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CRD News

Intro to Arch: Gila River Indian Community's Weaving Legacy

On the evening of Tuesday, November 7, 2017, at the Lehi Community Center, ladies from the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) came and shared with us a short film on the GRIC’s basket weaving legacy.

Monica King, who works at the Huhugam Heritage Center, introduced the film and told of how they applied for a grant from the Institute of Library and Museum Sciences to document the Akimel O’odham weaving legacy and the history associated with it, recognizing and identifying known weavers, interviews with their family members and reminiscing of how it used to be done.

Ms. Delphia Graves shared her knowledge and experiences she has encountered throughout her many years of weaving. Ms. Henrietta Lopez shared what she is learning as a new student of weaving, although she did learn some of the weaving as a young adolescent girl growing up in Gila River.

Upon the conclusion of the film, Monica synopsized the film, some questions were asked of all our presenters and they left us with an invitation to join them and come weave, regardless of whether we were seasoned weavers or new learners. They will be forging ahead to keep their project going.

If you are related to or have memories of weavers or are aware of historic weaving events please contact Monica King at (520)-3500 ext. 423.


OPLP Halloween Bingo a Howling Success!

Particpants for the monster parade show off their costumes during Halloween Bingo.

On October 19, 2017, participants joined the O’odham Piipaash Language Program’s quarterly bingo held at the Salt River Community Building. The program broke records this year with a total of 215+ participants who attended the event. Halloween Bingo is the largest event the program hosts through-out the year. It is a family oriented event where individuals who may have never have heard the languages, can be introduced to them in a fun setting. This event also allows the students who have been attending the language classes to hear the vocabulary they are learning or have learned in previous classes.

Many people came to participate in the bingo, walk in the monster parade, buy food from our vendor (the Salt River Girl Scouts) and enjoy an evening of hearing both the O’odham and Piipaash languages. The program always provides crayons, staff who will help first-timers and cheat sheets so that everyone can get a visual of the images and see the languages written in our newly adopted orthographies. Although the program and community have been using these orthographies for over twenty years, we continue to advocate for the importance of writing in our own languages.

Through the years, the O’odham and Piipaash Language teachers have called upon many different guest bingo callers. Sometimes they are fluent speakers. Other times they are previous or current students in the language classes. This gives the new learners a chance to practice their language skills. If you and your family are interested in the next bingo please keep checking our events calendar on our site for more updated information or upcoming classes.


The Huhugam Ki Celebrates 30 Years

Posting of the colors to kickoff the Huhugam Ki Museum 30th Anniversary Celebration

The Huhugam Ki Museum held its 30th anniversary event Saturday Oct. 7, 2017. The morning started out with making tortilla dough for the afternoon feed. There were 30 volunteers that showed up, from the elderly to the young, to make over 700 tortillas in a 2 hour period. Dayworkers setup canopies, tables and decorated the tables with centerpieces made by the senior services. The centerpieces were made in the shape of the traditional sandwich houses. The workers and staff put in a good 3 hours of preparation before the crowds began to arrive.

The event started out with the veterans program. The flag-folding ceremony included the USS Memorial flag representing World War II. The Korean campaign, Vietnam War, Desert storm, Afghanistan and 9/11 flags were all represented. A bugle call, 21 gun salute and a fly over from the Falcon Fighters wrapped up the touching ceremony. The crowd was also treated to a blast from the past. Maria Chavez did a baton twirling routine to a piece from the ol’ Salt River Indian Band. The band was once a main point of pride for the community and there are few members left.

After this solemn and touching ceremony, words of wisdom on the culture and traditions were given by President Delbert Ray and Councilman Archie Kashoya. They stressed the importance of the community and its history. Sharilyn Belone, who has worked for the museum close to 30 years, then shared her memories with the crowd.

The event was then open to everyone. Dance groups included: Salt River Steppers, Vahki Dance Group, Vospo and Dancing by the River. Goodie booths were open, and Porky’s Cantina Food truck gave the crowd additional food choices. Arts and crafts vendors had beautiful items for sale and numbered over 14. The museum gave away gifts to the crowd. One give-away item was a blanket commemorating the 30th anniversary and was reserved for those 70 years and older. T-shirts with the same design were given out as well as cloth bags with the anniversary date in a beautiful teal color.

There was a feast at 4pm. The menu included pitted beef by the Roundhouse Café, squash, potato salad from community caterers, tortillas from the 700 that were made that morning and white beans made by the Huhugam ki museum staff. Tamales made by community members during the month of September and frozen were also handed out. There were steamed throughout the day and ready for the over 400 people who got a chance to eat.

What is dinner without desert? The Huhugam Ki ordered a special cake which was a replica of the whole museum building. It was made by community member, Sarah Chiago, and took her over 3 days to complete. Jell-O cakes with strawberries were also handed out so there was plenty to go around. And after dinner, how about a little dancing?

The band, Gertie and the T.O Boys, lit up the night with their vibrant sounds. The band include the usual suspects, but to make it special they had a mic’d violin to play with them. The sound was enjoyed and loved by the crowd. The last fun-filled event for the day was the dance contest. Four couples, 16 years and up, competed for a top money prize and trophies. The winners were picked by a group of judges that included Ron Carlos, Sharilyn Belone and Colleen stone. Gertie and the band played until 8pm. The dance floor was filled a lot of times and everyone was in a joyful spirit for a wonderful day.


CRD Garden Crew Heads to New Mexico

This summer the CRD garden crew had the privilege of attending the 21st annual Traditional Native American Agriculture Association Sustainable Communities Design Course in Northern New Mexico. The course was taught over a two week period, which included in-class study and lectures, combined with hands-on, in-the-field training. The course also provided site tours of ancient agricultural fields, once cultivated by the Pueblo communities indigenous to the area. The CRD garden crew had the opportunity to listen to many speakers during their visit; all of them offered great insight to the subjects they presented on.

Attendees represented indigenous communities from as far as Belize in Central America, Canada, California, Texas, and Local Pueblo communities from New Mexico were also present. There were even a few other tribes from Arizona Represented.

A big contributing factor to success in the design course, is understanding the dynamics of polycultures (multiple crops in the same place, providing diversity) and how the diversity can be beneficial to the overall health of a system. The relationship between all things within an agricultural system (including the people) is important. Attendees were immersed in this philosophy throughout the course, being required to camp on-site and work together as a community.

The trip to Tesuque was very inspirational for the staff to visit and would be for anyone with a small garden. It was inspiring to witness the amount of seed, medicine, and produce being grown on a small tribal farm. The diversity of the site was very impressive. They utilize the wild annuals as part of the system and not something to be weeded out, choosing to spend more time and effort on production than keeping the site weed free and groomed. Perfectly groomed symmetrical rows of weed free fields like many of us are used to seeing are often the product of large scale commercial farming and not representative of traditional agricultural practices.

The CRD garden staff is thankful to have attended this training. They returned with renewed enthusiasm and an expanded network of resources. They look forward to applying what they have learned in the continued development of the CRD community garden


Youth Tortilla Camp

Students making tortillas in the early morning

The Huhugam Ki Museum brought out some standby classes for the community to prep them for the upcoming 30th Anniversary Celebration. Sharilyn Belone, Education Teacher, held her first tortilla camp for the youth. 6 students in the age range of 9-12 years arrived every morning for a week at the early hour of 6am. Students were taken through the steps of making their own dough, from the mixing of the dry ingredients to the tenuous kneading of the cu’i va:ga (dough). Mrs. Belone showed them how to do this under her watchful eye for the first two days. On the third day they were on their own with no hands-on assistance from either Mrs. Belone or Ms. Candice Manuel, her assistant.

The camp was open to both girls and, boys and for two hours daily they were immersed in the art of making tortillas from start to finish. Mrs. Belone told stories of her youth and how she learned how to make tortillas when she was 8 years old and continues to this day. Her experience was a strong example for the children on how to learn something and do it well throughout your life. At the end of the camp, all the hard work paid off as each student was awarded a certificate of completion, sturdy mixing bowl, small tray and flour-sack cloth to cover dough balls.


Piipaash Dress Making

During the month of July the O’odham Piipaash Language Program (OPLP) hosted a Piipaash traditional dress making class. The class was offered to SRPMIC community members and was held in the main classroom at Cultural Resources. Hilary Richards instructed the class, with assistance from Leota Standing Elk. Hilary is a former student of the OPLP dress making classes and a student of the Piipaash Language Classes. Her confidence in sewing and the language helped her to instruct this class.

In addition to teaching some of the Piipaash language that is used while making a dress Hilary also incorporated various methods for using a pattern, sewing a top and skirt, as well as some sewing machine etiquette.

The class participants finished the class with a completer traditional Piipaash dress as well as more knowledge of the Piipaash language.

For more information on upcoming classes and language learning tools explore our website.


A Traditional Game

Gins/kinse pieces during a game of gins/kinse.

On July 11 and July 18, we held a Gins (O’Odham) or Kinse (Piipaash) class here at the OPLP. This traditional game is similar to the modern board games, Sorry or Headache, where players advance spaces according to the number rolled on the dice. Instead of being on a board, however, the spaces are holes dug in the ground. Instead of square six-sided dice, the traditional dice consist of four pieces of cactus rib or other wood with specific designs denoting their values. This is traditional gambling game was considered a man’s game, but class was open to any interested individual with the desire to learn. The first night consisted of learning the point system and markings of the handmade dice. Once the students were familiar with the point system, the students began to play a couple rounds of the game. The next portion of the class consisted of the students carving their own traditional dice and burning the correct markings on them. There was no gambling involved in the class, but it was fun just the same. If interested in learning this traditional gambling game, feel free to contact Ron Carlos at the OPLP.


Sandal and Piipaash Cape Making Class

The O’odham Piipaash Language program hosted many classes this summer. Among them were the Sandal Making Class and a Piipaash Cape Class. Both implemented the use of language associated with the crafts. The Sandal Making Class was held on June 21 & 22. The language program provided the materials for each student and also provided with a word list for students to learn words for colors, materials and actions used to make the sandals in the O’odham Niokĭ. The Piipaash Cape Making Class was held from July 3, thru the 27. This eight day class also allowed each student to learn to learn words for the colors and materials provided. This beginning class introduced the simple design of how a cape starts and continues. This allows the learner to see the simple interlaced pattern used to create the cape.

Thank you to the participants who took the time to attend the class. If you or anyone are interested in our upcoming O’odham or Piipaash language classes please visit our calendar (link) for more info.

Sandal Making Class (Instructors: Daryl Jay/Michelle Johnson)

Participants making traditional sandals
  • Deja Acosta
  • Carmen Benally
  • Laberta Collins
  • Yvonne Enos
  • Georgia Goodwin
  • Elicia Jackson
  • Judy King
  • Arianna Osif
  • Angel Ruskin (+parent)
  • Vii Washington (+parent)

Cape Making Class (Instructors: Michelle Johnson/Diane Cashoya)

Participants making traditional sandals
  • Crystal Banuelos
  • Renee Banuelos
  • Carmen Benally
  • Alea Davis
  • Yvette Gates
  • Kaylene Lewis
  • Brienna Myore
  • Tanya Myore

Tamale Time

A favorite of the community, tamale making, was taught twice this year. In June and July, Cecilia Antone “Tweety” and her daughter, Angela, came into the museum’s kitchen and showed adults the process of making the delicious staple. Masa was mixed, corn husks were soaked and shredded meat was turned into the filling for the students’ tamales. The museum offers the classes but has the students bring their own meat. The variety includes, beef, pork and chicken. It’s up to the class whether or not they want green or red but either way, it is always hot. While the process looks easy, it’s time consuming. Mrs. Antone tells of how her grandmother would slaughter her own beef, grow the corn, make the masa, use the husks from the corn field, and it would take a week to make hundreds. All the family pitched in and then when the tamales done, her grandmother would go into the community and sell them for a nickel apiece.

After the class, the students would no longer look at making tamales as a small feat. Mrs. Antone advises that the students plan out their days and set up when they have some free time to devote to making the tamales. “When you plan out what you’re going to do, then you can have an assembly line and have your family help you, grandkids, brothers and sisters…” She believes this helps to keep the process from becoming too burdensome. “Plus it gets the family together.” After the students finished their tamales they were given a lunch of tamales that Mrs. Antone brought from home and which she began steaming at the beginning of class to show them how to do it correctly. All students were encouraged to keep practicing and to make more tamales, as that is the only way they will become better. To help encourage the students in this new venture, they were all invited to participate in tamale making sessions during the month of September. At these sessions at the museum kitchen, they will get together to make tamales to feed the crowd at the 30th Huhugam Ki Museum Anniversary Celebration on October 7, 2017. All tamales will be frozen, and on the day of the event, students and teacher will come together to steam them for everyone to eat. There will be one more class held on August 26, but everyone is welcome in the month of September to learn and brush up on tamale making. For more information call the Huhugam Ki Museum.


Summer with Salt River Recreation

This summer the O’Odham Piipaash Language Program partnered with Salt River Recreation Department to offer culture/ language classes to the Summer Day Camp participants. Classes were held in conjunction with other Special Interest Classes that were offered and participants were able to choose the class they wished to attend for Summer Day Camp. Each session had a number of students from ages 6-12 and classes were held twice a week.

Classes were taught by Daryl Lynn Jay and were focused on the use of the O’odham Ñiokĭ. Participants all learned to play Bugatalig (Trouble) using words and phrases in O’odham as well as Hemako (UNO). In addition to the games the participants learned numbers, colors, some commands and greetings and were introduced to O’odham social dancing as well as Waila. Each session was full of fun activities and all participants were encouraged to teach their family and friends what they learned each week.


SRPMIC Officially Adopts Writing Systems for O’odham and Piipaash

Red Mountain - CRD Shield

On June 7, 2017 the SRPMIC tribal council unanimously voted to adopt two official orthographies, one for O’odham and one for Piipaash. An orthography is a system of symbols used to write a spoken language. Most people would simply refer to this as an alphabet or writing system. The adopted orthographies have been used in the Community for over two decades, but had never officially been adopted until this week. The O’odham Piipaash Language Program had advocated formal adoption in the past, but the recent momentum in this effort was advanced by tribal council. Council expressed that they wanted to see consist spelling by the tribal government and schools when information is distributed to the public in our native languages.

Since most Native American languages are oral by nature, with no writing systems until just a few decades ago, adopting orthographies has been a more contemporary way for tribal communities to agree on writing systems that can represent their languages in consistent ways. The historical archives can attest to the many different writing styles that have been used in the past for O’odham. Most of these styles were not examples of any particular orthographies; rather most were attempts to phonetically spell words using the English alphabet. The results were not very efficient. English is a poor phonetic alphabet and doesn’t contain letters that represent all the sounds in O’odham and Piipaash. Therefore, many of the artifacts or examples of writing from in past were very individualistic, and not necessarily open to interpretation by other speakers and readers.

The Alvarez-Hale Orthography is based on O’odham languages and the specific phonemes, or sounds of the O’odham Ñiokĭ. This system has letters and punctuation that records the glottal stops, such as is used in the word O’odham, and the unique sounds of the elongated vowels that are indicated by the colon : such as is used in Ske:g. These, and other unique O’odham sounds and words are all able to be written consistently and authentically with the Alvarez-Hale system. The SRPMIC council adopted a slightly modified version of the Alvarez-Hale Orthography. The most notable modification was the addition of the letter V to accurately represent the Onk Akimel O’odham dialect.

The Piipaash Orthography is a writing system that was created by the O’odham Piipaash Language Program in partnership with Piipaash members of the SRPMIC. The original Piipaash Orthography experienced several changes early on in response to real world testing but has remained stable for about the past 15 years. It is linguistically sound, yet simple enough for the average person to learn with relative ease.

Adoption of the orthographies may strengthen language maintenance and revitalization efforts by providing strong and consistent foundations to teach, learn, and use O’odham and Piipaash in the Community. Adoption of the orthographies will allow consistent spellings when teaching the languages and developing instructional materials. It will also allow readers and writers to rely on a unified system to share their ideas on common ground. Aside from the practical applications, formal adoption of the writings systems is symbolically important. It sends a message from our tribal leaders that language preservation is important and that we are unified in our efforts.

The Cultural Resources Department is looking forward to sharing the writing systems with the tribal departments, and with Community members who want to learn to read and write in their language.

Visit the O'odham Piipaash Language Program page for access to the O'odham and Piipaash Orthographies.


Piipaash Xnak Making Class

Particpants of the Xnak Class pose with their finished work.

On May 9, 2017, the O’odham Piipaash Language Program hosted a Piipaash Xnak (Necklace) Class which allowed community participants to sign up and learn the art of beading a one strand necklace while learning the Piipaash language associated with the craft. This class welcomed novice and intermediate beaders. Each student completed one patterned necklace, using two colors of their choice. This was an accomplishment as the necklaces can be as long as 18-20 yards of beaded thread before they are finished with a twisting method and clasped with leather ties.

This five day class provided the participants with materials to make the necklace. Each student was given a booklet with the objective to learn words for colors and materials, as well as introduction phrases and sentences in the Piipaash language. Each participant will now be able to share the beautiful art of Piipaash Xnak making with their families and friends.

Thank you to the participants.


Language Teachers Travel to Nḱwusm Salish School in Arlee, MT

OPLP staff in Arlee, MT

On April 23, 2017, the O’odham and Piipaash language teachers traveled to Arlee, Montana to visit the Salish, Pend d’Oreille (Kalispel) and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation. Much like our own community, the Flathead nation is home to two tribes with eight communities that speak different dialects. The Flathead reservation encompasses a vast land of 1.3 million acres of forest and mountains ranges. They have a population of over 8,500 members.

The purpose of the trip was for OPLP teachers, in coordination with a Gila River delegation, to observe the Nḱwusm Salish Immersion School. The school teaches the Salish language from grades K-8. Their language teaching is based on every aspect of their cultural norms and instills a sense of identity in their students. Their curriculum and teaching methods were inspiring. The school staff expressed that using the Native language in the school system is providing their students with enough language to be fundamentally proficient speakers. The students receive instruction in all content areas with their Native language as the primary medium of communication.

In addition to the immersion school they also have an intensive adult Salish language program. The adult language program was initially created to support the students’ language learning in the home, after it was determined that many parents were unable to speak with their children in the language. However, the program was modified to fit the needs of the school. Presently, the adult program’s primary goal is to develop Salish language teachers. The desire is to develop them into speakers and language teachers at an accelerated rate. Most of the questions asked by our visiting group focused on how to create a fluent speaker, but the program participants also felt it important to share their personal experiences with learning language.

Two elders (Patlik Pierre and Stipn Smallsalmon), both of whom work in the school and with the adult language program, shared stories and encouraged us to keep going forward. Both programs are a part of the Salish and Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee which helps contribute new words to the language and gives speakers a chance to contribute to the preservation and revitalization of both the Salish and Kalispel people.

Second language acquisition is not an easy endeavor, and here at the language program, we face a number of challenging obstacles. The O’odham Piipaash Language Program is currently developing our program by improving our teaching methods, refining our curriculum and revising our objectives. With our continued efforts to preserve both the O’odham and Piipaash languages, we continue to move forward, striving for even more successful outcomes. We encourage tribal members to attend the offered language classes and to take advantage of other natural language learning opportunities. Speak to the elders in your family and the Community. We thank the Flathead Nation for their hospitality, sharing their stories and providing us with inspiration in continuing to save our languages.


ALA Exhibit Opens

People gathered to view the new ALA exhibit

The Huhugam Ki Museum presented a new body of work in their main gallery on Friday April 28, 2017. A Journey Through Our Heritage is the name of the exhibit, and it will be on display until Sept 28, 2017.

Twenty-five Accelerated Learning Academy (ALA) students, under the direction of Edith Eubanks and Theresa Antone, brought together their talents and techniques to produce varied works of art. Different mediums, including watercolor, acrylic paint, collage, mixed media and paper-mache sculptures, inspired the students to recognize their heritage and their way of life.

The evening was very windy and blew in a good crowd. An official ribbon cutting was organized by Mr. Owens, Museum Manager and Mary Ann Wood from the ALA administration to open the art to the public. More than 30 people immediately crowded the gallery and mingled freely amongst the carefully installed objects.

Councilman, Archie Kashoya, joined the throng of art lovers and everyone was impressed with the different points of view from the student artists. It was a meet and greet with the creators who were on hand to discuss why, who and how they came to make these pieces.

During the discussions, nibbles were enjoyed by all. Community member, Daniel Wood, baked up some adorable cookies shaped like an artist pallet, complete with dots of different colored paint.

This is the third collaboration between the museum and the ALA, but it is the first time a student art show from the ALA has been displayed in the museum gallery. We encourage all visitors to come out and experience A Journey Through our Heritage, courtesy of the Huhugam Ki Museum and the Accelerated Learning Academy.


O’odham Niokĭ Hemapik Ma:sidag Taṣ 10th year

O'odham elders celebrate 10 years of the Hemapik

The Cultural Resource Department kicked off spring by celebrating the 10 year Anniversary of our Onk Akimal O’odham Hemapik. The Hemapik is a monthly gathering of Salt River O’odham speakers hosted by the O’odham Piipaash Language Program. The celebration event was held at the Salt River Community Building on April 4, 2017.

Kelly Washington, CRD Director, started the celebration by sharing a brief history on how the Hemapik first started. He shared how Sharon Selestewa, Malia Garcia, Alice Manuel, Carol Anton and Ruth Cough were among the first to attend the quarterly gatherings. Later, it was decided that the meetings should occur monthly instead of quarterly. Audrey Santos, Rechanda Howard, Gloria Ludlow, the late Jonah Ray and others subsequently joined the group and continued the work of preserving our O’odham Niokĭ. Kelly said another intent for the monthly gathering was to create an environment and opportunity for the elders to socialize in the language. Mr. Washington gave praise and credit to his staff and the elders for their dedication to our O’odham niokĭ.

Andrea Ramon, O’odham Language Instructor/Consultant, was our guest speaker. Ms. Ramon is from the Tohono O’odham Nation is not new to the Salt River Community. The OPLP has called upon Ms. Ramon in the past for several projects:

  • 2014 - Presenter at the CRD Language Conference
  • 2014 - Instructor/Advisor for CRD Toka Workshop
  • 2016 - O’odham Language & Cultural Immersion training for OPLP teachers and staff

Ms. Ramon expressed what being O’odham means to her. She shared her personal history of growing up with her grandparents and how language has been a key factor in her life. She stressed how our O’odham niokĭ is vital and that our elders play an important role in making efforts to share, save and preserve for all generations.

The CRD staff presented the elders with gifts of appreciation and raffled items throughout the celebration. Entertainment was provide by the SRPMIC Traditional Dance Group with lead singer, Ricardo Leonard. The young women shared the Basket Dance followed by a few socials, joined by guests and elders. A meal was provided and the event concluded with several rounds of O’odham Bingo.

The CRD appreciates and gives a heartfelt thanks to all the elders who attend the event and who provide the language for the Hemapik. You are our treasure! We also with to thank the good turnout of Council members who made time to attend and for their continued support.

We encourage our Community elders who want to help save, develop and revitalize our O’odham Niokĭ to attend the next Hemapik held the first Thursday of the month at the Cultural Resource Department building. Notice is provided on the SRPMIC intranet, Authum Action Newspaper and flyers to the Senior Center


Spring Pottery Class

Pot forming

During the month of March, the O’odham Piipaash Language Program (OPLP) held a beginning pottery making class under the instruction of Community member, August Wood.

Students were taught to process raw clay into a workable paste. Next, the students were allowed to form pots, using the paddle and anvil style of pottery making. The technique of using a wooden paddle to shape the walls of a pot as it is being formed is indicative of O’odham & Piipaash pottery.

After the students’ pots dried, the pots were decorated with red clay as a paint. Once all the pots were decorated they were solidified in an outdoor firing using local woods.

If you are interested in participating in a pottery class, the next Pottery Making Class is scheduled for June 16 – 24, 2017.


OPLP Staff Presented at O’odham Piipaash Teacher Gathering

Example O'odham flashcard from BYKI.

CRD and OPLP staff were key presenters of best practices at the annual O’odham Piipaash Teacher Gathering that was held at the Courtyard Marriott on Friday, March 31st. This annual conference rotates among the respective Four O’odham Tribes. This year Salt River Schools hosted the event, and the Cultural Resources Department was a key part of the planning committee. It was a well-attended conference of over 100 teachers gathered to share best practices in teaching O’odham and Piipaash in their schools and communities.

Former founding member, Frances Numkena, shared the 20 year history of the teacher gathering and reflected on the progress that has been made in developing Community and school language programs. Cultural Resources Director, Kelly Washington, also spoke about decades-long transformation of language maintenance and revitalization efforts that has become the Cultural Resources Department and the O’odham Piipaash Language Program we know today.

Helema Andrews presented OPLP’s digital flashcard resources for O’odham and Piipaash language learners. The BYKI (Before You Know It) program has hundreds of O’odham and Piipaash words that feature images, written words, and audio files for over a dozen categories of words such as greetings, animals, foods, and more. The presentation ended with instructions on how to get the BYKI program for personal use.

Mary Garcia, O’odham teacher at the OPLP, demonstrated using O’odham immersion for instruction. She had 7 volunteers that were able to learn and understand multiple words, commands, and concepts within a 50 minute presentation period. Hopefully, some of these volunteers will think about signing up for the O’odham Language classes scheduled in the fall.

For more information about BYKI digital flashcards or O’odham/ Piipaash language classes, please call the O'odham Piipaash Language Program at (480) 362-6325.


Hanam/That Pickin with the Huhugam Ki Museum

Community members head out to pick hanam/that at the Red Mountain Preserve.

The Huhugam Ki Museum hosted a cholla bud cooking class and gathering event for the community. It was delightful and informative. It seemed like everyone absorbed the information from the knowledgeable staff of the Huhugam Ki. The students were engaged in the hands-on activities which include processing for and long-time storage (i.e. de-thorning, blanching and throwing them out on the screen to dry).

The questions they asked included, “What are different types of buds?” “When do they blossom?” “When do you pick them (the season)?” “Where do you pick them?” and “Why do some areas become depleted?”

On the following Saturday the staff took people out to the Salt River Preserve to pick and it was evident that they took to it really quickly. There was very little struggle, and the way they eased into it was a nice reminder of their roots…of being O’odham and Piipaash and living off the Sonoran desert. It was a good lesson that we don’t need all the processed food, and we are capable of picking what is out there in nature. If they get lost in the desert, it is a valuable tool to realize that food is everywhere. You just need the know-how to identify it.

All students during the cooking class were introduced to a modern dish of a casserole with the hanam inside, and they got a chance to see how the historic dish of soba was made. This was a fast dish to prepare and students learned about sautéing, chopping and tearing tortillas. A fun night for all was had and they willingly absorbed a lot of knowledge they can pass on to other people and use for their own gathering trips next year.


Traditional Digging Stick Class

Participants of the Traditional Digging Stick Class burn their sticks.

During the beautiful, crisp morning of February 25th, the Community Garden crew held their Traditional Digging Stick Class. This was the first time they held such a class but were inspired by the idea after assisting with the O’odham Immersion Class’ planting project last spring. Three community women participated: Teresa Gonzales, Yvonne Pacheco and Marian Ruiz.

The morning started with Community Garden Coordinator, Jacob Butler, giving a short overview of the process. Participants then chose the piece of ironwood (hoidkam) they wanted to work with and began the process of stripping the bark and shaping it. Once completed, the participants used sand paper to smooth out any rough areas. Next was the firing of the stick. The primary purpose of the fire is to fire harden the tips to help reduce wear during use, but it also helps to remove all moisture, aid in shaping and makes the digging stick more aesthetically interesting. Once their sticks were fired, the participants used more sandpaper to give an even smoother finish. The last two steps were using oil or lard to protect the stick from the elements and bring out the natural color of the fired ironwood. Finally, a smooth rock was used to rub over the stick to create a stronger surface and give it a nice shine. With effort and determination, each of the three very enthusiastic participants had made a digging stick with a unique look and were ready to plant.

All the participants enjoyed themselves, the company and the weather. When Yvonne Pacheco was asked what she enjoyed most about the class she responded, “Learning new things. Everything...the demonstration, hearing stories, and actually working at it and seeing how much work is involved. [It] makes you realize how hard of workers our ancestors are.”

The garden crew is currently working on a step-by-step handout so you can make your own traditional digging stick. Check back often for this and more information on upcoming classes provided by the CRD Community Garden Crew.


Intro to Archaeology: Paḍ Aangam

Intro to Archaeology at the Salt River Community Building

The most recent presentation in the ‘Introduction to Archaeology’ series was titled “Paḍ= Aangam: Interpreting Landscape & Ethnohistory in the O’odham Story of Creation, given by Mr. Andrew Darling and Harry Winters.

The story of Pad Aangam is an important episode in the O’odham winter stories, which details the origin of conflicts with the Yaqui people and the establishment of the modern village of Aangam in the Sif Oidak District of the Tohono O’odham Nation and the ancestral lands that once existed in what is now the Queen Creek delta, near the city of Mesa/town of Queen Creek.

For Archaeologists, this story provides a unique historical perspective of the time just before the arrival of the Spanish and after the occupation of the Hohokam ‘great houses’. It may further provide good insight for future archaeological investigations of the O’odham and our history.

All in all, it was a wonderful presentation. Thank you to all who attended.


Winter Storytelling

Camillus Lopez of Santa Rosa was one of this years storytellers.

A winter storm was forecasted; it hit the day before the story telling event. We saw a sunny morning but as the menudo simmered, the stew cooked and the bread baked, the sky darkened again, and soon it began to rain. Plans had been made for a nice event outside in the cold January night: a fire for the crowd, a nice warm meal, story tellers traveling to our community, parking directions etc. But after an hour and a half of steady rain, we decided to move indoors to the Salt River Community Building.

Here is where we were dazzled and intrigued by two story tellers tales who brought with them coyote, the stars, oks, and many more from the past.

The Huhugam Ki Museum sponsored the evening of stories, inviting people from the Tohono O’odham nation to come and tell us legends from the past. Camillus Lopez from the village of Santa Rosa began the evening, talking about the importance of family, tribal community and the responsibility we hold to ourselves and our people to keep these stories alive. The characters he brought with him in his narrative included the twins, the starry heavens, and then us and how we look to ourselves for answers in dealing with life. That’s what the stories are about…to get us through our daily lives and look to them for answers when things seem a little rough…and also to make us laugh.

The next story teller, Michael Enis, from San Xavier began his round by singing a welcome song for all the participants in order to bring goodness to their lives and to take it with them where they go. Mr. Enis and his helpers from their local high school, Joaquin Martinez, Carson Juan, and Damien Carlos Jr., told stories about bulls, the coyote, the stars and things about the past that we have carried into our present way of life. Participants numbered over a hundred. They were all treated to a handsome meal of delicious red menudo with all the fixings prepared by Ms. Debbie James. A luscious beef stew and warm yeast rolls were also prepared by the Huhugam Ki Museum Staff. Of course we had to have coffee and doughnuts supplied by Shashani Marcus.

The evening was cold but the experience left us with a warm heart. As we left the building and went out into a rainy parking lot that sparkled with reflected light in the darkness, we almost thought we heard…a coyote laughing in the distance over by where Lonnie Jim lives.


Native Waters and Arid Lands Tribal Summit

On November 9 & 10 the Native Waters and Arid Lands Tribal Summit took place at the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. CRD Community Garden Coordinator, Jacob Butler, attended the 2 day conference to give a presentation on dry farming techniques. The primary focus was water rights and water issues. Butler talked about using traditional technology and agriculture methods in contemporary ways to make them applicable to today’s needs. “Although we were riparian people or river people we still depended on dry farming techniques even 1000 years ago…dry farming always has a place, even in areas where water isn’t as scarce as say the Hopi dry farms. Dry farming can still be practiced today. With the growing population and the greater needs of the people…it is more important for people to start utilizing water in a more effective matter. Our ancestors knew that same thing.”

The panel in which he participated included three other projects. One in particular, The Hopi Corn Project, stood out the most. “Their seeds that they showed…the Hopi’s have a really diverse amount of traditional seeds, or traditional corn, a lot of different varieties. Some of the corn that they mentioned and showed, we had here at one time. If we can set up a trade system with them, return some of the seeds that were lost from our people’s seed banks about a hundred years ago, we can start growing them in our community again. So that was what was really cool…to see some of these seeds that we see listed in our history aren’t lost forever. They just are living in other communities. Sometimes people think living here in the desert that whatever we have closely available is all that we have. But in reality, we have these big systems of trade. A lot of the stuff we utilize came from areas that we wouldn’t see on a regular basis, and it was those systems of trade that helped us survive for over thousands of years…and in a natural setting without modern conveniences.”

Jacob Butler describes why the summit was worth going to in the first place.

“The summit was kind of cool because all these tribes came together for the same purpose: to find better ways to utilize water, how to utilize our water treaties, how actually get delivery systems so we can utilize the rights that we gain…and how can we do it in a better modern sustainable way. Some of those partnerships are key to that.”


Adult Tortilla Camp is a Success

Participants make cemait on the Huhugam Ki Museum patio

It was cold but worth the time and effort. A tortilla class taught by Sharilyn Belone at the Huhugam Ki Museum introduced 8 women to the art and technique of making tortillas by hand. Classes have been held by the museum before. In fact, every summer there is a tortilla camp for the youth to introduce them to this task. Now it was time for the adults. For the first time, the class was offered to Community members and employees who work in the tribal government.

The class was in essence the same as our tortilla camps, but instead of waking up early in the morning and coming over all sleepy and grouchy, the class was held in the evening (so the participants could come all sleepy and grouchy after a hard day at work). It covered the basics: watch how to make the dough, make your own dough and flap out what you make. Mrs. Belone made her dough as an example for students the first and second time, but for the third, they were on their own.

Mrs. Belone believes that to make good tortillas you do just that, make tortillas. “By making dough frequently you learn how to manage it, how to tell if it is ready, how to tell it to behave and how to make sure all that you know goes into the dough.” As she states in her certificate of class completion, “I’vamik, himk o he natot heg cecmait: Go and make tortillas.” That is how you become a good tortilla maker, just do it.

The students enjoyed the class, and after the completion, they were given a certificate and a small parting gift to help them along their tortilla making journey. Along with the actual process of making tortilla, participants were given information on traditional foods, culture, language and other things that are a part of the way of life here in the Community.

The museum is always looking for good tortilla makers to be part of our festivities and next year, when the museum hosts the 30th anniversary celebration, hopefully we can get some of the past students to help feed the Community. We’ll try and break our old record of 648 tortillas made in 2.5 hours in 2012. So, ladies and gentlemen, get those hands busy and make tortillas.


Huhugam Ki Museum Celebrates 29 Years

Building of the Huhugam Ki Museum

November 11, 1987 was the day it was officially was dedicated. The Huhugam Ki Museum just celebrated 29 years of operation in the Salt River Community. Through the efforts of a small group of Community members led by the late Alfretta Antone, the museum opened its door to the people of Salt River and visitors to our home. From the humbled beginnings as a youth home built in 1965, the museum building is an example of working together as a Community and making a statement of who we are as O’odham and Piipaash. Now, 50 years later, the building that was constructed by men and women of our past still stands as a testimony to what we believe in and what can be done when someone has a dream.

The Huhugam Ki Museum staff put together a subdued event that focused more on Community and brought back the feeling of family gatherings on a Sunday afternoon. A small band of arts and crafts vendors, food tables and small displays dotted the museum grounds as people wandered through the event at a leisurely pace. Tortillas were made on the outdoor fire in the uksha and samples of tepary beans, once a staple of the people’s diet, were handed out to be enjoyed by all. Dance groups from the Community and our sister tribe, Gila River, were on hand to entertain and educate the audience on the songs and dances of long ago.

The museum invited people in and had them view the new exhibit on the archaeology of the Community. With plans for a new repository, the museum has added a new component to the tribal collections and is currently working with other institutions to retrieve and take control of archaeological collections that tell the story of the people’s past.

In all, the affair was low-keyed and simple, just as it used to be in a relaxed and enjoyable setting. Plans are underway for next year’s anniversary event. We will be celebrating 30 years of existence, and for that celebration we will bring back the large Community feeds of the past, and bring as many dancers and arts and crafts as we can. Planning begins in May of 2017 for that major event. Stay tuned for more information in the coming months, and we’ll see you all there.


The Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums

Basket dancers getting ready to dance for ATALM participants.

The Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums held their annual conference in the Gila River Indian Community on Oct. 10-13, 2016. This is an annual gathering of libraries, museums, and other facilities that serve native communities. Many local tribes attended but participants also included those from far distances such as Alaska and New Brunswick.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Culture Builds Communities: Preserving the Past, Building the Future.” Presentations included topics such as digitizing collections, safety planning for collections, library techniques, and more topics that are important to these institutions.

Tours to the four southern tribal communities of the O’Odham and Piipaash were one of the conference highlights. Salt River hosted one tour of the Community’s repository and museum, along with a trip to the community garden run by Jacob Butler and crew. Steve Hoza, Thomas Jackson and Gary Owens were invited to do presentations and workshops for the participants on collection management, building archival boxes and museum management in an urban area.

The whole staff of the museum also contributed by participating in the cultural night event hosted by the Huhugam Heritage Center. Under the direction of Sharilyn Belone, the staff cooked food samples of cholla buds, tepary beans and a fabulous ox-tail stew. Tortillas were made on-site at the facility with other women from the Gila River and Tohono O’odham lending a hand, literally. That evening event had over 400 attendees. Dance groups included Gila River, Tohono O’Odham Nation, Ak-Chin and Salt River brought the Piipaash group, “Dancing by the River.” To end this wonderful night time affair, everyone there was regaled by the sounds of the chicken scratch band “Gertie and the TO Boys.”

What was special about this conference is that not only was it hosted by the Gila River Community but that the coalition of four tribal museum directors played a major role in the planning process. This is the 2nd collaboration from the year-old group of southern tribal museums and more collaborative events are planned for the future.

*Photo by Thomas Throssell, Gila River Indian News


CRD's First All-Night Fall Social

Bird singer and dancers sang and danced until 5am. Photo by E. Pacer Reina

On October 28th the Cultural Resources Department hosted its first ever all night social dance. Starting at sunset, the women began making cemait/modiily by the fire as staff and tribal members contributed dishes for the night. The menu consisted of an assortment of vegetable stew, beans, cowboy coffee, and pizza for the kids.

While they prepared the meals, Piipaash singers started off the night with Bird singing on the west side of the dance grounds. On the east side of the grounds, the O’odham singers started soon after. This continued throughout the night, each group took turns spending at least an hour singing.

There was a big turnout of Bird dancers who took part in the social gathering. When they were done they would go join the O’odham dance circle with others who were looking to get in a social dance. Placed in the center of these two groups, a huge fire burned throughout the night.

OPLP Director Kelly Washington gave his regards to the people who came, letting them know it was the department’s first time hosting this type of event and encouraged everyone to enjoy themselves. It was a successful first turnout. Many songs were shared for the people and gave a sense of warmth on the cold October night. Thank you to all the CRD staff who helped, especially the Huhugam Ki Museum staff who played a lead role in the planning for this event. Most of all, we’d like to thank the singers and dancers who stuck it out until the early morning hours. See you all again next year!


O'odham Piipaash Fall Bingo

Gracie Butler plays Halloween Bingo while waiting for the monster parade to start

On October 20th, the O’odham Piipaash Language Program set up a Fall Bingo Night for the community at the Salt River Multi-Purpose building. As each person came in, they were given a Halloween themed bingo card and a crayon (and a cheat sheet if needed). Delicious food options, including a wide variety of baked goods, were available to attendees.

Once everyone got situated, the games began. The O’odham/Piipaash names for items associated with Halloween were first reviewed with attendees before playing. Some of the terms were modern descriptions. Obviously, we didn’t have pre-existing words for things like ‘vampire’ or ‘witch’s caldron’. Bingo winners received small prizes such as candy, toilet tissue, aprons or even some new headphones.

Attendees included children, adults, and elderly. Many people came dressed up for the Halloween costume contest that took place midway between games. When the contest started, participants were asked to showcase their costume by doing a monster parade around the room. Judges who were randomly selected from the crowd decided who had the scariest, cutest, and most original costume.

Community member Victoria Egoak described her thoughts about the event. “I’ve always wanted to go to [O’odham/Piipaash] bingo, but I just didn’t know much [language],” Egoak said. She expressed how much the O’odham Language class prepared her for the night.

First-time O’odham Piipaash bingo attendee, Cody Achin, shared his experience, “I was surprised how many people showed up. I wasn’t expecting all the tables there to be filled. That caught me by surprise but in a good way. I really liked seeing all the costumes. I really liked playing bingo. It was really a fun night.”

Bingo night was good entertainment for family and friends to come together and learn a few new O'odham and Piipaash words, to showcase their costumes, and to just have a bit of fun.


First Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition

Screenshot of one of the conference presentations

On September 26-27, 2016, Amson Collins, Garden Technician with the Cultural Resource Department, attended to the First Annual Conference on Native American Nutrition at the Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in Prior Lake, Minnesota. The conference was a collaboration of Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and the University of Minnesota, bringing together more than 450 Native leaders, academics, and public health workers.

On the agenda there were many speakers from different backgrounds and workshops supporting the movement to restore Native American health by reclaiming traditional diets and foodways. Diabetes and obesity, especially among the youth, were overarching concerns expressed at the conference. A primary objective of the conference was finding ways to lessen these health obstacles by working with different tribes to exchange ideas on how to encourage our peoples to grow, hunt, gather and eat more traditional foods.

Collins shared what he gains from going to conferences such as this, “It’s inspiring for me. It’s uplifting and empowering to see other Native people in their community gardens do what they do to help their people…you really get inspiration back when you see other people do it and being successful, especially when you see them having fun. Its work but it should be about fun too.”

Along with the inspirational benefits, Collins felt there was an abundance of practical information learned from this conference. Meeting with other tribes and Native peoples provides an opportunity for practitioners to share their real world experiences and lessons learned with one another. “They share their ideas with you and you think, dang, I want to try that! It helps you.” Collins expressed that these exchanges of ideas and information continue beyond the actual conference. Participants learn from one another at the conference and take new ideas back to their respective communities and share with others. “To learn more about plants and to get better at gardening, and growing foods. You have to talk with other people and you have to work with other people.”


White House Tribal Nations Conference

2016 White House Tribal Nations Conference

On September 26, 2016, Cultural Resources Director, Kelly Washington, and NAGPRA Coordinator, Martha Ludlow Martinez, travelled to Washington D.C. to sing for President Barack Obama’s final White House Tribal Nations Conference. The White House Tribal Nations Conference was initiated by President Obama during his first year in office to discuss issues of import with tribal leaders. The Conference has continued annually for the duration of President Obama’s term in office.

At President Obama’s 8th and final WHTN Conference, the National Congress of American Indians organized an honoring ceremony for him. Kelly and Martha were bestowed the privilege of singing a Bird Song while the President was presented with a Pendleton blanket and cedar hat by Brian Cladoosby, president of NCAI. “I was asked to do this without knowing all the details of the event prior to arriving in D.C. I had no idea I was going to be singing right next to the President, let alone getting a handshake and a ‘bro hug’ from him,” said Kelly.

“It almost felt like a dream,” Martinez said. “I felt anxious; I felt nervous. I thought, ‘Wow, this is really happening.’ It felt like a dream until he came up to me.”

After the honoring ceremony, President Obama delivered a speech to the general assembly, recalling the significant accomplishments achieved in Indian Country during the prior eight years.

For Kelly, one of President Obama’s statements was especially poignant: “All the while, we’ve worked to return control of Indian education to tribal nations and incorporate their own history, language, and culture into their curriculum. Our Native youth deserve to both preserve their cultural heritage and secure a future as bright as any American child without having to leave the land of their fathers and mothers.”

Kelly explained, “I was moved by this statement because in years past, it has been an uphill battle trying to fit our languages and cultures into the paradigm of modern education. The recent incremental progress we’ve been making in our tribal schools in this area, combined with the President’s statement of support for such endeavors provided me with hope. I know we still have a long way to go, but hope and inspiration are important with any difficult endeavor.”

Visit TIME to watch the video and read more.


O'odham Song Meanings Class

Participants from the O'odham Song Meanings Class

The OPLP hosted a series of O’Odham Song Meaning Classes/Discussions during the month of July. These classes were held on July 11, 13, 18 and 20, from 6-8pm at the CRD Main Classroom and were facilitated by our Education Specialist/O’Odham Immersion Teacher/Singer, Mrs. Ma:lyia Garcia. The classes were specifically designed for existing singers to learn and share information about song meanings.

Open dialog between attendees was encouraged, allowing class participants the opportunity to ask questions about the song language and how it differs from regular O’odham speaking. Such topics of discussions aren’t frequently addressed during most settings when O’odham songs are sung. There were twenty (20) men and women of all ages that attended this class.


CRD Repository Update

In January 2016 the first article submitted to our Current Accomplishments website page was an update on the Cultural Resource Department’s planning activities for a new Repository. Since this project will take several years to complete, occasional updates will be provided to keep you informed of progress. For basic information on this project, please reference the January article.

The design phase was on hold as different site locations were considered. The department’s preferred location was adjacent to the historic Day School, but that property has not yet been transferred to the tribe from the BIA. That transfer is imminent however, and tribal Council has formally approved this site to be explored for the new Repository. Council has also asked the CRD to develop a master plan for future use of the Day school and transferred property. This was in response to the department’s expressed desire to develop the area as an historic property and potential cultural center. These plans are still tentative, requiring additional input for future decision-making, but it is exciting to consider the possibilities.

With a specific site in mind the CRD is working with other departments to vet potential firms for designing the new repository. As of yet, the candidates for that job have been narrowed and one will soon be selected. The design phase will take several months to complete. Subsequently, Council will be required to make decisions about going forward with the actual construction phase. Stay tuned for future updates. If you have any questions about this project, feel free to contact the Cultural Resources Department


O'odham History: From the Written Accounts of the Spanish

Community members gather to hear the June 2016 Into to Arch presentation

The cultural preservation program (CPP) was pleased to have the “O’odham History: from the written accounts of the Spanish” as our July presentation for our introduction to archaeology series. The presentation was a collaborative effort between Dr. Dale Brenneman Ph.D. from the University of Arizona, Anthony M. Chana, Ronald Geronimo, M.A., Jacob Serapo and Bernard Siquieros, members of the Tohono O’odham Nation.

A number of Mexican missionaries, soldiers and settlers wrote down their personal accounts as they arrived in this territory and first came into contact with the O’odham and other native peoples. Just recently (as recent as the past ten years), many of these handwritten Spanish documents have been translated and transcribed; these transcriptions are still going on.

Dr. Brenneman started out the presentation with a description of the records, the process of transcribing/translating and the difficulties they encountered along the way. She was followed by Bernard Siquieros, Ronald Geronimo, Tony Chana and Jacob Serapo from the Tohono O’odham Nation.

The Nation members spoke about the descriptions of places described and the O’odham place names the Spanish recorded. Based on those description and the maps associated, the group took field trips to the places listed to see if they could get a physical sense of what may have been witnessed at that time.

These trips were successful and helped the group gain a perspective as their work progressed. The Nation members read some of the translations from the Jesuits’ encounter with the O’odham and how the group felt about these writings. The Spanish, of course, wrote down their encounters and experiences from a distinctly Spanish cultural perspective. Having O’odham participate in the translation process provides an opportunity to note things that may have been misinterpreted about O’odham culture at the time.

Although the presentation was about three hours long, the presenters were unable to share all the translated material. Nonetheless, it was well received, and audience members asked that they return to give even more detailed information. Dr. Brenneman stated their efforts would eventually be available on the internet. These translated documents will undoubtedly provide us a better understanding of history during early Spanish contact.


O'odham & Piipaash Sewing Classes End With a Fashion Show

Husbands, friends and children of sewing participants model their shirts.

The O’odham Piipaash Language Program hosted two sewing classes in June. Both classes focused on sewing shirts for men. In addition to teaching a particular craft, all OPLP classes have distinct language components. Craft-specific vocabulary and phrases are introduced at the start of each class, and participants are encouraged to use the languages as much as possible during class.

The O’odham class focused on making a male kamiṣ. Instructor, Priscilla (Beanie) Jay started with an overview of sewing safety tips and introduced O’odham words and phrases. Participants then learned how to measure, make a pattern and sew the pieces together. All participants had prior sewing experience and were able to finish their projects easily before the final class. Four women from the Community completed the class: Deborah Sampson, Lena Thomas, April Lewis, and Dawn Sinoqui.

The Piipaash class focused on how to make a Ribbon Shirt. Although Ribbon Shirts do not have a long history of use among Piipaash men, these types of shirts have been accepted as contemporary traditional wear within the last generation or two. OPLP Education Specialist, Leota Standing Elk, served as the Piipaash language instructor while Ms. Annette Ramirez, instructed the sewing component. Five women from the Community completed the class: Lori Lewis, Hilary Richards, Louise (Gurly) Shaw, Raina Thomas, and Michelle Johnson.

To celebrate the completion of both classes, a small Fashion Show was held on Wednesday, June 29th, which featured all completed O’odham Kamiṣ, and Ribbon Shirts. Each shirt made was modeled by the participant’s husband, friend or child. All participants were given a moment to reflect what was learned in the classes. Each received a certificate of completion as well as a gift to further their sewing experience from the O’odham Piipaash Language Program.

We hope you will continue to “use what you know” and use the O’odham Piipaash Language Program as a resource to learn and preserve our languages. For a complete list of the O’odham and Piipaash words used for these classes visit our Multi-Media Resource page.


Mesquite Flour Pancake Breakfast

Mesquite pancakes on the Huhugam Ki Museum griddle

It started with an early morning fire built in the outdoor kitchen, 5 gallons of mesquite flour, 2 ½ cases of eggs, 6 gallons of milk and 2 gallons of prickly pear syrup. It ended with over 250 plates of mesquite pancakes served by the Huhugam Ki Museum staff and volunteers.

The warm morning air was filled with the aroma of mesquite wood as demonstrators well versed in the art of tortilla making set up shop. The museum outfitted the vato/mathkyaaly with a reminiscence of what outdoor living was like in days gone by. Cooking equipment, pots, baskets, and other working items of yesteryear were placed under the mesquite and arrowweed structure. An old spring wire fold up bed was covered with a mattress and blankets and chairs were spread around to invite all who were there to enjoy a relaxing slow-paced visit. The setting evoked memories of childhood…at least for those of us old enough to remember.

Museum staff had mesquite gathering information, booklets, coloring books and other giveaways, all to celebrate a tree that has given so much to the O’odham and Piipaash for over a thousand years. Although we have a long tradition of agriculture, mesquite beans have always been an important and nutritious part of our diet.

The museum encourages families in the community to continue gathering mesquite pods for their own use. For the past few years, the museum has also offered to pay $6 for a 5 gallon bucket filled with big, fat pods. These are turned into flour and used by the museum for classes and events, such as the mesquite pancake breakfast. We look forward to a great mesquite pod season and encourage the people in Salt River to continue the traditions for themselves and their children.


Professor Lynn Gordon Visits OPLP

During the week of May 23-31, the O’odham Piipaash Language Program, in partnership with the Huhugam Heritage Center and the American Indian Language Development Institute (AILDI), hosted a six day Piipaash language workshop with Lynn Gordon, a linguist and Professor with Washington State University. Ms. Gordon is the only linguist to write and publish a comprehensive description of Piipaash grammar in her book, Maricopa Morphology and Syntax.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Gordon audio recorded and transcribed hundreds of pages of field notes with elder Piipaash language speakers from the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC). Ms. Gordon shared that, “Piipaash is a very interesting, structurally complex language which had almost no documentation. So I hoped that I could make a substantive contribution to both linguistics and to the [Piipaash] community.”

Professor Lynn Gordon pictured with various staff from the Salt and Gila River communities

Gordon was eager to share her experiences, field notes and audio recordings with tribal members and staff of the SRPMIC and the GRIC. “I know that everyone I worked with hoped to see their language survive and all of them knew it was already potentially endangered. They were worried that children were not learning Piipaash and knew that their own experience of BIA schools interfered with their own language experience.”

Now, nearly forty years later, those of us who are actively engaged in Piipaash language preservation activities are immeasurably appreciative of the documentation Ms. Gordon and those Piipaash speakers left for us. This body of work will contribute to our on-going efforts to teach and learn Piipaash.

Our program would like to thank Lynn Gordon for her hard work and her willingness to share this priceless documentation of our Piipaash language. We would also like to thank the elders of District 7 and SRPMIC for being a part of these language sessions. Finally, we would also like to recognize and thank the GRIC Huhugam Heritage Center and the American Indian Language Development Institute for their valuable contributions that made this collaboration possible. It is our desire and intent to continue working together on future Piipaash language endeavors.


Kids Vaila Classes

Teen Vaila (Chicken Scratch) Dance class sponsored by the Huhugam Ki Museum

The Huhugam Ki Museum sponsored an “Introduction to Chicken Scratch Dance” for the youth of the community. The classes were set up for 2 groups of children and young teens ranging from 5-14 years of age. In all, 25 students attended both sessions with much enthusiasm and joy. Instructors Colleen Stone and Tyson Lewis took the students through the different styles of dancing which included: vaila, choti, and cumbia. The students were instructed to close their eyes and listen to the different rhythms and beats of the music to identify which is which.

Ms. Stone taught the students how to dance in pairs, explaining how one person leads and the other follows. When they danced Cumbia, they were shown how to dance side-by-side in pairs, roll their arms, perfect their turns and to make sure they bended their knees to bounce. It was explained that these were basic maneuvers but in time they will get their own style of dancing and become the rage of the cement floor.

All the dance classes were held like little socials. The sessions ended with a small graduation for the students. The dance floor was decorated with lights, streamers, flowers and crepe paper twirling down on the dancers. They all received certificates, a dinner in their honor and the chance to show their moves to their parents and loved ones. A lot of the families joined in. Ms. Stone wished them well and told them to continue dancing whenever they get the opportunity. She also hoped that the students would be at the Salt River Community Day chicken scratch bringing home the prize for best Cumbia.


Language Class Recognition

O'odham Immersion Instructors presenting to their student, Vanessa Andrews

On Thursday, May 5, 2016, the O’odham Piipaash Language Program was honored to host a dinner to recognize all fifty-three (53) participants that attended the O’odham Immersion, Beginning Piipaash or Piipaash Immersion Class. Students received either a certificate of completion or participation. They also received a special gift of a shirt or jacket. The evening started with the O’odham Immersion class reciting a prayer and a song in the O’odham language.

After dinner, guest speaker, Luis Barragan, Huhugam Heritage Center Senior Curator-Language Section, provided an inspirational and encouraging message to all in attendance. Mr. Barragan complimented the SRPMIC O’odham Piipaash Language Program, stating it was a model language program that other tribes strive to duplicate. He acknowledged the dedicated language staff and students who strive to maintain the O’odham and Piipaash languages.

Both Piipaash classes danced a Vospo dance and a round dance. The evening ended with an encouraging message to students to, “continue to learn more language and to use whatever is learned every day,” from our Piipaash language instructor, Ron Carlos.

Congratulations to all the students and instructors for a job well done!

The next semester of OPLP sponsored language classes will begin on September 6th and 7th, 2016


Seed Sovereignty Conference

Jacob Butler presenting at the Northern California Tribal Food Conference

On April 18th & 19th, the CRD Community Garden Technician, Amson Collins, and Garden Coordinator, Jacob Butler, attended the first Northern California Tribal Food Conference on the Yurok Reservation in Klamath, California. The gathering was hosted by the Northern California Tribal Courts Coalition and sponsored by the National Congress of the American Indians (NCAI), the Yurok Tribe, First Nations Development Institute (FNDI), and the Seventh Generation Fund (SFG).

The two day conference consisted of panel presentations and discussions related to: protecting food and cultural sovereignty, understanding changing federal laws, genetically modified organisms (GMO), establishing tribal food codes and ordinances, developing community programs and recruiting youth involvement. A cultural movie night was also held for the local tribal community in conjunction with the conference.

Mr. Butler, participated on a panel addressing the topic of how community garden programs can bring Native communities together. Mr. Butler presented historical information about the O’odham-Piipaash legacy of farming that has endured for millennia. He also shared some of the reasons farming ended as a way of life for most of us in the 1930s, resulting in major community health issues. One of the strong underlying messages conveyed was that genuine sovereignty is determined by the culture we practice; that’s why programs that help maintain our traditional foods and cultural practices are so important.

The garden staff returned home motivated by new ideas and encouraged by efforts occurring in other tribal communities. “We felt empowered to be around so many others who desire a return to traditional native foods.” The staff hopes to host a similar gathering locally in the near future to inform more SRPMIC tribal members about the topic of food sovereignty.


Earth Day at the Garden

O'odham signage in the Salt River Garden

In our efforts to educate the Community about O’odham names (plants, structures, tools, etc.) within the Garden, we were excited to work with the O’odham Immersion Class. The group brought O’odham language signs they created in class to the garden and placed them accordingly. The signs are a great addition to the area; now visitors can read and learn the traditional names for plants and garden related structures.

The collaboration with the O’odham Immersion Class was very successful. We hope to continue this kind of positive collaboration with the Piipaash Immersion Class when the opportunity arrives. Please stop by the garden to see the new signs and some of the other things we have been doing. We hope to see you soon.


Hanam/That Roasting

Although the garden grows traditional food in the field, we also recognize the need to harvest the wild seasonal foods to reflect a more holistic well-rounded representation of the O’odham/Piipaash diet. The cholla cactus, known as hanam in O’odham and that in Piipaash, has been harvested by the people in the same way since time immemorial. However, the processing and preparation has changed as modern tools and cleaning methods have been introduced.

In past years, the hanam/that picked has been blanched, dried and de-thorned on metal screens. This year we wanted to try a more traditional method, so we decided to roast a portion of the harvest as explained to us by an O’odham elder. Our intent was to revive an older tradition that did not rely heavily on modern tools and gain a deeper respect and understanding of the ways that came before us. Community members helped pick the hanam/that and dig the pit we roasted the buds in. During the process we took photos and filmed portions of the event. We hope to utilize the footage to create a short video so more people could have the opportunity to witness the process and maybe even try it themselves. The roasting came out well. View the rough-cut video below and check back for videos of future garden activities.


Hanam/That Picking & Cooking

Hanam/That picking

The Huhugam Ki Museum staff finished picking cholla buds during the 1st week of April. Buckhorn cholla is called hanam in the Onk Akimel O’Odham language and called that in the Piipaash language. The buds are referred to by the same names. In the cool early morning hours, the staff ventured along the Salt River area, plucking the unopened buds with metal tongs. A slight twist is all that is necessary to coax the buds into awaiting buckets. A five gallon bucket packed with fresh buds (including the thorns) will yield about two quarts or a large Ziploc bag full of dried hanam. There are two different options for processing the hanam before they are dried: blanching in a large pot of boiling water or steaming them in the ground. Currently the museum uses the water method.

After this year’s harvest, the museum had a class for those interested in how to use the cholla buds in contemporary and traditional dishes. The students learned how to reconstitute the buds before trying them out in different ways. Museum staff then led them through the process of making a cold salsa with a slight hint of hotness and a tater-tot casserole that included ground beef and sausage. Then we tried a version of “so:ba”, a type of soup made with old tortillas. All of the students came away with a good appreciation of the cholla buds and the knowledge of how to blanche and dry the buds for year-round storage. This food from the Sonoran desert can only be gathered once a year. So our next time gathering in the community will be Spring of 2017. We hope you will join us.


Journey to Spirit Mountain

On March 25, both the Piipaash Immersion Class and Beginning Piipaash Class traveled to Vii Kwxmii (Tall Mountain), which is geographically known as the highest peak in the Newberry Mountains. Vii Kwxmii, also known to the Yuman tribes as Spirit Mountain, stands tall north of Grapevine Canyon. This canyon encompasses many petroglyphs and etchings that are linked to the Yuman tribes’ creation stories, which refers to the beginning of all life. The Yuman tribes include: the Maricopa, Quechan, Mohave, Hualapai, Havasupai, Yavapai, Kumeyaay, Cocopah, Pai Pai, and Kiliwa.

Although Vii Kwxmii is nearly 200 miles away from the Phoenix Valley, the two locations are connected in our Creation stories. When Isashipa (Elder Brother/Creator) died, he instructed his children on how to cremate the deceased. Everyone worried about what coyote might do to ruin things, so they sent him east to bring back fire. Along the way, coyote realized he had been tricked, and he returned just before dawn. At the last moment, he grabbed Isashipa’s heart out of the fire and everyone gave chase. Ultimately, coyote evaded his pursuers, stopping at what is today called South Mountain. There he consumed the heart and rubbed his greasy paws upon the rocks. Hence, we call South Mountain Vii Kwxas (Greasy Mountain).

The twenty-four students and staff that attended were blessed to be welcomed by our Hualapai relatives, who shared a prayer of blessing and shared a portion of the creation story from two elders of the Hualapai nation. Also in attendance were Hualapai Cultural Center staff, Marcie Craynon, Drake Havatone and Ivan Bender, who also shared a few songs of the Hualapai people. The students and staff where thankful to receive this welcome and blessing. The OPLP would like to thank the Hualapai people and students for making this trip possible.


OPLP Hosts First Family Game Night

Before technology became a part our lives, O’odham and Piipaash families would spend most of their daily lives together; working, eating and talking, utilizing direct human contact. Now a days you’re very lucky to have any family activities without the presence of cell phones or electronic devices dominating the attention of family members of all ages. Families rarely sit together and talk together anymore, let alone speak with each other in our O’odham and Piipaash languages.

As part of the O’odham and Piipaash Language Program’s continued efforts to preserve and revitalize our O’odham and Piipaash languages, the program strives to develop new and adaptive ways to inspire and captivate the Community.

On Tuesday, March 15, the OPLP hosted its very first Family Game Night. This Family Game Night combined modern family games and our precious languages together to help create a fun language leaning activity. The terminology for the card games, Uno (Hemako/Shenthik), and Crazy Eight (Logo Gigi’ik/Sapxuk Nykpet), was translated into both O’odham and Piipaash.

Encouragement and positive experiences are determining learning factors and influence whether or not a person will return for more language learning activities, classes and events. Realizing that many in attendance were new to language learning, careful attention was paid to make sure was attendees were taught in a positive and encouraging manner, making it a fun experience for everyone.

Most of the 32 individuals that participated in this event were students in the O’odham Immersion Class, the Piipaash Immersion Class or the Beginning Piipaash Class. This was a great chance to practice what they have learned in previous classes. Some students who were familiar with the language helped new participants with their language learning.

Make game night in O'odham & Piipaash part of your next family gathering. For translations in O'odham and Piipaash visit our Resource Documents on the Multimedia page.


They Attacked on Easter

Deni Seymour presents for the March Archaeology Night

Easter Day, 1698, around five hundred Jano, Jocomes, Manso, Sumas and Apaches attacked a village of eighty O’odham men, women and children along the Santa Cruz River, just west of what is today known as Tombstone, AZ. This distinct band of O’odham, historically recorded as Sobaipuri by Eusebio Kino and other early Spanish explorers, ran for their lives toward an adobe-walled structure at one end of their village. After a time of bravely defending their position, the roof was breached, and the outnumbered O’odham were forced to surrender.

As fate would have it, a Sobaipuri O’odham man from a nearby village heard the battle sounds and began to gather an equal number of O’odham warriors. A battle of champions commenced between select individuals from the opposing sides. The O’odham champions defeated the enemy champions without a single loss. An all-out melee ensued, resulting in a defeat and retreat of the attackers, after whom the O’odham gave chase. It is estimated that as many as three hundred enemy attackers may have lost their lives in that battle, whereas the O’odham only lost perhaps five warriors. Over time the distinct Sobaipuri O’odham were largely absorbed by other Akimel and Tohono O’odham groups, and their distinct origins were largely forgotten over time. Some residents of Wa:k (San Xavier del Bac), however continue to distinctly recognize themselves as Sobaipuri descendants.

The historic events described above have been fairly well documented by early Spanish explorers and missionaries. More recently, though, archaeologists like Deni Seymour have examined the battle site to examine how the remaining physical evidence stacks up against the recorded version of events. Deni Seymour’s work not only authenticates the written accounts, but adds rich detail to them. On March 9, Ms. Seymour shared her perspective of this great battle to about seventy SRPMIC tribal members and guests as part of the Cultural Preservation Program’s “Intro to Archaeology” series. She shared a lot of detailed information, but one of her final messages was probably most memorable for many audience members; although the O’odham are often portrayed historically as passive farmers, evidence shows they were some of the greatest warriors in southwest.


O’odham Language Classes

Planting by the O'odham Immersion Class

On February 6, the Community O’odham language classes of the spring session commenced and they are currently in full swing. This semester, we had a total of 30 individuals sign up, some of whom are returning students from previous sessions. Most, however, are taking the class for the first time. The O’odham classes are full immersion with no English allowed. At the very first class, participants are informed by instructors, Malia Garcia and Diane Cashoya, that immersion can be very intimidating and confusing at first, but if they hang in there, the experience will ultimately be very rewarding.

This year, the O’odham Piipaash Language Program and the Community Garden Program are collaborating to provide a more culturally enriched experience that extends beyond the classroom. This collaborative project was the brainchild of the Community Garden Coordinator, Jacob Butler, who thought it would be a great opportunity to enhance both programs. The students are learning the terminology associated with planting while actively immersed in the experience of planting native foods at the Community Garden. This will not only expand their language skills, but will hopefully inspire them to start and maintain home gardens of their own. Agriculture has been an important aspect of our O’odham culture since time immemorial, but has declined dramatically in the last few generations.


Piipaash Language Classes

First night for the Beginning Piipaash Class

For the first time ever, the O’odham Piipaash Language Program offered two Piipaash language classes simultaneously during the 2016 spring session. Last year, the OPLP successfully completed its first Piipaash immersion language class. Inspired by the initial success, the immersion class was again offered this spring and commenced on February 9. Ron Carlos and Leota Standing Elk taught the immersion classes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings to a class of 18 students. A number of the participants were new, but some were returning from last year’s session. The immersion class consisted primarily of adults but a few families also brought children which is wonderful. Often it’s the younger ones who seem to pick up the language with less difficulty, serving as inspiration for the adult learners.

Realizing that new language learners have different learning styles and comfort levels, it was decided that a beginner Piipaash language class would also be offered. The beginning class was not immersion; rather it introduced the sounds, the Piipaash alphabet, and built a foundation of basic vocabulary, phrases and grammatical knowledge. The beginning Piipaash language class was facilitated by Kahneena Jones and Michelle Washington, neither of whom were specifically hired to teach language classes, but both of whom have stepped up to meet the challenge. Both have become active and enthusiastic Piipaash language learners who are now following the mantra we encourage with everyone, “Teach what you can and teach what you know.”

UPDATE: While two Piipaash Language classes were offered during the 2016 spring session, the O'odham Piipaash Language Program now only offers one Piipaash Language class.


Winter storytelling at Community Garden

Fire is used to keep warm at storytelling

As the weather warms, it signals the end of the traditional O’odham & Piipaash winter storytelling season. Legends and stories have always been told during the long winter nights while sitting around the fire, and that practice continues today. While there are pragmatic reasons for this, there are also cultural prohibitions that limit the telling of stories outside the winter season for the O’odham. The Piipaash don’t have the same cultural prohibitions, but still consider the winter nights as the proper time for such activities.

Every year, the CRD hosts at least one storytelling event for the Community. This year, the Huhugam Ki Museum invited Michael Enis from Tohono O’odham Nation to share his stories with us. Just like our languages have different dialects, our traditional stories can vary from community to community. While important to know our own local versions, we feel it is also important to learn about and appreciate the beautiful mosaic of cultural knowledge and perspectives that exist within the extended O’odham and Piipaash families. We all maintain different elements of information that make up our collective history.

This year’s CRD winter storytelling event was held on the evening of Saturday, January 23. For the first time, it was held at the CRD Community Garden. The audience consisted of approximately 50 individuals, ranging from children to elders. Many participants expressed their appreciation of the garden setting for this year’s event. It also inspired Mr. Enis to include stories and songs pertaining to plants and planting. With the success of this location, we plan to develop it to accommodate future storytelling and other cultural events. We wish to extend our thanks to Mr. Enis, the Huhugam Ki Museum staff, Community Garden staff and all those who attended or helped.


Planning for a New Repository

The Cultural Resources Department consists of several programs that collect artifacts and information pertaining to the O’odham and Piipaash cultures. These physical artifacts of our cultures include prehistoric and historic baskets items, such as, pottery, art, photographs, documents, audio recording of songs, etc. All of these precious items need to be stored in a secure, controlled environment in an organized manner, so they can be properly protected, conserved and accessible for present and future generations. The building we presently use as a repository to house these items is the old BIA Day School’s single female teacher’s dormitory that was built in 1935. Some of you may also remember it as the old childcare facility.

Over the past ten or so years, this historic building has been restored and modified to serve as a short term repository and museum staff office space. It has been retrofitted with state of the art security, and the environment (i.e. light, humidity, temperature) is remarkably stable. The biggest issue we have at this point in time is size. We knew the day would come when we would outgrow it and would require a new repository. That day happened shortly after we began to occupy it, but has now reached a crisis point. The lack of space severely inhibits the Huhugam Ki Museum from adding to its collections and inhibits the Cultural Preservation Program from repatriating NAGPRA items from outside institutions. There is also no room for housing archaeological collections that result from local on-going development. In the past, many archaeological collections from the local area have been shipped off to museums and universities outside the Phoenix area. These items should remain home and should return home. The only way that will happen is if the Community builds a new repository.

Fortunately, the SRPMIC is currently planning for a new Cultural Resources Repository. In 2015, a feasibility study was conducted with a contracted firm and submitted for tribal council’s review. Council subsequently earmarked funding for the design phase to commence in FY 2016. Planning for the new Cultural Resources Repository has been exciting. We are envisioning a facility that not only has enough space for collections, but also contains sufficient space and state of the art equipment for our staff professionals to do their work. One of the most exciting aspects being planned is with regard to Community member access. Research rooms are included in the repository plans to provide tribal members the opportunity to access historic documents, photos, recordings and other information. Our desired location for the new repository is within the historic property adjacent to the Day School, but that has not yet been officially determined. We will continue to provide updates here as the project progresses.