Iitoi, the Man in the Maze, Tohono O'odham Tribal Symbol
To the Tohono O'odham, the human
figure on the top of the tribal
symbol suggests birth – birth of the
individual, of the family, of the tribe.
We travel through life as through a
maze, taking many turns while
growing stronger and wiser, overcoming
obstacles as death at the
dark center of the maze comes
Tracing the light path, you will find
an additional turn before reaching
the journey's end. Here we retreat
to a small corner of the pattern and,
looking back on the road traveled,
we are able to reflect on the wisdom
we have gained. Finally, in harmony
with our past, we accept
The Tohono O'odham Nation, located in the Sonoran Desert, spans the US/Mexican
Border from Southern Arizona into Northern Sonora. Once known as Papago, the
Tohono O'odham (Desert People) inhabit the second largest reservation in the US,
comprising close to three million acres. Their tribal headquarters are located in
Sells, sixty miles west of Tucson. One third of the ancestral land of the Tohono
O'odham is separated by the international border, as established by the Gadsden
Purchase of 1854. As a result, the Tohono O'odham were divided into two groups
and considered either Mexican or American citizens.
While the Tohono O'odham living in the US presently live under extremely difficult
conditions, they are recognized by the US Government and receive certain benefits,
including medical care and education available within the reservation. Life on the
other side of the border, in Mexico, is undeniably more difficult.
They speak the same language and safeguard the same traditions yet the Mexican
Tohono O'odham receive little government aid and are no longer allowed to cross the
border to visit family, tend to their flocks or receive social services.
Notwithstanding this indiscriminate segregation, the Tohono O'odham look beyond
the imposed border. They continue to consider themselves as neither American nor
Mexican but rather Tohono O'odham. They view their nation as united.
The Estudio Busqueda de Pantomima Teatro A. C. began working with the Tohono
O'odham in spring of 2006 during a residency funded by the International Sonoran
Desert Alliance, of Ajo Arizona.
Our project was, through movement theatre and circus skills, to integrate a disintegrating
community comprised of Mexican, Anglo and Native Americans.
While our ultimate goal was to unite the three factions of the Ajo community in cultural
activities, last year's preliminary phase was focused on working with each
Our interaction with the Tohono O'odham included three phases:
We worked with the Tohono O'odham within their schools and community centers.
Our previous residency took
place in March and April of 2007 and has been partially funded by
The Nalac Foundation for the
Arts and The Ford Foundation's
Shifting Sands Initiative. We will focus on transposing Tohono
tribal stories upon a foundation of Movement Theatre techniques in order to
create individual and group pieces.
Visit the International Sonoran Desert Alliance