Something to be told or talked about

December 7, 2018


By Billy Allen



Some time ago December was considered the middle of the year. O’otham farmers knew it was important to know when the sun begins its walk back for longer days. The days of preparing canals and fields were close by.  (As an older GRICster, long, cold winter nights make me think back to good old summer heat.) Some of our southern cousins referred to December as “backbone month,” others would have called it “big cold month.” During Antonio Azul’s time, two names were recorded for December; “gray” or Sko: mag and “big winter” or Ge’cho S-hehpigik.  


The Huhugam Heritage Center passed along some early copies of the Gila River News. Since there is an outside chill, I decided to stay inside and look at the 1964 December issue to see what issues and concerns were written about just over 50 years ago. General news, announcements, district news, an editorial, and sports page was the basic format for the paper. 


The lead story was about the Sacaton Recreation Center – ground was finally broken after four years of planning meetings. Bulldozers were moving dirt to develop an earthen 5,000 seat outdoor amphitheater. The fairgrounds complex would eventually have baseball and softball diamonds, a community hall and a swimming pool. A bigger exhibit area would be created along with expanding the rodeo grounds in anticipation of the Mul-Chu-Tha, scheduled for February 13-14, 1965. 


The editorial page posed a question, “Will you fail your family during the holidays?” It addressed the abuse of alcohol and asked individuals to do some “wise thinking and no drinking.”

4-H was a popular program for young people on Gila River. GRIC 4-H projects were in the fields of health, science, agriculture, citizenship. At the Pinal County Awards dinner of 1964, four Gila River members were recognized: Wallace Jones and Jerry Ahmsaty of Casa Blanca, along with Ethelyn Jones and Lavena Marrietta of Sacaton. 


Barbara Ahmsaty submitted an article for the December issue about a Gila River Youth Group attending a production of “West Side Story” at Arizona State University.  Some donations helped, but a lot of cars got washed to pay for the pizza and tickets to the “West Side.” 


District 3 hosted a semi-formal dance for teenagers on December 26th at the Sacaton school dining room. The Lopez Music Makers played, but during their breaks, “Swim and Watusi” records kept people out on the floor. 


News from Casa Blanca centered on the opening of the new community building. A dinner was held at the Casa Blanca Day School dining room. 

District 6, “Smoke Signals” reporter Eva Hill thanked the Gila River News Staff for sponsoring monthly writing contests for the youth. Today’s youth need constant encouragement for life seems to be an uphill climb but “what you work for, you will appreciate,” she would add. 


Arthur Yaramatta and family hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for the “mud hens,” with after dinner entertainment provided by gourd singers. The Presbyterian Church hosted a community dinner for which Nick Sunn donated pork barbeque. While over at the San Juan Feast area others gathered to eat. After dinner, a women’s basket race was held with two groups of women running.  Ruth Giff and Ester Shelde earned honors for the first group. The second group consisted of Pauline Oliver, Rosella Bilagody and Nadine Lewis. All the runners vowed to practice for next year’s race. 


The sports page highlighted young GRIC athletes. Robert Blackwater and Evelyn Antone wrote that Coolidge High School had 72 Native students enrolled, the highest number of Native students in school history. The basketball team listed Ardell Ruiz, Dale Blackwater, and Randy Ruiz on the roster. 


Other news reported was that two former Coolidge High graduates visited the school, Dudney  Arlentino  now enrolled at Haskell Institute and Murray Enas, attending Greer Technical, a heavy equipment school. Augustine Lopez and Everett Kisto placed third in steer roping at the Papago Rodeo last month.  Jewel Whitman tied for second in steer riding at Florence Junior Parada. He won $112, a bull rope and a watch. 


Leon Armstrong was selected by the Sacaton Women’s Club as student of the month. Leon played football at Casa Grande Union High School. Adult basketball teams were also in action on the reservation. The Sacaton Saberettes had a scrimmage against Lehi while the Sacaton Maidens dropped two games against Lehi and the Mesa Indians. On the men’s side, the Sacaton A. C. played the Mesa Indians.


It is about that time for the sun to go down. I think I’ll go out and watch it descend. Hopefully reading about our past brings a few warm memories, maybe a chuckle, smile, or even a GRIN.