A’aga – December 2016

December 2, 2016


Billy Allen


Native American communities acknowledge all major holidays and add a few Native ones. The Gila River Indian Community’s Water Rights Day honors victory of a decades long lawsuit for our historical water rights. To date, it is the largest Native water settlement in the United States. This endeavor involved many tribal members; young and old, men and women, learned individuals with degrees and individuals with ancestral knowledge. However, water issues persist for Natives.


Props to GRICsters and O’otham who traveled to North Dakota to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The plan includes a pipeline under the river upstream of their reservation. If the pipeline ruptures, it will pollute the river – the tribe’s sole water source. The protest motto: “Water is Life.”


When we celebrate Water Rights Day, think about water, taste water. Picture a scene from the old days: a water filled ha’a or olla hanging from a va:to or ramada beam. Or it may have been sitting in a mesquite fork. The clay ha’a is “sweating” and cooling the water. When visitors come by, you offer them water. Nice, refreshing, life sustaining su:dag or water. Any elder who grew up in Sweetwater will attest to the sweetness of tribal water. Whenever my mother traveled, she couldn’t wait to get back to Vahki to taste the “good” home su:dag. Water sustained us; it grew and cooked our food; cleaned us and our clothes; determined where we lived. We had to be close to water.


Water IS life. So, why do so many of us turn away from water and go with soft drinks? When we by-pass water and choose pop, we hurt our lives. Some of us go with diet soft drinks, but they are no better than regular soda, and may actually be worse. The bad effects of pop -- whether regular or diet -- are known facts, not a “might” like maybe the pipeline might break. Choosing su:dag to drink instead of sugar-infused drinks is choosing life.


An article from the Arizona Republic explains how artificial sweeteners are harmful. When your brain registers the sweet taste, it releases insulin to help break down sugar. Then, when no sugar arrives, just artificial sweeteners, there’s too much insulin in your body. Over time this may lead to insulin resistance. Diabetes and weight gain are not far away.


More often today we buy liquids to quench our thirst or cool down, drinks that are not natural. Why isn’t water an option? Processed drink companies have hooked us on their products, regular and diet. A once in a while pop or so:la might be okay, but not every day. We are Akimel O’otham -- not Pepsi/Coke O’otham or Gatorade O’otham.


Su:dag is a gift from the Creator. Have you ever given someone a gift and you can tell they don’t like it? You never see them wear it or use it?   If it shows that you don’t appreciate a gift, how might it make the giver feel? Water sustained the people who came before us, for the people before them, to the time of the Huhugam-and before! In December our desert becomes dormant as it waits for the sun to turnaround and walk back. GRICsters begin to long for the warmth of spring and summer suns. We look forward to that cool drink of su:dag on a warm day. This New Year’s Eve offer cheers naturally, su:dag and chu’i or pinole. Choose water, choose life. Su:dag ‘o wud duakag.

Information was gleaned from the Gila River Indian News, the Atlantic magazine and from the writer.