An Anthropologist's Arrival: A Memoir
Ruth M. Underhill, Edited by Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh and Stephen E. Nash University of Arizona Press, 2014 Library of Congress GN21.U48A3 2014 | Dewey Decimal 301.092
Ruth M. Underhill (1883–1984) was one of the twentieth century’s legendary anthropologists, forged in the same crucible as Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, and Margaret Mead. After decades of trying to escape her Victorian roots, Underhill took on a new adventure at the age of forty-six, when she entered Columbia University as a doctoral student of anthropology. Celebrated now as one of America’s pioneering anthropologists, Underhill reveals her life’s journey in frank, tender, unvarnished revelations that form the basis of An Anthropologist’s Arrival. This memoir, edited by Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh and Stephen E. Nash, is based on unpublished archives, including an unfinished autobiography and interviews conducted prior to her death, held by the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.
In brutally honest words, Underhill describes her uneven passage through life, beginning with a searing portrait of the Victorian restraints on women and her struggle to break free from her Quaker family’s privileged but tightly laced control. Tenderly and with humor she describes her transformation from a struggling “sweet girl” to wife and then divorcée. Professionally she became a welfare worker, a novelist, a frustrated bureaucrat at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, a professor at the University of Denver, and finally an anthropologist of distinction.
Her witty memoir reveals the creativity and tenacity that pushed the bounds of ethnography, particularly through her focus on the lives of women, for whom she served as a role model, entering a working retirement that lasted until she was nearly 101 years old.
No quotation serves to express Ruth Underhill’s adventurous view better than a line from her own poetry: “Life is not paid for. Life is lived. Now come.”
The story of the Tohono O’odham peoples offers an important account of assimilation. Bifurcated by a border demarcating Mexico and the United States that was imposed on them after the Gadsden Purchase in 1853, the Tohono O’odham lived at the edge of two empires. Although they were often invisible to the majority cultures of the region, they attracted the attention of reformers and government officials in the United States, who were determined to “assimilate” native peoples into “American society.” By focusing on gender norms and ideals in the assimilation of the Tohono O’odham, At the Border of Empires provides a lens for looking at both Native American history and broader societal ideas about femininity, masculinity, and empire around the turn of the twentieth century.
Beginning in the 1880s, the US government implemented programs to eliminate “vice” among the Tohono O’odham and to encourage the morals of the majority culture as the basis of a process of “Americanization.” During the next fifty years, tribal norms interacted with—sometimes conflicting with and sometimes reinforcing—those of the larger society in ways that significantly shaped both government policy and tribal experience. This book examines the mediation between cultures, the officials who sometimes developed policies based on personal beliefs and gender biases, and the native people whose lives were impacted as a result. These issues are brought into useful relief by comparing the experiences of the Tohono O’odham on two sides of a border that was, from a native perspective, totally arbitrary.
Basket weaver, storyteller, and tribal elder, Frances Manuel is a living preserver of Tohono O’odham culture. Speaking in her own words from the heart of the Arizona desert, she now shares the story of her life. She tells of O’odham culture and society, and of the fortunes and misfortunes of Native Americans in the southwestern borderlands over the past century.
In Desert Indian Woman, Frances relates her life and her stories with the wit, humor, and insight that have endeared her to family and friends. She tells of her early childhood growing up in a mesquite brush house, her training in tribal traditions, her acquaintance with Mexican ways, and her education in an American boarding school. Through her recollections of births and deaths, heartache and happiness, we learn of her family’s migration from the reservation to the barrios and back again. In the details of her everyday life, we see how Frances has navigated between O’odham and American societies, always keeping her grandparents’ traditional teachings as her compass.
It is extraordinary to hear from a Native American woman like Frances, in her own words and her own point of view, to enter the complex and sensitive aspects of her life experience, her sorrows, and her dreams. We also become privy to her continuing search for her identity across the border, and the ways in which Frances and Deborah have attempted to make sense of their friendship over twenty-odd years. Throughout the book, Deborah captures the rhythms of Frances’s narrative style, conveying the connectedness of her dreams, songs, and legends with everyday life, bringing images and people from faraway times and places into the present.
Deborah Neff brings a breadth of experience in anthropology and Southwest Native American cultures to the task of placing Frances Manuel’s life in its broader historical context, illuminating how history works itself out in people’s everyday lives. Desert Indian Woman is the story of an individual life lived well and a major contribution to the understanding of history from a Native American point of view.
In 1698, the Apache and their allies attacked a sleeping Sobaipuri-O’odham village on the San Pedro River at the northern edge of New Spain, now in southern Arizona. This book, about one of the most important Southwestern battles of the era in this region, reads like a mystery. At the same time, it addresses in a scholarly fashion the methodological question of how we can confidently infer anything reliable about the past.
Translations of original Spanish accounts by Father Kino and others convey important details about the battle, while the archaeological record and ethnographic and oral traditions provide important correctives to the historic account. A new battlefield signature of native American conflict is identified, and the fiery context of the battle provides unprecedented information about what the Sobaipuri grew and hunted in this out-of-the-way location, including the earliest known wheat.
That this tumultuous time was a period of flux is reflected in the defensive, communal, and ceremonial architecture of the O'odham, which accommodated Spanish tastes and techniques. Practices specific to the O’odham as they relate to the day’s events and to village life illuminate heretofore unexplained aspects of the battle. The book also records a visit by descendant O’odham, reinforcing the importance of identifying the historically documented location.
A Fateful Day in 1698 will be of significant interest to archaeologists and historians.
From the actions of Europeans in the seventeenth century to the real estate deals of the modern era, people making a living off the land in southern Arizona have been repeatedly robbed of their way of life. History has recorded more than three centuries of speculative failures that never amounted to much but left dispossessed people in their wake. This book seeks to excavate those failures, to examine the new social spaces the schemers struggled to create and the existing social spaces they destroyed.
Landscapes of Fraud explores how the penetration of the evolving capitalist world-system created and destroyed communities in the Upper Santa Cruz Valley of Arizona from the late 1600s to the 1970s. Thomas Sheridan has melded history, anthropology, and critical geography to create a penetrating view of greed and power and their lasting effect on those left powerless.
Sheridan first examines how O’odham culture was fragmented by the arrival of the Spanish, telling how autonomous communities moving across landscapes in seasonal rounds were reduced to a mission world of subordination. Sheridan then considers the fate of the Tumacácori grant and Baca Float No. 3, another land grant. He tells the unbroken story of land fraud from Manuel María Gándara’s purchase of the “abandoned” Tumacácori grant at public auction in 1844 through the bankruptcy of the shady real estate developers who had fraudulently promoted housing projects at Rio Rico during the 1960s and ’70s.
As the Upper Santa Cruz Valley underwent a wrenching transition from a landscape of community to a landscape of fraud, the betrayal of the O’odham became complete when land, that most elemental form of human space, was transformed from a communal resource into a commodity bought and sold for its future value. Today, Mission Tumacácori stands as a romantic icon of the past while the landscapes that supported it lay buried under speculative schemes that continue to haunt our history.
Piman shamanism is based on the belief that morality and some forms of sickness are interrelated. The shaman, or medicine man, has a dual role in the Piman Indian culture. He is the guardian of the Pimans’ health and their consciousness of cultural identity.
This definitive study of shamanic theory and practice was developed through a four-person collaboration: three Tohono O’odham Indians—a shaman, a translator, and a trained linguist—and a non-Indian explicator. It provides an in-depth examination of the Piman philosophy of sickness as well as an introduction to the world view of an entire people.
Using the most highly developed techniques of modern ethnolinguistics, anthropologist Bahr investigates the culturally based concept of staying sickness. He conducted extensive discussions in the Piman language with shaman Gregorio. The native informant theorized at length about the cause of staying sickness, the dúajida (divination), and ritual prayers. The translator and the linguist analyzed the content and style of Gregorio’s discussions. Texts in the Piman language of Gregorio’s discussions are included, as well as literal and idiomatic English translations.
American Anthropologist cites “the infinite care with which each utterance has been analyzed” and “the richness of cultural expression captured in the texts themselves and in their explanation. To read Piman Shamanism and Staying Sickness is to become familiar with the unique properties of Piman thinking and modes of expression: abstract, elliptical, contracted, and yet filled with a rich and natural imagery.”
The Tohono O'odham of southern Arizona, formerly known as the Papago, have made a life in a place that many would consider uninhabitable. These desert people were converted to Catholicism by early Spanish missionaries, yet they retain much of their earlier lifeway as a means of continuing adaptation to their desert environment. This book is a restudy of speeches and ritual information collected by anthropologist Underhill beginning in 1931 and published in her book Papago Indian Religion (1946). It describes the Native—as opposed to the Christian—side of the yearly ritual cycle of the Tohono O'odham, showing how seven rites form a system of meanings that grew from the relation between these people and their desert homeland. The rites presented focus on the summer wine feast, salt pilgrimage, hunting, war, and flood.
This book marks the culmination of fifteen years of collaboration between the University of Utah's American West Center and the Tohono O'oodham Nation's Education Department to collect documents and create curricular materials for use in their tribal school system. . . . Erickson has done an admirable job compiling this narrative.—Pacific Historical Review
Where Clouds Are Formed
Ofelia Zepeda University of Arizona Press, 2008 Library of Congress PS3576.E64W47 2008 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
Ofelia Zepeda is a Native American poet who possesses a kind of double vision. She sees the contemporary world through her own highly observant eyes and, at the same time, through the eyes of her Tohono O’odham ancestors. Seeing this way infuses her poetry with a resonance and depth that makes it a delight to read—and re-read.
Zepeda is as clear-eyed about the past as she is about the present. She recalls waiting for the school bus on a cold morning inside her father’s truck, listening to the sounds of the engine, the windshield wipers, and the “soft rain on the hood.” She remembers celebrating Mass on the “cold dirt floor of the Winter Solstice.” In the present, she sees both the frustration and the humor in a woman she observes trying to eat pancakes with one hand while her other resides in a cast: “Watching her, I realize eating pancakes is a two-handed job.”
Whatever she sees, she filters through her second set of eyes, which keep the past always present. She tells of traveling to Waw Giwulig, the most sacred mountain of the Tohono O’odham, to ask for blessings—and forgiveness. She writes that one should always bring music to the mountains, “so they are generous with the summer rains.” And, still, “the scent of burning wood / holds the strongest memory. / Mesquite, cedar, piñon, juniper, . . . / we catch the scent of burning wood; / we are brought home.” It is a joy to see the world afresh through her eyes.