We Walk in Beauty

Ofelia Zepeda, Tohono O'odham

Ofelia Zepeda

Do you have a specific memory that stands out in your mind when you were young?
"Thinking about this photograph, I reflect on my memories of schooling here in Arizona. I attended a small rural public school in the town of Stanfield, Arizona. Stanfield was a cotton farming community made up primarily of Tohono O'odham, Mexicans, African-Americans and Anglo peoples. It was a diverse community and like many rural communities it had its own rules regarding segregation. This rural community, like so many others, was at times a difficult place to grow up in. It was a life of extreme poverty and hardship, but despite that, within our own individual communities there was strength and support. I like to think this support and strength helped a few of us to succeed in the outside world."

How is your life different from your parents or grandparents?
"My life now and my parents' lives are nearly worlds apart. My grandparents' lives might as well be in another universe. This is how far apart our lives are. My grandparents' home was in a small village in Sonora, Mexico. The village like all other O'odham homelands was a desert place. In contrast, I live in mid-town Tucson and all that entails, but at the same time I like to think I have a tether that always connects me to the way they lived. I have memories, ways of behaving, and ways of speaking that I get from their "worlds". So in some ways we are close enough to have many things that continue to connect my life to theirs. This is a good thing."

What traditions from the past do you still continue to practice?
"There are various traditions I continue to practice. Some are of a personal nature, which I will not say anything about. I can say though, that many of the traditions are highly influenced by the Catholic Church. I still observe events and practices around religious holidays and so forth."

What was your impression on having your photograph taken?
"This photograph was taken to commemorate my being awarded the prestigious MacArthur Foundation award in the summer of 1999. The photograph was taken to accompany an article about my award and the work leading up to it. This photograph was one of several that were taken as a result of this award.

What do you see for the future?
"Native Americans have always had struggles. The future I think will continue to offer struggles, struggles from without the tribal communities and from within. I think we acknowledge this as being a part of our existence here and so will continue to work at educating ourselves on the best ways to deal with these struggles."

Ofelia Zepeda

Given name: Ofelia Zepeda
Date of birth: March 24, 1954
Place of birth: Stanfield, Arizona
Tribe: Tohono O'odham
Year photograph was taken: 1999