A'AGA Something to be told or talked about

April 6, 2018


Billy Allen


Earth Day is celebrated this Kwi Hiosik or Mesquite Flowers Month (April) – a reminder that we should be caretakers of the jeved.  Heki hu or long ago, Hohokam took an active hand in using and reshaping nature. This may have led them to believe they ruled the earth. But according to our origin stories, nature retaliated with extremes:  droughts, floods, freezing, hot weather, etc.  O’otham and Piipaash began to seek a balanced way of life, getting along with nature, somewhat like “if we do this, then this will happen.”  They also noticed life coming from and returning to the jeved giving rise to the idea of Mother Earth and realized we were not the rulers of nature, but a partner.  Rituals for good weather – plenty of sunshine and rain to raise plenty of food –came forth.  We began to realize our himdag or culture walks in a circle. If and when our O’otham and Piipaash ancestors had to take from or change nature, they asked to be forgiven. 


On April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day was celebrated in New York City. Today Earth Day is celebrated worldwide in over 192 countries.   The slogan “Reduce-Reuse-Recycle” came about, but for O’otham and Piipaash it was a way of life.   The 3 Rs fit the mindset of himdag – let’s practice it.  During my childhood certain things were hardly ever thrown away. Big flour containers were prized when empty, which was rare.  Food was stored in whatever container was available, giving rise to the term O’otham Tupperware. Working outside, baling and barbed wire was wound up and kept for later use, and gallon glass bottles became water jugs. The jars were wrapped with burlap and moistened to cool the water.  Our clothes were recycled among family and cousins.  Sometimes discarded clothing was woven into colorful rugs.  Yards or personal family areas were swept clean using tree branches with elders telling the young what to do. (It would not be good if vosk or ka:k tripped.) 


Over twenty years ago, GRIC government began to address environmental concerns and enacted a Solid Waste Ordinance. Two open dump landfills were closed, waste pickup service was begun, and a solid waste transfer station was opened. A full-scale recycling program was also introduced, but complete buy-in from the community has been a challenge.  The Waste Management Program is working to improve recycling opportunities throughout the Gila River Indian Community.  GRIC departments hold events throughout the year where GRICsters can grab a t-shirt or a water bottle.  Plastic pollution is a growing worry for our environment.  Some GRIC events such as the Earth Day and Winter Bird Count Events – there may be others – strive for a zero waste standard by providing recycling and composting bins, but the response from participants seems hit and miss.  All tribal departments should make their events zero waste. They can contact the Department of Environmental Quality for assistance. I have to get in a Sun Devil comment.  For Earth Day last year the ASU community held a restoration event at Oidbaḍ Doʼag, Dead or Abandoned Fields Mountain.  Most people call it “A Mountain,” but the official name is Hayden Butte Preserve.  It is the only nature preserve in Tempe, and it has Hohokam water petroglyphs created when the river ran during their time.  The restoration was done to make the preserve clean, safe, and respectable.   Here in our community, it would be great if we became better caretakers of our jeved.  Visible trash along our roads and against chain link fences surround our “public areas” and shouldn’t be acceptable, and shouldn’t be the new normal. It is a form of pollution – it hurts our eyes and hearts.  We need a fourth “R”: Respect.  


Information was taken from the following sites; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Day; http://pantheonchemical.com/reduce-reuse-recycle/; https://asunow.asu.edu/20170421-sun-devil-life-mountain-restored-earth-day and from the author’s memory.