background image

Winter Storytelling Comes to Life in Salt River

Camillus Lopez (left) and other story tellers visit the Community to share winter stories with interested members and guests at the Community Building.

The Huhugam Ki Museum hosted the Winter Storytelling event on January 14 at the Salt River Community Building. Storytelling is a tradition among the O’odham and Piipaash peoples as a way to pass down cultural knowledge and traditions from elders to the younger generations.

The many families that attended enjoyed a light supper of beef stew and lazy bread to enjoy while storytellers shared traditional O’odham stories. The event was originally planned to be held outdoors, but it was held inside due to rain.

These stories are told orally as opposed to being written down, and different stories are told at different times of the year. Guest storyteller Camillus Lopez of Santa Rosa first shared some of his background and how he became interested in the winter storytelling. He explained that the winter stories are not told during the spring or summer, because in the summer the animals could hear you and enter your home, versus the wintertime when most animals are sleeping and not out.

“I enjoy [storytelling] because of the reasons and/or morals as to why we do the things we do according to the myths,” Lopez said. “There are many variations to the stories I tell, and I also like to hear them as well.”

In one of the stories, Lopez explained how the O’odham looked at the sky as a dome and how other cultures believed we live in a turtle world under the turtle shell.

After each presenter told a story, everyone greeted them and thanked them for the stories they told during the winter storytelling presentation.
Another story was how Roadrunner stole fire from Tas (the sun) to help save the people, who were starving and dying from cold temperatures. Lopez explained how to care for the fire, which is a living thing and requires logs and twigs to stay alive. The story also explained why Roadrunner’s feathers are the way they are today, as a result of being shot at with fire-tipped arrows for stealing.

Another story was about the morning star, evening star and shooting star (meteor) and how they came to be. This story started with three orphans looking for a family, but only an elder taught them survival skills. They couldn’t marry anyone from the village because of how they were treated. With the help of a medicine man, each orphan became one of the stars.

“When something bothers you, tell the evening and morning star because they will be there every day,” explained Lopez. He also explained how the shooting star in the O’odham culture sometimes means something bad will happen (bad luck).

Another story was based on the Superstition Mountains and how there are sacred sites on a mountain, which are rock formations of people who were frozen in time. He also explained how the mountain originally was a part of another mountain nearby, but it was detached in the great flood and floated to its current location.

The presenter explained how many of the stories are based on Earth’s creation, and that it would take four days to go through the entire story cycle.

Other presenters included Michael Ennis, who sang and also told a story about medicine men, explaining how they would challenge each other about their knowledge.

Three other storytellers, students from Baboquivari High School, told stories about a matador and a bull, Rabbit and Coyote, and how the Dragonfly came to be.

“This was my first time attending the winter storytelling event. It was great to see so many Community members come out and take part in this cultural event,” said Community member Josette Martinez. “I brought my two nephews and my niece so they can start to learn about their O’odham heritage, and they really enjoyed the song shared by one of the storytellers.”

The night ended with a meet-and-greet with the guest storytellers. For information on more cultural events such as the winter storytelling series or future events, contact the SRPMIC Cultural Resources Department at (480) 362-6325.