Tohono O'odham's 'Seeds of Summer'
What is a monsoon, you may ask? It is a shift in the prevailing winds coming out of the west or northwest from California to coming out of the south or southeast from the Gulf of Mexico and the Baja that allows moisture to stream northward.
The Weather Almanac, for the region, predicts a late monsoon season this year which normally begins on July 7th, but it states once it does come it may bring more rain than usual which, if true, is great news for Tohono O’odham Reservation lands which are now listed as an abnormally dry area.
I’m no weathercaster but I have lived in the Southwest for more than half a century and have seen the summer rainfall in Tucson, the Copper Basin area of Kearny/Hayden, Phoenix and Yuma. Each summer every area seems to be getting less moisture and Yuma always gets the least amount of rainfall in the state per year. It’s been some ten years, now, since I’ve seen a bona fide monsoon rain, here.
Right now, Yuma is experiencing a pre-monsoon, Tucson summer and I’m enjoying every minute of it – low humidity, day temps in the low 100’s with night temps in the mid 70’s. Can sleep at night with the patio doors open. It’s heaven while it lasts. But, on to the topic at hand.
These monsoon crops are essential to the culture and diet of the Tohono O’odham according to Terrol Dew Johnson, co-director of the Tohono O’odham Community Action in Sells, AZ, some 60 miles west of Tucson.
“You’re not looking at a bean,” Johnson said, “you are looking at a culture where you sing for the rain to come. Sing for planting. Sing for the harvest. We say the Milky Way is made of white tepary beans floating in the sky.“
You won’t find traditional or native crops in the chain grocery store in your neighborhood, The seeds are endangered and are, therefore, in short supply.
Johnson said the TOCA goal is to grow enough traditional foods to supply its community. For now, TOCA obtains its seeds from Native Sees/SEARCH, a non-profit conservation organization in Tucson. Johnson hopes that supplies will grow so that tepary beans one day can occupy bin space at grocery stores next to the pinto beans
Native Seeds/SEARCH works with tribes, such as Tohono O’odham, and farmers to preserve seeds in the Southwest and Northern Mexico. The organization sells seeds to the public in its store, online or through its catalog.
From Seeds To Harvest:
Amaranth – A small grain grown by the Aztecs and Southwest Indians. Use young leaves in salads. Cook seeds in water to make a hot cereal. Use ground or popped amaranth in recipes. Plant ¼ inch deep in basins or rows.
Tohono O’odham 60 Day Corn – Ground and used in cornmeal. Plant 1 inch deep in rows, clumps or basins. Stagger planting time if intercropping with beans. Give corn a head start by planting a few weeks before planning beans.
Black-Eyed Peas – Introduced from Africa. Can be eaten fresh or dry and cook. Plant 1 inch deep and 6 inches apart.
O’odham Ke:li Ba:so Melon – Introduced by the Spanish. Plant 3 to 5 seeds ½ inch deep and 24 inches apart. Allow room for vine growth.
Tepary Beans – Traditional protein in a variety of tastes and colors. Soak dried beans overnight before cooking. Plant ½ inch deep and four inches apart. Not a true pole bean; a short trellis will give beans more room to spread out to produce pods. Over watered plants will not produce beans.
Tohono O’odham Yellow Meated Watermelon – Introduced from Africa by the Spanish has crisp yellow to orange flesh. Plant 3 seeds ½ inch to 1 inch deep, allowing room for vine to grow.
Tohono O’odham Ha:l or Magdelena Big Cheese Squash – Eat when small as summer squash or after November as winter squash. Plant 3 seeds 1 inch deep allowing room for vine growth.
This story has been edited, in part, from the June 19th issue of The Arizona Republic bylined Sadie Jo Smokey.
NATIVE UNITY - A place for Native American Peoples to solidify their tribes to make a positive impact on the cultural, social, economic and political fabric of American society and a place for non-Natives to better understand the ways of the American Indian.
NATIVE VOTE TRAININGS - TAKE ACTION!!!
Submitted by Alyssa Burhans
NCAI and National Voice are partnering together for Voter Trainings to assist tribes in developing their NATIVE VOTE strategies to include training on voter registration, voter education, and getting out the Native vote (GOTNV). The training curriculum has been developed specifically for Native people and our communities.
1st TRAINING: Southwest, July 10-11, Arizona State University Law School, Tempe, AZ
2nd TRAINING: Northwest, July 17-18, Coeur d’Alene Resort and Casino, Worley, ID
3rd TRAINING: Oklahoma, July 24-25, Hardesty Regional Library, Tulsa, OK