For years, as a young person, I would drive across McDowell Road to get to the Beeline Highway to go to Saguaro Lake, without ever realizing that I was on the reservation. Trust me when I say that was quite some time ago! It wasn’t until last week that I intentionally took a trip of less-than-five miles and traveled what felt like 100 years back in time to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Reservation.
Being on the reservation is like visiting another country, with its vast and interesting history and culture. Passing the 101, you will find yourself in the middle of farm land with very few homes scattered about. It’s very peaceful.
I went out there at the request of a friend who works for the tribal council; she wanted me to tour the Huhugam Ki Museum (“house of the ancestors” in the O’Odham language). The museum shows the vast, rich history and current lives of the O’Odham and Piipaash. The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community is comprised of two Native American tribes: the Pima, or “Akimel Au-Authm” (river people); and the Maricopa, or “Xalychidom Piipaash” (people who live toward the water). Baskets, pottery, photos, and other articles at the museum create an understanding of a people who are proud of the strength of their heritage and ancestry.
The community’s Great Seal features the “man in the maze”. The story that goes with it illustrates the journey of life and the paths that are taken. It has been told for generations and continues to be relevant to the tribes today.
If you haven’t been east of the 101 to visit the reservation, I highly recommend it. It was truly a magical experience for me and it gave me a much greater understanding of our neighbors to the east.