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Huhugam Ki Museum Celebrates 30th Anniversary

The next generation of bird singers and dancers enjoy dancing during the Huhugam Ki Museum's 30th Anniversary Celebration.

On Saturday, October 7, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s Huhugam Ki Museum celebrated 30 years of preserving the history and lifestyle of the Onk Akimel O’Odham and Xalychidom Piipaash. The all-day celebration provided fun and a walk down memory lane for many who were reminded of where they came from and the legacy their ancestors left for them and future generations.

In the 1970s, a group of basket weavers made it known that they wanted to preserve the culture and traditions of the Onk Akimel O’odham and Xalychidom Piipaash. The Pimainum Museum emerged, and a loan of 30 willow baskets alongside a gift store was available to visitors, until that museum closed in the late 1970s.

In the 1980s, Community member Alfretta Antone felt it was necessary to find a permanent location where Community members and visitors could learn about the Onk Akimel O’odham and Xalychidom Piipaash. She and a group of key Community members learned that the Community Youth Home would soon be vacated, and this became what is now known as the Huhugam Ki Museum, or the “House of the Ancestors.”

The museum currently has on display baskets, grinding stones, photographs, pottery, a bow and arrow, farming and cooking utensils and jewelry. It offers classes from time to time to Community members who wish to learn traditional cultural arts and crafts or cooking techniques. The museum also built a shade house and a pit house made of mesquite, cottonwood, saguaro ribs and other local plants.

30th Anniversary Celebration

The event kicked off with a JROTC Marksmanship Presentation by the Salt River High School JROTC. Then came a flag-breathing ceremony presentation by the Salt River Police Department, Salt River Fire Department, Vietnam War veterans, Afghanistan War veterans, Korean War veterans, the Ira M. Hayes Post 84 Honor Guard and Legion Riders from Gilbert. Each group carried a flag, including the USS Arizona flag. An aerial salute was also performed as aircraft performed a fly-by. This portion of the celebration honored and remembered all Community veterans.

“What will we leave for our grandchildren, and what will they leave for theirs?” asked SRPMIC President Delbert Ray, Sr. “We are here to honor and to remember what the [Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community] is all about. The key is this building here, the Huhugam Ki Museum. We have to remember who we are as O’odham and Piipaash and retain and preserve who we are. This is our bank of history.”

President Ray continued, “The last time I was in [the Huhugam Ki Museum] I saw my grandparents’ pictures. We go in there and we identify with these things. We find comfort; we find confidence as a people in who we are. To many of us, this is more than a museum. The museum was created to research and preserve the history of the Salt River and Lehi district through photos, pottery, stories and other things. We’re able to look at who we are as a people and where we’ve been—it’s all in the museum.”

Various speakers and dance groups took the stage throughout the day. Huhugam Ki Museum, long time employee, Sharilyn Belone, provided highlights and her insights on the changes and growth of the museum. The entire day was fun-filled, with food vendors, arts and crafts, a celebration feast and a chicken-scratch dance contest.

“These are our aboriginal territories. We were not a migrating tribe. It was by villages with our sister tribes, and we had to figure out how to connect with each other. The way society is, everything is paced on time. Going forward you got to teach your families the traditions and the language. It’s not just the museum or the cultural department—if someone that you know in the Community has this knowledge, learn from them. It’s up to us as individuals,” said Council member Archie Kashoya.

What do you remember about the museum?

It’s good we get to see a lot of different parts of our culture, the Piipaash and O’odham, and just right now we [finished] dancing Vospo, so that was something that a lot of people don’t know. I myself, I don’t know Vospo, but seeing this group from the Community who took the time and effort to learn Vospo and bring it to this event and show everybody else, I think that’s really great to see. I want to see more of that happening in the Community.

I just remember [the museum] kinda always been here my whole life. You know even as a young child, just walking through and getting to see how things have been updated and how things are changing, but also it’s familiar. It’s a part of who we are. I remember as a child playing in the museum and getting in trouble.

It’s really great. I’ve gone to a couple of the First Saturday artist showcases they have here, another Community member said. It’s great to see it becoming more of a center for the Community and learning more about the different artists from the Community, their different skills, and their different traits.
-Miss Salt River 2017–18 Mikah Carlos

I remember a couple years ago, [when I purchased] one of my favorite jewelry pieces. [The museum] has really big shells and different unique-looking shells. Every time I wear [the jewelry I purchased there], I get super complimented, and I know the museum always tries their best to represent the culture, especially in their jewelry. It’s something a lot of O’odham women are known for. Shopping is my favorite memory.

I used to intern for the repository, which is a branch for the museum. I did that for five summers. That’s something I was really interested in. I actually even told them I’m going to go to school for this, and when I come back I’m going to take your jobs! I’m trying to be the archivist; let’s see how that goes.
- Community member Elisa Briones

I like the classes that they have there. I took the ce:mait-making class and I took the lazy bread class.

When I think about the building itself I think about Grandma Selma, when Selma Andrews was the cook there.
- Community member Esther Moya

I remember when they used to sell the food but then it used to stink because of that sewer thing was right there too. Yeah that big sewer thing was right there and you’d stand in line and you’d smell the sewer but you’re waiting for your food.
- Community member Dorine Andrews

When I worked at the police department, this building was first a youth home. I remember coming to the youth home a lot and seeing the children there. It was run pretty well. I was glad that Frances taught them how to do beadwork and other kinds of Native arts and crafts. It was sad that the children were placed here, but it was a good thing that they weren’t sent off the reservation. It’s really a building that was built really good. I watched it being built and they really took care of it when it became a youth home. It was really solid, cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
- Community Member Jeryl Reina