design philosophy behind the project. “Some of the things the Committee wanted [to incorporate were] enabling the Maricopa people to pay their respects appropriately; they wanted to continue doing what we have culturally done over time. They wanted to keep things simple, like the old days; they didn’t want it to be a big project. They wanted to be able to accommodate large families, like we have in our Community. Consideration and respect for both traditional and Christian beliefs were also incorporated; the Maricopa are both. This is what was factored into planning this building,” said Scabby.
She added, “The Committee also had some rules for the project. They wanted everyone to participate wholly—anybody that had something to say was given respect, and decisions were made in the best interest of the Community. As far as symbolism, they wanted the building to have black in symbolizing the pottery, and that has been factored with the gold and the yellow at the top [of the building].”
Community member Ron Carlos also offered his remarks and elaborated on the significance of the Xalychidom Piipaash Nyvaash.
“Cry houses are always [located] next to or near a cemetery. That way there isn’t driving back and forth, like we’ve been doing [in] the past. People used to burn their houses down or tear them down if someone passed away, and then move away. The purpose of the Cry House is to stop people from doing that. We have the Cry House so we can use it over and over. We want everyone to be comfortable. A long time ago we didn’t have this; [whether] it was cold or hot, people had to suffer. The building is plain because it’s not meant for a celebration or a big party.”
The event ended with a closing prayer led by Community member Lorna Ray, and a luncheon was made available to all those in attendance. The dining area was full of Community members, who also enjoyed bird dancing and songs.