restricted access An Interview with Alberto Celaya, 1952
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An Interview with Alberto Celaya, 1952 Paul H. Ezell and Henry F. Dobyns Introduction by Bill Broyles What was it like to talk frontier history with a legend who lived it? Here is one such session, with Alberto Celaya being questioned by Paul H. Ezell and Henry F. Dobyns, who recalls that they stood in the open with the bulky wire recorder sitting on the hood of an automobile, in Sonoyta, Sonora, January 30, 1952. The hopscotch nature of the questions and occasionally disjointed replies—at once rewarding and frustrating—will be familiar to anyone who has ever conducted or given an interview. You may feel yourself wanting to nudge Ezell and whisper, “Ask Don Alberto about the Hia C’ed O’odham camps, or their traveling routes, or how they endured the heat and cold.” And in several spots Dobyns intervenes and does just that. Each answer begs for more questions, and no interviewer can gather them all in one session, so today we are left with some answers and many lingering questions. Some of Ezell’s questions clearly were intended to recapture, on tape, previous conversations; at other times he cut Celaya short, perhaps indicating he already had that information on paper. Even today we want more, but we must be grateful, for this is what we have. Henry Dobyns recalls, “Paul and I were hot on the trail of anything we could get from Alberto Celaya about Carl Lumholtz, and from our perspective now, we knew nothing then about the Hia C’ed O’odham. We were trying to rediscover the past. Bob Thomas was over along the Gila River interviewing people,1 and Paul and I dug around down along the border. No one in the academic community really knew anything about the Hia C’ed O’odham then.”2 About the event Ezell’s day book records only this: Sunday, Jan. 27. Left Tucson 2:40 p.m., arrived OPC [Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument headquarters] 5:20 p.m., to find Hank Dobyns here noon Saturday to noon today—I muy avergonzado [very embarrassed]. Went to Sonoyta and arranged with Alberto Celaya for next Wed. & for Thursday. Journal of the Southwest 49, 3 (Autumn 2007) : 433–488 434  ✜  Journal of the Southwest Wed Jan. 30. . . . Hank Dobyns arrived [at Organ Pipe headquarters ] at noon; went to Sonoyta & collected Alberto Celaya, spent until 9:30 p.m. getting tape recording. Thurs. Jan. 31, 1952. Hank left about 10:30 [a.m.]. . . .”3 This interview, conducted largely in Spanish, was about 130 recordedminutes long, with some apparent breaks in the session. We do not know who transcribed it, but the person(s) knew enough Spanish to insert accent marks where needed. However, they heard “bura” (mule deer) as “burro,” Thomas Childs as Tomás Chaels, and storekeeper Mikul G. Levy was rendered as Layvi or Leyvi. In the transcription, “collotes” is used for coyotes, “Illitoy” for I’itoi, “La Jalada” for La Salada, “Jinacate” for Pinacate, “Mojack” for Mohawk, and “sienna de agua” for ciénega. The Spanish typescript can be found in the Paul H. Ezell Collection at the University of Arizona Special Collections Library and the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument archive. We do not know if the recording still exists or if it would be retrievable. The transcript was translated to English by Lupita Cruz (University of Arizona’s Southwest Center) and court translators Alberto and Sally Bravo (Arizona Language Specialists, Phoenix). Alberto, the grandson of Don Alberto, was born and raised in the Sonoyta region. Thanks also to Alberto’s cousins Diana Celaya de Felix and Frascuelo Celaya. Matters concerning plants were reviewed by botanist Richard S. Felger. Specific sections were improved by David A. Yetman, and Donald Bahr was consulted on others. The interview has been edited to correct obvious spelling and transcription errors, perhaps attributable to variables such as the clarity of the recording, sticking typewriter keys (remember those!), and the attunement and attentiveness of the transcriber’s ear. Too, the typescript itself may have been made from imperfect shorthand or longhand notes. We have retained some local or regional words in brackets next to the translation for clarity and your...