Students in the Topics in US History class have been studying the history and cultures of many indigenous people in the United States over the course of the year, especially those of our own state. However, it’s important to hear about the experiences and cultures of Native people from their own perspective, so the students visited the Tohono O’Odham Nation to gain some important perspective and to learn about the many ongoing cultural revitalization efforts going on there firsthand.
First, we visited the Tohono O’Odham Cultural Center (Himdag Ki) in Topawa, where our guides Bernard Siquieros and Jeannette Garcia gave us a wonderful presentation about the culture, history, and ethnobotany of the Tohono O’Odham. Then we visited the Desert Rain Cafe and Gallery in Sells, where we also learned about TOCA (Tohono O’Odham Community Action) and their efforts to maintain O’Odham culture, health, and economic self-sufficiency. Finally, we drove up Kitt Peak into the Baboquivari Mountains-the sacred heart of the O’Odham Nation, where we could almost see all the four corners of the traditional O’Odham homeland.
The experience of going to the reservation was a powerful one for the students, who had never been before, and the generosity of our hosts and the things that they learned will stay with them for a long time.