GEO 101: INTRODUCTION TO
WHEATHER AND CLIMATE
Instructor: Michael Evans
Guest Lecture Portfilo
We learned practical fundamentals of the science of
meteorology, and discuss related aspects of Tohono O'odham
culture. Links between Tohono O'odham culture and Sonoran
Desert weather and climate.
Class sessions included six guest lectures. The following are
reviews and thoughts of all guest lectures from the students.
Links between O’odham culture
and regional physical geography.
Guest Speaker: Danny Lopez
On this field trip as explained by
Danny Lopez was that during planting
seasons the people of Crowhang moved
from the lower part of their land to the
near by mountain range.
I In the past the land was lush with
grass and mesquite bosque
compared to today’s dry conditions.
Mr. Lopez also mentioned these dry
conditions may have been caused by
lack of ceremonial practices by the
Tohono O’odham, especially rain
We also observed the difference in
climate and vegetation from the
community of Crowhang to Kitt
Peak. In Crowhang we saw more
cactus, greasewood, mesquite and at
Kitt Peak we saw pine trees, red
wood, oak. The climate got cooler as
we went up the mountain.
The reason for moving from lower to
higher grounds was to take advantage
of rainfall during the monsoon season
and winter rains. Later, time passed
people and with the introductory of
modern technology there was no
longer the need to move from one
place to another for farming and
How Do We Know
Guest Lecture By: Philip Miguel
How did Tohono O’odham
predict weather to help
determine the time for their
It was around June and July
the monsoon seasons.
They went by the traditional
ways that were passed
down from generations
But what were some of their
Some Tohono O’odham ways
of predicting the rains were
•Performing the rain ceremony
•Looking up at the sky
Observing vegetation, and
This graph depicts the most time •Elders complain of achy joints
It rains on Tohono O’odham
Rain Season for
Tohono O’odham was
―Ha:san Ba:k Masad‖
How did the Tohono O’odham predict the weather to help
determine the time for their crop-growing season?
The rain season was very
important for Tohono O’odham
our crops depended on it!
The Wind and Rain Legend
―The wind blew on the community and was chased out‖….
The Wind and Rain Legend.doc
Guest Lecture: Danny Lopez
Long ago and today the O’odham do a special
ceremony to bring the rains for our crops. The
Big Field community, for example, still performs
this ceremony annually. There are actually two
parts to this ceremony one portion is done in the
early winter and the other during the monsoon
The first one was the offering of eagle fluffs
to the saguaro cactus to bring sufficient
rains for the summer crops. The second one
is when the community joins together in
preparing ceremonial wine.
The way it was done is that there were
certain people that did the blessings, the
singing, and the making of the saguaro
syrup. Everyone in the village had to do
their own part by donating the syrup.
Everyone in the village had to do there own
part by donating the syrup. This ceremony is so
special to the O’odham because water is needed
in order to survive, especially in the sonoran
desert. Special people like the medicine men,
who have complete knowledge ( including
songs, the process of the wine preparation and
ceremonial itself) on the rain ceremony, are
very hard to find.
MAY 10, 2005
Another thing today was the education we get
today. The more we know about the weather
and climate the more less we believe in our rain
ceremonies. Also the more education the more
distant we become towards tradition in general.
Though on the other hand there are very few
today that still struggle to keep these traditions
University of Arizona
Mr. Bob Maddox
March 05, 2005
Mr. Maddox showed us video monitors of current
weather conditions, taken from satellites, what was
most interesting was that these moments are what
television weather forecasters use when reporting the
weather to the public.
On top of the Physics—Atmospheric Science
Building Mr. Maddox introduced roof top
instruments. At this time we also learned that
Sells also has a weather gauging instruments, but
are not in proper working conditions, this
instrument has been down for some time and the
owners may not be aware of its current condition.
Mr. Maddox than showed us a ground level weather
instruments, but these instruments do not report accurate
conditions because of their location. When the ground-
level site was constructed it was in a remote area away from
buildings, but as the city of Tucson grew, it is now situated
between buildings and next to an asphalt parking lot, so
there are a lot man made structures interfering with the
proper readings of weather conditions for these
Guest Lecture: Frances Manuel – Medicinal Plants
Frances Manuel presented medicinal plants used by the Tohono
O’odham. Her teachings came from her grandmother as she grew
up as young girl. How each plant was used for certain purposes in
In the past these medicinal plants were strong in belief in curing the
sick. Belief was the most important factor that made these plants
work. This was the most common item used by the Tohono
O’odham before current medicines. As time changed these
medicines became less used because of the availability of modern
medicine. Also technology and other influences, for example vehicles
made it easier to get to hospitals and religion caused uncertainty
among our culture. This caused the belief in the medicinal plants to
become less practiced.
In current times a few the O’odham still belief in healers. So when a
person goes to see medicine and is instructed to use a certain
medicinal plant, his the only time when medicinal plants are really
used or practiced.
Frances also discussed the gathering the plants. The medicinal
plants were only located in certain areas of the reservation. Some of
the plants were seasonal so there were limited sources of the plants.
As time changed over the years the seasons have changed causing
the availability and the location of the plants.
The following pictures are examples of Tohono O’odham medicinal
Wild Tea: Used for upset stomachs or just
Prickly Pear Pads: Used for burns (in the far right
Creosote Bush: Used for multiple purposes.
Examples are athletes feet, congested chest, getting
rid of lice, sores, and can be used on animals.
Other miscellaneous medicinal
Guest Lecture Phillip Miguel
March 19, 2005
The Two Village Cropping System
Phillip’s lecture was not from a textbook or other
sources but his own childhood memories growing up
in Crowhang village. Where we saw the ruins of the
About 50 yrs ago they did have technology, such as
windmills but they still relied on the natural weather
resources. The people had to know what time of the
year to plant their crops. During monsoon seasons
were ideal, but they also had to know what to do
during drought seasons or floods. Also what time of
the year each plant would survive, and the amount
of nutrients it needed to grow.
• It was mentioned how it took an entire village to
tend the crops, to make this way of survival work,
the two village system was also in play at this time
where a village high up near the mountains was
used for winter cropping and the village below
was used for summer cropping. Farming had a
great influence on the village relationships such as
marriages and new friendships, for Phillip this
was the ideal way of living.
• A lot of our ceremonies were
surrounded around planting because it
was our only way of survival. Over the
past 50yrs things have changed and
been lost. Imagine how things will be
in another 50yrs. I hope that with the
information we are learning now we
will be able to preserve our traditions
and maybe bring them back Phillip’s
Tohono O’odham Language and
History Instructor at TOCC
Forecasting in the
Dr. John Chiang
April 09, 2005
Dr. Chiang’s lecture on the indigenous
climate forecasting in the Peruvian Andes
was very interesting. His lecture was on an
Indigenous tribe living in Bolivia.
These Indians are known for predicting
the rainfall for their upcoming planting
season by looking at the constellation of
Pleiades. This tribe has a tradition of
predicting the weather for their
upcoming planting season with one
hundred percent (100%) accuracy.
The prediction is made
during the Feast of San
Juan, after a night of
celebrating their patron
saint, the people of the
community would go high
into the nearby mountain
range and look into the
heavens for the ―seven
sister,‖ the Pleiades.
If the stars are big and bright it meant for a
good rainfall for the upcoming harvest
season, but if the stars are small and dim it
meant for a bad rainfall for the upcoming
Based on this information
the tribe could better
determine what types of
plants were to be planted
for the upcoming rain
Scientists became familiar
with this technique, and
wanted to know how this
Indigenous tribe could be
so accurate in making
their predictions of the
upcoming rainfall season..
Upon their investigating they
learned that when the stars were
dim it was during El Nino when
there were high clouds in the
atmosphere obstructing a clear
During a non El Nino
season the stars shone
brightly because the
skies were clear..
Ancient ways are less mysterious or
another tradition uncovered.
Guest Lecture By: Mary
What was the importance of
• The Tohono O’odham people used these
stick to record special events in the Tohono
How Could Calendar Stick Serve
• Record current events
• Bring us back to our traditional ways
• Pass on the tradition of how to record p
Tree Ring Lecture
For this lecture we visited the
UofA tree ring lab. Here Kiyomi
shows us the purpose for the
study of the tree rings. Each
ring in the trunk represents a
year that the ring has lived.
Depending on the size of each
individual ring it can be
determined how much nutrients
the tree had received in a years
time. There are also
distinguishable marks that will
show if the tree has been
through any trauma, such as a
fire. this also tells us if the tree
survived a drought season or if
there was a rainy season.
Once we determined these facts we
compared the results to the recordings of
a man made calendar stick. The calendar
stick is what the Tohono O'odham once
used to record major events on a saguaro
cactus rib. Various marks were carved into
the stick that
represented each event. These sticks
were usually a representation of the
What we determined was that they
recorded the same data, just in
different ways. Some would say that
the recording were village gossip but
they were actually historical events
and this provides some evidence of
In appreciation to Mr. Mike Evans
Instructor for GEO 101, Introductory
to Climate and Weather.
He is a great teacher, very opened
minded, he allowed us to express our
ideas and he incorporated our
O’odham Himidag into this course by
bringing members of the Tohono
O’odham Community to share their
knowledge and experience, which Mr.
Evan than integrated into science.
On behalf of the GEO 101 students we would like thank you for
your knowledge and patience.
We, as a class, would like to thank the presenters
for sharing their knowledge with us, so that we
may pass it on to others.