Mailing address (Fall 1996):
Dept. of Native American Studies
University of California
Davis, CA 95616
FELIPE MOLINA is a Yoeme (Yaqui) from Arizona, currently Diabetes Project Coordinator for Native American Communities at Native Seeds/SEARCH, a Tucson, Arizona-based nonprofit devoted to the preservation of native plant resources. He has a background in native education and literacy, and between 1974-91 carried out teaching in Yaqui community schools and colleges. Since 1984 he has been member of the Yaqui Language Commission of the Pascua Pueblo. In 1978-80, Molina was Governor of the Yoem Pueblo, Marana, AZ, and in 1981-82 Representative of the Yoem Pueblo on the Pascua Yaqui Tribal Council. He has worked extensively on documenting and promoting traditional Yoeme language and culture, oral traditions, music, dance, and song, especially the deer songs and dances, on which he has been a consultant for various institutions including the Smithsonian Institution, as well as project codirector at University of Arizona. In 1993-95 he was Principal Investigator on Yoeme ethnobotany with the US National Park Service for Historic Preservation. He has coauthored or coedited several books and articles on the Yoeme language and worldview and Yaqui coyote and deer songs, including "Yaqui Deer Songs/Maso Bwikam" (University of Arizona Press, 1987; with L. Evers), and the forthcoming "Comprehensive Yoeme and English Dictionary" (Tucson Unified School District; with D. L. Shaul).
Since time began, for the Yoeme people the Yoem Lutu'uria, the Yoeme Truth, has guided the Yoeme people spiritually, mentally, and physically into respecting all life on earth. The Yoeme stories, sayings and ceremonial songs teach specifically on understanding and respecting the huya ania. This traditional knowledge is also called Wa Yo'ora Lutu'uria, the Elders' Truth. This truth is to help all people to live in the right way on this earth.
Although the Yoeme people still retain much of this rich traditional knowledge, there are problems in the communities. Some of the plants that are talked and sung about are disappearing from the desert world. Many times other plants are replacing the traditional plants that are used in the homes and the ceremonies. Another problem that the Yoeme face is the transmission of traditional knowledge, that is not always passed down to the young people because of various reasons pertaining to individual families and communities. In Arizona many young Yoeme people do not speak the Yoeme language anymore, so this makes it more difficult to learn about the Yoeme Truth.
For whoever is interested at this time in maintaining the language and culture, I would recommend doing the following with tribal approval only: nature walks with elders; let elders visit classrooms; videotape elders talking about cultural knowledge in the desert and in the classroom; start a Yoeme heritage school in all the communities; and finally get the parents involved in all aspects of the students' education.
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