Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Review: The Desert Smells like Rain: A Naturalist in O'Odam Country

Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Review: The Desert Smells like Rain: A Naturalist in O'Odam Country

Article excerpt

Review: The Desert Smells Like Rain: A Naturalist in O'Odam Country By Gary Paul Nabhan Reviewed by Robert D. Hook University of Idaho, USA Gary Paul Nabhan. The Desert Smells Like Rain: A Naturalist in O'Odam Country. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press, 2002. 148 pp. ISBN 0- 8165-2249-9 (paper). US$16.95

Aside from updating the name of the Papago Indians to Tohono O'odham (officially changed in 1986), this is a reprint of the 1982 publication. If you missed it the first time, or if your old copy needs replacing, now is your chance. Gary Nabhan, Director of the Center for Sustainable Environments at Northern Arizona University, adeptly tells the story of the Tohono O'odham (Desert People) and their centuries-long co-existence with the Sonoran Desert.

From his close contact with the O'odhams and his experience of their life and ceremonies, Nabhan has written eleven vignettes which run the gamut from visiting a sacred cave in the Baboquivari Mountains to attending a saguaro wine-drinking ceremony. These insightful stories include aspects of conservation, linguistics, traditional agriculture, culture and myths of the O'odham. They show how the O'odham have adapted to the desert and its unpredictable rainfall.

Nabhan describes how they make use of the little rain and the floodwaters to grow their crops. They place their fields at the mouths of washes and construct low water-spreading fences of woven brush to encourage the water and debris to flood the field, bringing essential nutrients to replenish the soil. This field management has allowed the O'odham to sustain healthy food production for centuries. With the advent of modern life came a higher incidence of nutrition-related diseases such as diabetes and gall bladder diseases, nearly unknown prior to 1940 (p. 101). In one of the stories Nabhan discusses two oases: one in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, where the human element has been removed, and the other, Ki:towak, in Mexico, where people are present. …

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