Community members Verna Espinoza, Francis Kisto and Teri Gonzales spend their evening viewing old photographs during the Salt River’s Pictures of the Past event. In the background is Huhugam Ki Museum Manager Gary Owens telling people about the importance of old photos.

Salt River’s Pictures of the Past

By Tasha Silverhorn
Au-Authm Action News

More than 30 Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community members and some Community employees gathered on Tuesday, September 27 at the Salt River Community Building to view a presentation by the Huhugam Ki Museum called “Salt River’s Pictures of the Past.”

People came trickling into the building anxious to see what pictures were going to be on display as they made their way to a table with enlarged photographs mounted onto black foam boards. Within the first five minutes of people arriving, they had already identified some people in the old photographs; they marked their names on a sticky notes and placed them on the photos.

Huhugam Ki Museum Manager Gary Owens started off the presentation as museum staff served a light dinner of beans, a roll and a drink. Owens presented a slide show of photographs that were found in the museum archives and donated by Community members.

“When people come to [the Huhugam Ki Museum] looking for photographs, a lot of the people are looking for pictures that have baskets from the 1800s, the women in grass skirts and the men with their spears,” said Owens as he explained why the museum decided to hold this event. “They think that photographs really come from that era. We wanted to show that photographs are the history of a Community. There is a lot of pre-contact history through our oral traditions, but these are also reminiscent of our history.

“Forty years ago, it was the beginning of the 1970s, and we were all hip and modern. We didn’t think, ‘Oh I’m going to take a picture and it’s going to just be a picture,” said Owens. “As you can see in front of you, these [photographs] are from the late 1960s and ’70s and they are images of the people and of a life we no longer have in this Community,” Owens explained to the audience.

The slide show featured old photographs from the Salt River Day School and events that went on there, and photos of buildings, such as the house that was once the teacher’s quarters that ended up to be the Community’s Finance, Education and Land offices, and more.

Staff members from the Salt River Library ran a nine-minute video of the Indian Fair and Rodeo from the 1970s. Librarian Leigh Thomas talked about old books about the O’odham and Piipaash that the library has, and older videos that the library has which are available for viewing.

“We think it’s important for everyone to know what the history of Salt River was, even within the last 50 years,” said Owens. “We need to have these records so that our grandkids know what this Community went through and what we stand for.”

“We came out because it sounded interesting; my sister suggested that we come out to help identify some of the people that are in [the photographs],” explained Community member Teri Gonzalez. “I found it interesting. I haven’t seen pictures like these in a long time; some of the elders are gone. We [saw] Tammy (her sister) in one of the pictures, and pictures of Garnet Gates and Paul Smith. I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, were we that young?’ I thought about what Gary said too, about bringing pictures [into the museum], because I have pictures of my mother and her brothers when they were in their 20s. I had forgotten how parts of Salt River looked way back when. It’s bringing back good memories.”

Community member Danny Harvier was surprised to see a familiar face as he watched the slide show.

He said, “I found out my mom was in one of the pictures when they mentioned Ida Sabahe with the Education Board, and I remember my momma was in there, and then someone said, ‘That’s Edna Paul,’ and I said, ‘Oh, that’s my momma!”
Youth who attended were also able to see pictures of their grandmothers and great-grandmothers whom they had never seen before.

“It’s interesting to see my grandma Annette; she looks like my dad’s sister, my aunt Shannon,” said KiAna Reina as she and her sisters looked at the old photos and their dad, Pacer Reina, identified people for them. The young girls also saw a photo of one great-grandmother, the late Claudine Wood.

Owens encourages Community members to donate any old photographs of Community events, buildings or of Community people who have passed on so they can be placed in the Huhugam Ki Museum archives. The museum staff will be happy to work with you on scanning your photographs so you can keep your originals.

For more information, call Huhugam Ki Museum at (480) 362-6320.

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