To celebrate the Huhugam Ki Museum’s 26th anniversary, an open house was held on November 8 from noon to 6 p.m. About 150 people attended. In preparing for the event, Huhugam Ki Museum manager Gary Owens and staff wanted to keep it low-key, since last year was the big 25th-anniversary celebration. So they decided to try something new, contacting different Community groups to see if they would be interested in having an exhibit at the open house. Each group could design a two-panel display for their exhibit.
“We wanted to see what other people could do on their own. We were looking for groups that were born out of Community involvement,” said Owens.
For example, Hoza developed a display on the Beeline Dragway. Located outside of Mesa, the dragway was a popular racing destination in the 1960s and ’70s.
Jim Rogers, a local business executive, leased land from the Community to build the raceway, which had two quarter-mile lanes. To create the display, Hoza talked with Community members who remembered the drag strip and referred to a book about closed race tracks across the country.
“I found one chapter on the Beeline Dragway and got a lot of information and put [the display] together,” said Hoza. The dragway’s old timing tower is still standing and can be seen from a distance in certain parts of the Community.
Other exhibits highlighted the Salt River Presbyterian Church, the Red Mountain Riders motorcycle club and the Salt River Rodeo Association.
The museum is considering putting these on permanent display, either inside the museum or in one of the three Huhugam Ki display cases located inside the Two Waters Complex.
Of course, the newest examples of traditional O’odham basketry and pottery were on display. There was a collection of long-neck pottery vases made by a local artist, with photographs and information on how the pottery was made. One of the museum’s signature pieces, a basket woven by the late Hilda Manuel, was also on display. Hilda Manuel’s daughter verified the basket’s authenticity and remembered her mother making it. It actually changed hands several times since it was made, but now it has come back to the Community.
“It was woven around 1980-81 and took six months to finish. It was entered into some art shows; one was in Gallup, New Mexico, and another in Scottsdale,” said Owens. “The basket was made for purchase for a buyer who came from New York, and what’s unusual about this basket is that it was found on eBay.”
He said that it’s rare to find a basket with such thorough history and documentation. The Community purchased it, and it still had the original tags.
Food samples were given out every hour during the open house. The first was cakes in the shape of a traditional round house. Also on the menu were oxtail soup, tamales made with mesquite flour in the masa, prickly pear ice cream, and green chili stew.
“We wanted to show people that you can create contemporary dishes using our traditional foods,” said Owens.
Those looking for bargains found items from the museum’s gift shop on sale during the open house as well.
“We just wanted people to come out to look at some of the new displays and some of the baskets we brought out from our collection [that were] made by Community members,” said Owens.
“The Community has a rich history, and we want to share it.”