The Tri-National Sonoran Desert Symposium
March’s Featured Year of the Rural Arts Event:
The Tri-National Sonoran Desert Symposium
International Sonoran Desert Alliance, Ajo, AZ
By Savannah Barrett
The third-annual Tri-National Symposium in Ajo, Arizona begins March 18 and continues through the 22nd. The event draws hundreds together to celebrate the Sonoran Desert, and is a symbol of international cooperation and goodwill across the region. Co-convened by organizations and agencies across the Sonoran Desert, sponsors include the International Sonoran Desert Alliance, Barry M. Goldwater Range, the Bureau of Land Management, Cabeza Prieta Natural History Association, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the Tohono O’odham Nation, the US Border Patrol – Ajo Section, and in Mexico, the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve. This group has met in Ajo, Topawa, at Organ Pipe, and in Mexico in the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve.
A key interest of the symposium is border issues, and the 2014 convening has a clear focus on working collaboratively across nations and agencies to productively address the issue. Cross-divisional partnerships are emphasized throughout the conference, and the closing plenary session, “Working Together” features four projects focused on equity across the region. Many sessions lift up the perspectives of the region’s Native American population, and several elders from the Tohono O’odham Nation and from the four O’odham Tribes are scheduled to speak.
The arts and culture are integrated throughout the event. The Symposium opens with a reception for the Redrawing Borders — Art Activist, Humanitarian and Ecological Solutions exhibit at the Ajo Plaza Gallery, which will take place in conjunction with The Border Project exhibit in Mexico- and a live video stream between the two events. Two plenary sessions will focus specifically on the role of the arts in Sonoran Desert issues: “The Power of Art to Portray Border Crises” (Baez-Hernandez), and discussion of two regional exhibits: “Redrawing Borders and The Border Project” (Wallace Cooper). Additional sessions consider the cultural importance of historic rock art and ceremonial behavior at Tinajas Altas, Sears Point, and the Growler and Crater mountain ranges; the tradition of oral histories in O’odham Traditional Knowledge; preserving the past through photo-journalism; and Hohokam and Patayan Pottery in the western deserts.
Ajo’s annual Sonoran Shindig festival kicks off during the symposium, and takes place at Ajo Plaza with booths and vendors featuring all aspects of Sonoran Desert life. The Shindig Festival includes a smorgasbord of Sonoran Desert culture from plants and animals, to adventures, artists, artisans, and regional foods.
The Ajo symposium includes an abundance of guided field trips throughout the region. Participants will visit the Barry M. Goldwater Range, which notably includes Lago Seco (Dry Lake), discovered in 1978 as perhaps the largest and most artifact rich archaeological site in all of southwestern Arizona. Pottery of at least three archaeological cultures is present along with large amounts of marine shell artifacts that include bracelets, pendants, beads, and manufacturing debris. The site, which was occupied between A.D. 1050- 1450, was the hub in the trade, exchange, and distribution of shell and salt from the Sea of Cortez and obsidian from nearby mountains. A visit to the Chico Shunie Village, an enclave within Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, features a historic floodwater farming site, prehistoric petroglyph panels, and the remains of more than 400 Pleistocene Desert tortoises.
Additional excursions include a visit to the Charlie Bell Well site on the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge; the Sonoran Pronghorn semi-captive breeding facility on Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge; the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument; the Tohono O’Odham Nation Cultural Center and Museum; the US Border Patrol Ajo Station, and a walk across the landscape of Tecolote Volcana, the site of a bizarre eruption with dozens of faults, a melted cave, a basin covered with bombs from the sizes of basketballs to desks, and lava structures of wildly different viscosities.
For more information and to register, please visit: www.sonoranwymposium.com. Registration fees are $50/day or $150 for the Symposium, most meals are included. Please mark your calendars for this fantastic event, check out the Tri-National Symposium story on the Atlas of Rural Arts and Culture, and report back to us at Art of the Rural to tell us about your experience! Please use the social media hash tag #ruralarts in any social media posts from the event.
THE YEAR OF THE RURAL ARTS is a biennial program of events, conversations, and online features celebrating the diverse, vital ways in which rural arts and culture contribute to American life. The Year is coordinated by Art of the Rural and organized by a collective of individuals, organizations, and communities from rural and urban locales across the nation.
The inaugural Year is a collaborative, grassroots effort designed to build steam over the course of 2014. To present a more equitable representation and a more comprehensive narrative of rural arts in culture, all online features will be freely shared across websites and social media. For more information on the Year of the Rural Arts, visit: www.artoftherural.org.