Article submitted by UNITY Earth Ambassador, Samuel Lopez: “I was the coordinator of a workshop titled “Tohono O’odham Hunting/Traditional Foods” at our annual Tohono O’odham Nation Youth Conference. The goal of this workshop was to teach youth the importance of Tohono O’odham traditional food in our physical, social, spiritual, and mental well-being as a people. The participants sorted two types of Ba:wi (Tepary Beans), Weg ck Tota (Red and White), the only two of about thirty two types that survived through WWII. This is a very calm and peaceful process, so a lot of youth found comfort in this.
Next, the participants learned how to make squash and cheese, although a contemporary dish, Ha:l (Squash) is still a main part of our culture. After, the participants learned how to skin and process rabbits, cooked to eat by itself and some thrown in with the Tota Ba:wi (White Tepary Beans) while cooking. Hunting is a main part of Tohono O’odham culture, used for survival and not for sport. Then, the participants made Cemait (Tortillas). This is also a contemporary dish but serves as a bonding and connecting with people moment when making this.
Finally, the participants got to roast some Huñ (Corn) over the fire, a tedious process as you have to watch and make sure the kernels don’t burn. After everything was cooked, the participants got to eat the food which they prepared, a rewarding experience for the soul.
“My mission as an Earth Ambassador is to teach youth the importance and value of the traditional foods which their culture has to offer. Although some values of our culture are fading, it is moments like this where we come together and share each other’s energy while working with traditional food that is going to be the energy that binds us together. Traditional food heals the soul when things in life are hard. It gives you the blessings needed to keep moving forward. That is what is so beautiful about indigenous culture, what things can happen when we come together.”
I would like to thank everyone who helped collaborate to make this event possible. Waylen Martin of Baboquivari District was a big help in the preparation and coordination of this workshop. Another big help was the Tohono O’odham Nation Youth Council, the hosting organization of this event.