- "We Are from the Sand":Fillman Bell's Interviews of Hia-Ced O'odham
In the late 1970s, the National Park Service staff at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument concluded that the historic American Indian cemetery at Quitobaquito Spring needed restoration. The graves and markers were deteriorating badly. Following consultation with the Tohono and Hia-Ced O'odham, it was decided to relocate the graves, note all burial items, and record the names of those buried there, as well as interview other tribal members who had lived there or who had known persons who did. Fillman Childs Bell, daughter of a Hia-Ced O'odham who once lived at Quitobaquito, was hired to do the interviews and assigned to be senior editor. She was searching primarily for genealogy and geography, who married whom, and where did they live.
The report gathered what it could, but found that much of the information was missing from the unwritten memories for the usual reasons: They forgot, didn't have time, weren't asked that question, or were reluctant to tell all they knew. The final report does note, "However, there is in the interviews a significant amount of historical narrative, personal remembrances, and cultural information. To preserve this information, these interviews are presented as they were recorded during four weeks of travel visiting elderly Papagos in October and November [End Page 520] 1979, and in additional interviews in 1980."1 The interviews were conducted and transcribed by Bell, and a final report—The Quitobaquito Cemetery and Its History—was produced and filed with the national monument and with the Western Archeological and Conservation Center in Tucson.2 The interviews below are from Chapter 5 of that report.
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Bell's cast includes 14 persons generally said to be Hia-Ced O'odham by heritage or who had relatives who had lived at Quitobaquito. The original report also contained a historical timeline for Quitobaquito, a list of persons buried there and genealogies for their families, an analysis of the cemetery artifacts, and a short overview of traditional death ceremonies. Those are omitted here. We have added a previously unpublished interview by Bell with her sister Martha Childs Celaya conducted in 1989. Our goal is to illuminate the people and their information by highlighting places, people, plants, and animals. We do not attempt to solve the question of Hia-Ced O'odham identity and its possible roots in their dialect, territory, use of resources, heredity, cultural practices, or physical differences. [End Page 521]
We have lightly edited these interviews with updated spellings and conventions for clarity, and we reformatted paragraphs for readability and coherence. English was a second language for most of these interviewees, and the translations and organization of the conversations were handled by Bell. We have added annotations to explain, amplify, and clarify facts, names, and concepts. We have added citations and cross-references. Bell, her co-authors, and linguist Ofelia Zepeda attempted to spell "the Papago words in this text…according to the orthography set up by Albert Alvarez and Kenneth Hale (1969). This orthography is considered to be the standard writing system for the Papago tribe. However, the pronunciation of some of these words varies among speakers of the Papago language. For example, for the Sand Papago speakers who gave the Papago words for this text, the letter written as 'W' is pronounced as the letter 'V.'"3 We have standardized some place names, such as Sonoyta (Shon 'Oidag in O'odham), and re-ordered some paragraphs for coherence. We retain Bell's parenthetical comments inside parentheses ( ), and we place ours inside brackets [ ] as well as adding endnotes, especially for alternate spellings of O'odham words and to specify scientific names.
In the past few decades there has been appreciable interest in ethnobotany, and significant publications include Amadeo Rea's At the Desert's Green Edge, Richard S. Felger's Flora of the Gran Desierto and his borderland collaborations online at Phytoneuron, and work by Gary Nabhan and his colleagues, as well as the older...