|Super Bowl's glitz and glamour bring little excitement here|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 30 January 2008 15:56|
But all those Kid Rocks and Paris Hiltons might want to take a break from their $1,000 bottles of champagne to consider the plight of the people living just on the other side of the 101 freeway.
This whole valley used to belong to them, but now their ancestors are cooped up on an Indian reservation, living in squalid homes surrounded by abandoned cars, discarded sofas and piles and piles of garbage.
The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community is only about 20 minutes from downtown Phoenix, but it feels like it's a thousand miles away. Still, it's sure worth the trip, if for no other reason than to see the awful price paid by those who got here before we did and now struggling to carve a decent life out of what little was left to them.
This desolate patch of land isn't listed on any Super Bowl itinerary, but the Pima and Maricopa tribes hope at least a few of the out-of-town guests will peruse their small museum-gift shop and grab a meal at their rustic, outdoor restaurant (breakfast and lunch only).
``They can at least learn about our community and taste some of the native cuisine,'' said Janet Johnson, who heads up community relations. Her recommendation: Try the frybread.
The museum has only a couple of rows of exhibits, but it doesn't take long to spot an embarrassing chapter in our history.
When President Rutherford Hayes signed off on the original order creating the Salt River reservation, it was a massive tract of 680,000 acres - an area that encompassed what is now the entire Phoenix metro area and then some.
Alas, the arrangement lasted all of five months.
The 5,000 non-native settlers were outraged that so much land was being turned over to the tribes, so the territorial government sent a delegation to Washington to press Hayes to amend his order.
Boy, did he ever, signing a new mandate that left the Pima and Maricopa with less than 47,000 acres - essentially what they have today.
``A lot of our people didn't understand the system. They didn't know how to lobby the government,'' Johnson told me. ``We just want to educate people on what it was and what was taken.''
It's a difficult process. At mid-afternoon, only about a dozen people have preceded me into the museum, and most of them have signed in as members of other Arizona tribes.
I wonder if there's any excitement about the Super Bowl. The man behind the counter - he prefers not to give his name - rolls his eyes and quickly lets me know, ``That's not my way of life. That's not the way I was raised.'' I ask him to clarify. ``The crass commercialism,'' he says. ``I don't understand it.''
He gives me a disgusted look when I jokingly ask if he's planning a Super Bowl party. He then calls on the other three people in the room, repeating my query. ``No,'' each of them said.
But Johnson insists that plenty of Pima and Maricopa - or O'Odham and Pilpaash, as they refer to themselves in their own languages - will be watching Sunday. I suspect she is right, having noticed satellite dishes attached to many of the ramshackle homes.
Johnson fears the reservation is losing touch with its roots, especially the younger folks. They can't help but be influenced by the booming city right at their doorstep.
``We're a little bit unique, because we're an Indian community in an urban setting,'' she said. ``There are pros and cons to that. The pros are the economic development. That's an asset for us.''
``When you are so close to an urban setting,'' Johnson said, ``you lose some of your culture and tradition. When the kids come home, they have their video games. They can go to the mall to watch a movie.''
There are some signs of hope. With revenues earned from two casinos it runs, the Pima and Maricopa have built impressive new elementary and high schools. A huge community center is under construction.
But on my way back to Phoenix and the Super Bowl's make-believe world, I pass two people selling tortillas in their dusty front yard - or is it their driveway? I can't tell.
Across the street is a fruit and vegetable stand, essentially nothing more than four sides of plywood holding up a roof.
``3 Corn for $1,'' the sign said.
Creeping out from behind the roof, is the Goodyear blimp.