The Hundredth Meridianrnby Chilton Williamson, Jr.rnPapagueria: Irn”The wliole place would be abandonedrnif it weren’t an Indism reservation,”rnBernard Fontana was saying, “like sornmuch of rural America these days.rnThere are a lot of people on the reservationrnwho wake up in the morning knowingrnthat what they’re going to do todayrnisn’t worth sh-t. That may be true of thernrest of us, too, but we can still kid ourselvesrnabout it. The Papagos can’t kidrnthemselves any longer.”rnProfessor Fontana, an ethologist andrnfield historian at the L niversity of Arizona,rnhas studied the history and culturernof the Papago Indians for 39 years. In hisrnlarge and comfortable office in the UniversitvrnLibrary, tighth’ scaled behindrnplate glass and steel, we talked withoutrninterruption by the regular flights of militarvrnjets lowering above the campus tornthe David Monthan Air Force Basernsoutheast of Tucson. Fontana’s book OfrnEarth and Little Rain: The Papago Indiansrndescribes the people of Pimeria Altarn(the name given by the Spaniards to thernaborigines they discovered living northrnof the upper Rio San Miguel in the present-rnday state of Sonora, Mexico) asrn”bearers of an ancient and eminentlyrnsuccessful desert culture,” wholly selfsufficient,rnwhich developed its own religious,rnlinguistic, social, political, andrneconomic systems, as well as a technologicalrnand material culture consonantrnwith the harsh environment in which itrnhad evolved. “I can’t imagine anythingrnworse than being a young person on thernreservation today,” Professor Fontanarncontinued. “The Navajos and Hopis arcrnselling jewelry to the tourists at the SanrnXavier Mission, but the Papagos refusernto stoop to tourism. They have the bestrnpart of the Sonoran Desert—Ilaxe yournbeen out there vet? It’s beautiful countryrn—which they could use if they wantedrnto for tourist development, dudernranching and so forth, as the Apaches onrnthe Fort Apache Reservation have done;rnbut the Papago ranchers, who are thernvealthicst and most povv’crful membersrnof the tribe, hate tourists and don’t wantrnanything to do with them, and the}’ havernmanaged to prevent this kind of development.rnIt isn’t a white-versus-Indianrnsituation, it’s a tourist-versus-raneherrnone. Also, there are no Papagos qualifiedrnto manage dude ranches, motels,rnand recreational facilities, unlike thernApaches who have sent their children tornschool to learn law, biology, and hotelrnmanagement. All of their income—rnother than from cattle ranching—comesrnfrom public monies. A major blow wasrnthe end of the cotton fields along thernGila River and at its mouth. So wasrnmechanization. Papagos were the agriculturalrnstoop labor force here. Thernwork force petered out in the late 50’srnand early 60’s, then hit bottom in thernmid-60’s, coinciding with the Great Societyrnprograms. Until then, the Bureaurnof Indian Affairs held the purse stringsrnon the reservation; after that, money wasrnpumped directly mto tribal politics.rnThere is very little communication betweenrnPapagos and whites, althoughrnone-on-one relationships seem to workrnwhere groups -ersus individuals do not.rnIt’s strange that people living on so largernan area of land can be so isolated, butrnsome of the worst of the white exploitersrnhave done remarkably well out here—rnlawyers driving up in pink Cadillacs torntake the Indians out to wine and dinernthem in fancy restaurants on their ownrnmoney. And a huge retainer went to arnGhieano lawer, who probably couldn’trnget any other work, to do something orrnother for the Papago Indians in Mexico,rnof whom there are 2S0 or 300. Thernpoint is, there isn’t anything for him torndo. The Mexican government regardsrnthe Papagos on its side of the border asrnMexican citizens, pure and simple—notrnas Indians or some kind of minorityrngroup. Right now it’s like World War IIIrndown here, with all the drug smugglingrnand the illegals coming across. Thernreservation south of Highway 86 to thernborder has been closed for about tenrnyears now to anybody who isn’t a tribalrnmember. The Papagos want to knowrnexactly who’s running around downrnthere and what they’re up to.” Hernpaused. “It’s pretty hard to get any fieldrnresearch done in Mexico these days.”rnSan Francisco Xavier, in effigy, lavrnextended beneath a covering of satinrndrawn up almost as far as his brownrncarved features. Two plastic hospitalrnbracelets were pinned to the robe, also arnplastic holder containing a note writtenrnwith a bleary ballpoint pen. The noternsaid, “Honey, may this Saint take care ofrnyou like it did me. Love Frank.” Flowers,rnboth real and artificial, lay strewn onrnthe catafalque. The Papagos once calledrnthe San Xavier Indians Wakon O’odham,rnthe Baptized People, a fact suggestingrnthat they were the earliest converts tornChristianity among the Piman Indians,rnfirst missionized by Father EusebiornKino, a Jesuit priest born near the city ofrnTrent in the Tyrolean Alps in 1635 whorncrossed the “rim of Christendom” inrn1687, six years after his arrival in NewrnSpain. (Father Luis Velarde, Kino’s successor,rnwas the first man to refer to thern”Papabotas” or “bean-eaters,” whosernprinciple staple in those times was javapi.)rnAlthough the Pimans are provedrnnot to be descended from the Anasazi,rnthey and the Papagos were cultivatingrncorn at least as early as A.D. 700.rnBernard Fontana believes that the peoplernwho called themselves O’odham actuallyrnrepresented a variety of Indianrnpeoples, all of whom spoke recognizablernvariations of a single language. For 18theenturvrnEuropeans, “Papagos” were therndesert-dwelling Indians of south-centralrnmodern Arizona. These “two-village Papagos,”rnby summering in the valleysrnwhere they raised crops and threw uprnbrush dams to catch the water fromrnsummer storms, and wintering in thernfoothills by the springs, combined agriculturalrnlife with nomadism. Initiallyrnuninterested in the livestock as well as inrnthe religion to which Father Kino introducedrnthem, in time they accepted notrnonly these but the yvinter wheat thernmissionaries had brought and that grewrnremarkably well in the desert valleys.rnAlso they adopted, in addition to thernCatholic liturgy, the new architecturalrnforms, metal tools, floodplain agricul-rnMAY1995/.57rnrnrn