Hemajkam ha Thoak’thag ‘The Life of the People’

In the previous five articles, we wrote about the O’otham life stages in depth and now we will conclude the O’otham life stages series.  Our O’otham age groups have changed over the years to accommodate the new laws and policies adopted over time. 


As O’otham always do, we have adapted to the changes while remaining embedded in our “Himthag” or ‘Way of Life.’  As O’otham we start off our lives at our “Eñ ma:sig thash” ‘day of my birth’ from there we are nurtured by “eñ Je’e” ‘my mother.’  At this point in our lives, both sexes called “Ali” ‘newborn/infant’ includes our infants from newborn to age five. In this modern age, both parents have full-time jobs and as soon as the maternity leave is used up, moms must return to work. 


At this point, our children enter the school and daycare system and begin their formal instruction. Some of our extended family members are currently enrolled in Early Head Start, which enrolls infants from birth to age three.  When our children reach the age of three they enroll in the regular Head Start Program.


The last age of the “Ali” group is reached when our children turn five years of age and enroll into Kindergarten.  One of the milestones is when our kids can “ba:ñimo” ‘crawl’ by themselves and “kekiwa” ‘stand up’ on their own.  As our children get older, they join the “Viappoi ch Chehia” ‘young boy and young girl’ age group. 


This age group starts at age six and ends at age 12 in the pre-teen years.  This is when they often “hejel ‘eñigadath” ‘dress by themselves and are given some responsibilities around the home.  For some they “mai math ‘o hihitho” ‘learn how to prepare food and cook.’ When our children reach the age of thirteen, they join the “Che’choj ch U’uv” ‘young men and young women’ age group. 


At this point, many join “haichu chichivi” ‘play in different sports’ like football and volleyball.  During this period, some of us “mantho haichu chikpan” start working our first jobs (often part-time) after school and on weekends.  It is also usually in this age range when we graduate from high school. When we reach the age of twenty-two we are considered adults by current laws. 


We call this group the “Ge’egeḍ Che’choj ch U’uv” ‘adult males and adult females.’ For many of us this is, “shelma ‘o chikpannath” ‘work at our professions.’ This is considered our most productive years, as it is within this age span that we accomplish most of our lifetime achievements. The last group we join as we age is the “Keli ch Oks Kekel” ‘Elders,’ which begins at age 55.


Many of us continue working until we retire at age sixty-five and some of us work past that point. We encourage you to learn these phrases and use them with your family members.  Speak with a Kekel or speaker in your family and learn how to pronounce the phrases, as they might be slightly different between villages. This month’s word match will test your knowledge of phrases used to address the stages of life as O’otham.