Paths of Life
Tohono O’odham and
World Would Burn
Desert is supposed to survive on the rainfall, and
whatever surface water there is. The pump is going to stop one of
these days, and someone will push that button and there won't be
any more water coming out.
—Ofelia Zepeda, 1983
For the Tohono O'odham and Akimel O'odham people of
southern Arizona, water is more than a daily necessity; it
saturates their culture and way of life. For over a century,
Anglo-American farmers and politicians have threatened this water,
and the very existence of the O'odham people.
The coming of the summer rains was always an important event to the
O'odham people. So important, in fact, that the first rains marked
the beginning of the O'odham new year. In June, the songs and speeches of the Nawait ceremony were performed to ensure that the
thunderclouds would appear again.
Without these summer rains, the desert plants did not
produce their bounty of mesquite beans and cactus fruit that were an important part of the traditional O'odham diet. In addition, their
farms of corn, beans, and squash would wither and die.
Read the essay, Sonoran Catholic, by Dr. Ofelia Zepeda
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