|Native American Stories and Songs
Barnaby Lewis / Akimel O'odham from Phoenix, Arizona
Barnaby Lewis lives in a block-style house that overlooks huge fields of cotton. Our recording session took place outside under his carport with him sitting and pounding on a cardboard box. Yes—a box. He says the box is now the common drum of his people. They used to use willow baskets but now they are so rare and the materials so difficult to find that “The women don’t want us beating on their basket” says Barnaby.
Barnaby sings mostly bird songs that he learned from two of his elders who have passed away. An elder’s group called “The River People Oriole Singers” lead the songs and keep them alive. The eldest of this group is 84 and the youngest is 68. The Akimel O’odham used to be known as the Pimas. Barnaby explains that that when early Spanish explorers asked the people a question, they would say Pimage which meant “I don’t understand.” The Spanish began to call them the Pimas.
The Akimel O’odham developed highly sophisticated agricultural systems along the Gila and Salt Rivers, learning to divert the life-giving waters from the rivers to their crops. Life was organized, and their villages and homes were permanent. Their great success as farmers made this river valley of Arizona a small oasis. The Akimel O’odham even sold fresh produce and goods to the weary gold miners that were on their way to California.
Listen to a Sample Here
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A traditional ceremony with Barnaby teaching
the young ones to dance.