A’AGA – Something to be told or talked about

August 4, 2017


By Billy Allen


Summers on our jeved or land have always been hot, but like the Energizer Bunny, O’otham and Piipaash kept on going. Anna Moore Shaw was born at Gila Crossing in 1898 and in her book, “A Pima Past,” she begins three generations prior and writes of how O’otham and Piipaash dealt with cultural change. Today’s pace is much more accelerated, and at times it may seem like we have lost touch with our roots. But have we?


In the past, before sunrise children were told to wake up, gather tools, and go to the fields or go hunting to make this one of the best days of their lives. Even if there was no actual “work” to do, communities had competitions such as running and toka to keep people active. These activities promoted leadership, cohesiveness, and communal pride. In a way, it was practice for survival in perilous times. Our people had to be able to move quickly because of enemy attacks. As peace came about in the 1880s, new “games” became part of our himdag or culture.


Being a “keli-in-training,” my childhood memories spring from the 1950’s and I remember communal celebrations and competitive games. Sacaton hosted a rodeo on Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day. Bapchule, Gila Crossing, Sacaton, and Upper Santan had summer feast days with baseball also on the menu.   Community baseball/softball managers scheduled home and away baseball games with neighboring villages and area reservations like Ak-Chin, Tohono O’odham, and San Carlos. Add the Great Southwest Baseball and Softball Tournament at Salt River, and that was an active summer.


It was nice of the Huhugam Heritage Center personnel to let me view early copies of the Gila River Indian News. Front page news of the August 1964 edition was the upcoming two-day Labor Day rodeo in Sacaton. The rodeo was headed up by Charlie Marrietta, assisted by Floyd Gomez, Al Jarvis, and Dell Morago. Stock was provided by Mitch Maddock and George “Papago” Mason. The sports page had a blurb submitted by Harry Williams, Jr. who reported that the Komatke Cardinals completed regular season play in a Maricopa County League and earned a berth to the championship game. Myrna Soke pitched a no-hitter, third basewoman Carol Thomas and shortstop Delilah Enos were solid on the left side of the diamond, but errors cost the Cardinals, losing to Peoria.


Next up on the Indian League schedule was the Salt River Indian tournament. To maintain their competitive edge, a double-header was scheduled against the Thunderbirds and Cobras. These games were to be played on the Komatke Hawk’s home field in Gila Crossing.


Edison Allison took a fourteen member women’s GRIC toka team to Sells for a tournament on July 18. (Two other individuals were listed as “watchdogs”: their job was to keep an eye on team property.) Apparently the tournament was part of Tohono O’odham pageant festivities. No scores were listed, but the team “returned boasting of multiple bruises.” Toka is a contact sport, not for the faint of heart. Team members enjoyed the hospitality of our hajuñ or cousins. A bar-b-que lunch was served and Miss Mary Grace Lucas, reigning Miss Indian Arizona, served as hostess for dinner. Julia Nasewytewa submitted the article.


The GRIC Little Leaguers were also on the vohg or road. The Sacaton All Stars and Blackwater teams entered a tournament at San Carlos. The two day tournament, which started on August 15th, had teams from Peridot, Bylas, Ft. McDowell, San Carlos and Salt River. No surprise, the Sacaton All Stars won the tournament. Our community was well represented for All Tourney selections. Rodney Lyons, Davey Halbison, Danny Antone, Franklin D. Whitman and Leander Whitman made the first team list. Larry Mackett was chosen tournament MVP. Mr. Dave Halbison of Sacaton was selected All Tourney Manager. A few of these boys and girls of summers past are still part of our community’s heart. Thanks to all the GRICsters who have or currently served as coaches and mentors in assisting our youth. Sports have kept our himdag strong. Much like the Hohokam, we suffered the heat and losses but cherished the wins.

The staff of the Gila River Indian News and Mr. Jewel Whitman were also helpful.