Kwi Hiosig Mashath
The Huhugam Heritage Center
The name for this month refers to the blossoming of the Mesquite trees. This month, the cotton growers have planted this season’s crop of commercial cotton, which in Akimel O’otham is called thoki. Beginning with our Hekiu O’otham, we have been growing thoki for a very long time. Thoki was grown for their fibers and seeds, the fibers were spun into yarn and the seeds used as a food source. Remnants of yarn and woven textiles have been recovered at many Hohokam archaeological sites throughout our state.
When Padre Kino arrived in 1694, he discovered that Akimel O’otham not only grew thoki, but also wove it into blankets, sashes, and belts. A few examples of Akimel O’otham weaving is on display in our museum. The collection includes a weaving loom, blanket and a spindle. At the time when the anthropologist Frank Russell was researching our O’otham in 1901 – 1902, the art of thoki weaving was disappearing from our culture. He recorded that the women spun the cotton into thread and yarn, while older men performed the actual weaving on a horizontal loom.
The thoki developed by Hekiu O’otham is known as Pima Aboriginal Cotton. In 1907, the Agricultural Experimental Station was established in Sacaton. Over the years, this station developed a strain known today as “Pima Cotton.” Several strains further developed and are called “Supima Cotton” which is sought after by textile manufacturers in several countries. During this growing season, we can observe the fields of cotton, as they grow from seedlings to mature plants. When this season’s cotton crop is harvested in fall, we may observe the large rolls in every cotton field.
After ginning, the cotton bales are shipped overseas. We should be amazed that our cotton is exported to industrial nations. When we shop and observe the Pima Cotton and Supima labels we can be proud that these strains were developed in our community and that we have been cotton growers since time immemorial. This month’s Thoki Haichu Nathoi crossword puzzle will focus on items made of cotton.
We encourage you to learn these words and use them in your everyday lives. Speak with an Elder or Speaker and learn to say the clothing names. Names may be slightly different between the villages. Our museum is open for tours only at this time, with a maximum of 10 participants. To schedule a tour contact Donald Sabori at (520)-796-3500 ext. 4238 or, via email at: Donald.Sabori@gric.nsn.us.
ba:shokam shaliv (overalls),ipuḍ (dress), kaviḍk shaliv (shorts), shaliv (jeans), cheḍom (blanket), kak’kalsi:tha (socks), koksikuḍ (pajamas), thovash (bandana), givoḍ (belt), kamish (shirt), monjulik (scarf), va:k’thalik (jacket).
A special Thank You to Mr. Robert Stone, former General Manager of Gila River Farms. He shared his knowledge of cotton production during a Seed Keeper Course that made this article possible. Additional information related from, At the Desert’s Green Edge: An Ethnobotany of the Gila River Pima by Amadeo Rea, 1997, University of Arizona Press.