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ERIC Number: EJ872614
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 32
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0095-182X
Pulling Down the Clouds: The O'odham Intellectual Tradition during the "Time of Famine"
Martinez, David
American Indian Quarterly, v34 n1 p1-32 Win 2010
Members of the Pima, or Akimel O'odham, community, despite their experiment with a pre-1934 constitutional government, not to mention their conversion to Christianity and sending their children to school, have not generated writers and activists as did their tribal peers in other parts of the United States such as Oklahoma, the Upper Plains, and the Northeast. In fact, the Society of American Indians' (SAI) 1913 list of active members includes only five Pimas: Mrs. Jessie C. Morago, Lewis D. Nelson, Miss Mary W. Nelson, John Plake, and Miss Olie Walker, who were all residents of Sacaton, Arizona. In this essay, Martinez ponders how one can determine the significance of a figure like Thin Leather, who contributed to Russell's Bureau of American Ethnology report on the Pima between November 1901 and June 1902? On the one hand, Thin Leather bequeathed a substantial legacy of traditional stories to the Pima community that is still relevant to contemporary Pima studies. On the other hand, Thin Leather only spoke O'odham, neither reading nor writing any English and thus requiring a translator in his work with Frank Russell, Jesse Walter Fewkes, and J. W. Lloyd. This author questions whether it makes sense to call Thin Leather an "indigenous intellectual," asserting that one must think of Thin Leather not in terms of how he abides by mainstream definitions of intellectual, but rather how he sets a standard against which "educated Indians" are measured. In the 1910 U.S. census, regarded by Arthur C. Parker as "the most satisfactory census report on Indians ever made," the O'odham community constituted the sixth largest group. Although 71.1% of Pimas aged six to nineteen attended school, there still remained a slightly more than 70% illiteracy rate, and over 65% of Pimas aged 20 and older could not speak English proficiently. What all of these numbers demonstrate is that the O'odham world, in spite of federal government efforts, was by and large defined by the O'odham language. What had been founded as of 1910 were reservation communities that still maintained the values of a preliterate culture. Martinez does not mean to imply that Thin Leather somehow represents failure in the Pima community. On the contrary, Thin Leather's knowledge of the O'odham culture, way of life, and values was like a deep well. What he accomplished through his work with Russell, Fewkes, and Lloyd was the preservation of the O'odham oral tradition. What this article purports to have accomplished is the recovery of this knowledge, its veritable revitalization, which will make possible the resumption of the narrative that Thin Leather began in the fall of 1901, when he told how Juved "ma:kai" created the first plant. (Contains 52 notes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Arizona