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.