In the News Archives - Native American Advancement Foundation

Award for Wildcat Writers!

NAAF has learned that the University of Arizona recently awarded the The Wildcat Writers programs with the Peter W. Likins Inclusive Excellence Award for the 2016-2017 year.  This award celebrates programs that foster diversity and inclusive community.  Congratulations Brad Jacobson, Stephanie Troutman, and Amy Hea! We are thankful for your work with San Simon School and Tohono O’odham High School and congratulate you on this achievement!



NAAF’s Storyteller’s Blog – Memorable Places: Cemetery Mountain

A young man from our village recently graduated from high school and is attending college in New Mexico. With all of the obstacles to education in our remote village, high school graduation is a huge accomplishment and greatly celebrated. This post will paint a picture of our village and life as seen through his youthful lens.

Memorable Places: Cemetery Mountain

By Rodrick Manuel, Jr.

The final memorable place I want to mention is our Cemetery Mountain. One time on our Cemetery Mountain, I climbed to the top of the mountain and I started looking out at the village when the sunset was starting. After a while I heard rocks falling behind me and I turned around to see what it was. A little bit after I heard the noise, a couple of illegal immigrants popped out behind me. After I saw the illegal immigrants, I continued to sit there and look out at the sunset in the desert. One of them asked me what I was doing and so I told him I was watching the sun set. He asked me if he could sit down and I told him that he could. After he sat down, he asked me if I wanted a soda. I said sure. He told one of the guys he was with to go and get me a soda. The man went down the mountain and came back a little bit later with a soda for me. We started talking. He told me he had walked all the way from Sonyota, Mexico to GuVo. He told me that it was a long walk from the border. He told me about his walk and he showed me a picture of his family that was still in Mexico. After a while, he told me he had to leave to meet up with some people. I told him I had to go too and then I started hurrying down the mountain after he left. When I got to the base of the mountain, I started walking home. Along my way, I looked to my right and saw about twenty illegal immigrants walking in a line, carrying large backpacks, in the direction of the man I was just talking with earlier. When I saw them walking in a line, I realized that the man I was talking with on the mountain was a Drug Scout for them. His job was to go ahead of the group and make sure the path was clear and also to make sure nothing happens to the group.

Another memory I have on top of the Cemetery Mountain was during the monsoon season. It was raining one morning and I asked my cousin if she would like to go with me to the top of the mountain. She said yes, and we started to pack some things we would need – like water, Band-Aids in case one of us got hurt, and a snack. After we had gathered all of our stuff, we headed out. When we got to the Cemetery Mountain, we started to climb. When we were halfway up the mountain, we looked back toward the village and saw that a fog was heading toward the village. After we saw that, we started to climb the mountain even faster. When we got to the top, we sat on a couple of large rocks and started looking out at the village. By that time, the fog had covered the ground along most of the village and we could not see the mountains, the roads, or plants. It looked completely blank with nothing left except the village. The cool part about that scene was that it looked as though there was no world. Nothing around except a blank space.


NAAF’s Storyteller’s Blog – Memorable Places: The Shrine

A young man from our village recently graduated from high school and is attending college in New Mexico. With all of the obstacles to education in our remote village, high school graduation is a huge accomplishment and greatly celebrated. This post will paint a picture of our village and life as seen through his youthful lens.

Memorable Places: The Shrine

By Rodrick Manuel, Jr.

Another memorable place for me in GuVo is the First Shrine going out of the village. The First Shrine has activities almost like the Church, but mostly on holidays. These events include Church Services and Easter celebrations.

One time I was hiking up the shrine mountain with my uncle and my cousin. My uncle had a telescope and we looked down toward the village. We tried to find my house but you could not see my house with the telescope. You could see my neighbor’s house but you could not see my house. It looked like nothing was there. My uncle and cousin tried looking for it but could not find my house either. My uncle started calling my house the ghost house because it’s there, but yet it wasn’t there.

Another memory of the shrine is when Border Patrol Agents kicked me off the mountain. I climbed half way with my brother and sister. I asked them to climb the rest of the way with me, but they didn’t because they wanted to leave. I told them I was going to climb the rest of the way and would meet them at the bottom. They said okay, so I continued to climb up to the top of the mountain. When I reached the top, I heard the sound of a generator and wondered why it was there. Then I remembered that Border Patrol Agents sit on top of the mountain to look for illegal immigrants.   I started to wonder what would happen when I got to the very top. When I arrived at the very top, the agents saw my dog first and then they saw me. They told me that I could not be on top of the mountain and that I had to get off. I asked them for some water and they told me they did not have water. I didn’t want to bother any more with the Border Patrol so I decided to head back down the mountain and catch up with my siblings. I told them what the Border Patrol told me, and they started laughing at me because Border Patrol just kicked me off the mountain. After a good laugh, we started walking home.


Come sit on the Earth Bench!

On Sunday, February 12th, Healthy People Coalition and NAAF hosted a community project in Gu Vo District. NAAF students and community members joined together to build an earth bench at the Gu Vo Community Building. The bench framework is a sustainable, recycled construction of wood and “clean” litter – empty plastic bottles and paper. Finished off with homemade mud-and-straw cement, the earth bench can seat up to six people, with a backrest sculpted in the shape of one of Gu Vo District’s sacred mountains. A large ramada emblazoned with Tohono O’odham Peace on Earth Bench provides shade from the hot desert sun or a respite from the monsoon rains.

The project came about through the efforts of Girls’ Voices, a Gu Vo community group of five young women dedicated to self-empowerment through autobiographical storytelling on YouTube. These socially conscious youth wanted a way to give back to their home.  With the help of community members, as well as Brennan Bird from Peace on Earth Bench and Claire Hofman from, the earth bench is a tremendous success, as well as a great place to rest and reflect.


Follow NAAF now on social media!

NAAF is all over social media, and we want you to follow our adventures! We’re using NAAFnow as our username and hashtag.







Tohono O’odham Word of the Week #9!

This week’s word is:



Brought to you by Selina Jesus, NAAF’s Education Coordinator!

NAAF is a GlobalGiving Leader!

GlobalGiving vetted Organization 2016

GlobalGiving awarded NAAF its GG Rewards Leader status for 2016! NAAF’s partnership with GlobalGiving helped raise almost $2000 for our After School and Summer Adventure programs. We look forward to many productive years in the GlobalGiving community.


Guest Storyteller: Jaeney Manuel

My name is Jaeney Manuel and I am 16 years old and reside in the village of GuVo.  GuVo Community is one of 4 communities located in the GuVo District on the west of the Tohono O’odham Nation. GuVo District is one out of 11 districts that make up the Nation.  It is one of the bigger communities in my district that consists of 50-60 households. GuVo has been known to be written 4 different ways but still sounds the same. (Example Ge Wo’o, Kerwo, Gu Vo’o, and presently GuVo).  Ge Wo’o means Big Pond.

The stories my late grandmother Elizabeth Anghil shared with me was that GuVo village was a migrating community. During the seasonal times, the villagers would set up camp near their family fields.  There were 6 families that resided there.  They were the Antone’s, the Lewis’, Velasco’s, Leon’s, Montana’s and the Manuel’s.  Their fields were irrigated by the water that was trapped in the “Big Pond.”  They planted corn, squash, sugarcane, watermelon, cantaloupes, wheat, and beans.  The men were hunters that hunted deer, rabbit, javalinas, quails, and big horn sheep.  Drinking water was supplied by the Big Pond that was boiled and filtered by the women who stayed home and took care of the homestead.  Another resource that supplied the water was a man made well that was pumped by a windmill. The children were detailed to chopping wood to stock for the winter time, grinding corn, sorting beans, and other chores.

GuVo community became an established community back in the 1920’s.  The Bureau of Indian Affairs built a school that was run by the Catholic missionaries.  The structure of the building is made up of rock that was supplied by one of the nearby mountains.  The building is a “historical landmark” that is now known as the “Rock School.”  The school provided classes from Kindergarten-4th grade.  Anyone who was in the 5th grade on up, had to go off reservation and attend a boarding school. My grandmother told me she attended Sherman Indian High School in Riverside, CA where she graduated in the 1960’s and moved back to the reservation.  In the 1970’s San Simon Elementary and Day school was built.  That was when the “Rock School” closed its doors.

I remember when my grandmother would share her stories with me about how they traveled.  Some families were rich with livestock and had many horses.  Her family was fortunate to own a wagon with several horses and cattle. Most of the men in her family were ranchers.  It would take them several days to travel to Phoenix, AZ to sell their cattle so they  could buy clothes, lamp oil, and other personal and household items.  

GuVo community is the focal point of the district.  To the North is Highway 86. To the East is Pisinemo District. 20 miles to the South is the United States International Border, and to the West is the Ajo Mountain Range that includes Organ Pipe National Monument and Montezuma also known as the Oks Daha in the community of Kugaj.

I remember when my grandmother would tell me how things have changed since she was a child. Some of the things include modern housing, paved roads, technology, household appliances and transportation.  She would say these were luxuries she didn’t have growing up and were things she had to learn to adapt to.  The O’odham language was the primary language spoken in her household and English was secondary.  She was very traditional and was of the Catholic faith.  She helped community members when there was a wake service as a cook. She always encouraged me to keep the O’odham tradition and language alive and to be a productive individual.  She would always tell me to never be ashamed of being O’odham.  GuVo is my home.  I know I would eventually have to move off the reservation, just like my grandmother did, to further my education or seek employment.  I am proud to say I am from GuVo village.

NAAF’s Storyteller’s Blog – Memorable Places: The Church

img_2599A young man from our village recently graduated from high school and is attending college in New Mexico. With all of the obstacles to education in our remote village, high school graduation is a huge accomplishment and greatly celebrated. The next three posts will paint a picture of our village and life as seen through his youthful lens.

Memorable Places: The Church

By Rodrick Manuel, Jr.

Growing up here in Gu Vo, I have many memories. I would like to tell you about a few that stand out in my mind.

The most memorable place for me around Gu Vo is St. Anthony’s Church. A small but pretty big one-room white stucco building. Inside the building are wooden benches and old multi colored carpet. The walls are painted with pictures of one Native American holding a cross and one Native American with the Virgin Mary. There is a wooden fence around the Church property made out of railroad ties. Inside the fence there are a couple of buildings, a dance floor, and a couple of outhouses. The other building beside the Church is the community feast house where people are served right after church.

St. Anthony’s Church hosts many events throughout the year. From funerals, to weddings, to baptismals, to dances, to family reunions, and celebrations, this is where the community members gather. Some of my earliest memories were created here, at St. Anthony’s Church. Although this is not a religious community, the Church is the place where a lot of exciting things happen. The majority of what happens at the Church is during dances and celebrations. During that time, there are bands playing, people drinking, and kids just being kids.

My memories consist mostly of dances at the Church. One memorable time at the Church was at a dance where one person was drinking and pulled out an unloaded handgun. He yelled at the people in the O’odham language that he would shoot them with an unloaded gun. Afterwards, he was arrested by the cops and shouted at the people that he had the right to make popovers. He said he had the right to make popovers. By this time the police already knew he was drunk and so they took him to the jail in Sells.

Another time at a dance was when my cousin and another big, older, dude were fighting. One of my uncles, who is a security guard at the casino, went over to stop the fight. He threw the bigger dude on the ground and sat on him and waited for the cops to come.

My other big memories of St. Anthony’s Church consist of funerals. I have helped prepare funerals for many of my relatives and many non-relatives. I help dig graves, cut meat, chop wood, take away trash, and make fires. Funerals are a big event that happens around my community. The majority of funerals last until midnight or two o’clock in the morning. Some funerals last all night with people sitting around a very large bonfire.

San Simon School Garden featured in Edible Baja Magazine!

NAAF is excited to share with you this article by Moses Thompson, about the wonderful San Simon School garden project.

Click HERE to go to Edible Baja online and find out more about food sustainability on the Tohono O’odham Nation.