Sustainability and Sense of Place in the Sonoran Desert/History & Culture

Component Seven – History & Culture edit

Our readings for this Component are found in A Desert Reader (first published in 1995 as The Sierra Club Desert Reader), edited by our earlier speaker Gregory McNamee. Each of them is an excerpt from a classic in literature about North American deserts, some of them Native American folklore.

Our visiting speaker in 2020 was Dr. Ellen Riek, who spoke to us about her experiences in teaching Sense of Place curriculum at several post-secondary institutions over the past couple of decades, and of incorporating the concept into courses of various kinds.

In 2021, our lecturing luminary was AWC History Professor Monica Ketchum, who talked about the long history of human habitation in the Sonoran Desert before and after the initial Encounter between indigenous and peoples European settlers.

File:515E8K50A2L. SX316 BO1,204,203,200 .jpg

A. Mary Austin, from Land of Little Rain edit

Guiding Questions edit

"Land of Little Rain":  Among the naturalists we've read in this course, Mary Austin is the earliest, and her writing style reflects her time period.  Other than that, she sounds a lot of the same notes as her successors - Leopold, McNamee, Sevigny, and others.  What are some of the common themes that she brings up that we've been hearing throughout the semester?  What are some points she makes that perhaps we haven't heard yet?

Austin is mostly talking about at the Mojave desert, an area adjacent to the Sonoran?  Can you detect details that are different from those that apply to our own area of study?  What plants & animals does she focus on, and what conclusions does she draw about them?

Student Discoveries, 2021 edit

One of the common things between Austin’s writings and her successors, is the explanation of why the word “desert” does not truly encompass the region. She addresses how the desert has abundant life forms, even though it is assumed that the desert is lifeless. Upon reading, I found that Austin did a thorough job of describing the many of the species of plants and animals that make up the large biodiversity of the region.

the word Desert is not a word that should be used to describe the area because it is a term people most associate with a land that is void of life, and incapable of supporting life. She also mentions the adaptability of the plants that do live here and their ability to continue to grow even when water is scarce.

I believe a point that hasn't been established before to such extent is the idea of a Utopia, a reflection on the land of perfect ideals that allow for the union between humanity and nature, and that, as a result, allows for the appreciation of nature to extend to appreciating life and therefore every person is seen as having equal value this in term reduces many of the problems present on modern civilizations such as discrimination, she believed that regaining the gift of appreciation we would achieve a change from self-centered attitudes to being just a small part of nature that must be together to allow for the greater good to prevail.

Water sustainability is a big concern within the desert, and the problem of disappearing water has been present throughout time.

A common theme that Mary Austin brings up is how the word desert is extremely misleading for what the area actually is. When people hear the word desert, they think of barren wasteland where life struggles to survive with sand as far as the eye can see and is rare to see any vegetation. Meanwhile, reality is much different then how people perceive these places that are actually full of life.

In the reading, Mary Austin points out some of the common factors that contribute to the tragedy of desert deaths. Another theme that I remember hearing in class is that there is drinkable water a few feet underneath the surface of many areas of the desert. It is interesting to think that even though rain is the primary water source in the desert, animals and plants can sometimes rely on the stored groundwater.

I feel like all the readings we have been doing come back to the same connection of nature just different approaches. For instance, in this case Austin has a slight difference in her definition of what the desert is. She mentions it to be, “…. loose term to indicate land that supports no man….” She also talks about insects which I feel in other discussions we have covered mainly animals and specifically bigger ones.

Mary Austin along with Leopold, McNamee, Sevigny all mention how the desert is “never void of life”. They want to address the common misconceptions people have about the desert even way back in Austin’s days. Austin mentions how the weather changes depending on the seasons it’s not just continuously hot throughout the year. For example, June- November is unbearably hot. However, until April comes it is chill and doormat with a little bit of snow. Depending on the altitudes the weather can get to be extremely cold some certain will only grow at high altitudes. Unlike the other authors, Austin talks about Death Valley and how it got its name because of the dangerous hot sink. I think she mentions a little more about the dangers of the desert that can lead to death compared to the other authors.

Student Discoveries, 2020 edit

Something that Ms. Austin brought up that I do not remember hearing in class is that there are areas in the desert that drinkable water is within a few feet from the surface which is indicated if there is a tree or bunch grass

Like Valerie Morril mentioned on our field trip, Austin also discusses different plant species like the mesquite. Something that I briefly read about in one of the readings was about the Yucca plant. Austin mentions in-depth about this specific plant and its physical features. She continues by talking about where there are plant seeds and insects; there will be birds in that area. Austin informs us about the different places that animals and birds habitat. For example, the painted lizard "slip in and out of rock crevices, and pant on the white hot sands" (Austin, page 6). The way that hummingbirds nest in cactus scrubs, and that woodpecker's habitat in demoniac yuccas. Another thing that I don't recall learning before is the Death Valley. Austin talks about the Death Valley and that it's the core of desolation; and that it has "nearly two hundred identified species."

The author included this quote, “Desert is a loose term to indicate land that supports no man; whether the land can be bitted and broken on that purpose is not proven. Void of life it never is, however dry the air and villainous the soil.” This reminded me of a discussion we had in class that the desert is full of life. There are plants and animals who live in that environment who have adapted to survive in those kinds of conditions.

People have learned ways to live off nature, animals find places to live in and what to eat, and plants have their unique characteristics to keep in as much moisture as they can. We see how the meadowlark doesn’t sit directly on the eggs to keep them warm, since it is too hot in the summer. Instead of laying on their eggs they stand over them to provide shade.

Mary Austin included her own definition of what a desert is. Relating back to our first discussion she mentions that “Desert is a loose term to indicate land that supports no man…” (Austin, page 2). In the same text, she states that a desert is quite the opposite of that idea, it is full of life although it has harsh conditions. Every reading we have read and talked about has their own thoughts about what a desert is, Austin has her own definition, “Desert is a loose term to indicate land that supports no man; whether the land can be bitten or broke into the purpose is not proven”.

Austin gave us some insight on her view of what a desert is. She becomes very descriptive of the desert and it's environment. She says, "This is the nature of that country. There are hills, rounded, blunt, burned, squeezed up out of chaos, chrome and vermilion painted, aspiring to the snow-line. Between the hills lie high level-looking plains full of intolerable sun glare, or narrow valleys drowned in a blue haze."

In this reading Austin discusses a vast number of topics we have been discussing all semester long and I think it’s interesting to see Austin’s point of view on the topic. In almost every reason each author had a different definition to desert but in the end it always came back full circle. Austin uses very descriptive writing when she discussed the desert and it’s environment. She talks about the sun, the valley, and the colors of everything. This really gives you a colorful image as to what she is talking about and it is very helpful. This reading is very useful because it mentions water and land use and that is what my group was discussing in this last post for our project.

Other than plants and wildlife some of the topics that apply to the Sonoran Desert is the overall idea that the desert is never empty and contrary to stereotypes is always full of life. This theme is common within writing based on the Sonoran Desert; deserts are more than what people believe it to be.

B. Yuma folktale, “Why the Desert Is Hot” edit

Guiding Questions edit

What seems to be the main point of the 2 tales that are related in this excerpt? What about them seems to be particularly characteristic of the Yuma area? What ideas in them might have analogs in other mythologies or religious narratives? Are there aspects of the Native American world view that are very different from that of Western Civilization?

Student Discoveries, 2021 edit

The two tales describe how the region came to be the way that it is. These characteristics are common to the Yuma area and they include, large harvests of non-local seeds, hot sun and dry air, clear skies, and typically no wind. There are obvious connections to biblical stories such as the tale of Noah’s Ark and the creation of man narrative.

It just seems like an old folks tale about how the saguaro cactus came to be and why the desert is so hot, because someone was punishing or threatening to punish the people. Maybe these two stories could be interpreted to mean that, if you don't take care of the environment it'll disappear and you won't be able to live.

We are the Drinker and the Bitter men, we bring with us the gifts of nature and we use them to build something that satisfies only our needs as they are our servants, not our friends, and as such we believe they must do and be what we believe they should. And not only that but we rival other people, and place unbearable conditions to their living and also in nature if they show an inability to accomplish what we ask for. I think these ideas are pretty much present in many indigenous cultures around the world as and as we have seen it has lead to a revolutionary style of writing that want us to reflect on our lifestyle and the importance of our decision.

I think that the point of the 2 tales was to portray the adversities of living in a place that is so hot, yet still being able to push through. Whether it is for better or worse, people can still manage to pull through the harshest of situations.

The Yuma Folktale seems to particularly emphasize the sunniness of Yuma, after all Yuma is the sunniest place on Earth.

The main point of the two folktales is to show that despite the harsh weather of the desert, humans, animals, and plants have survived and adapted to these different changes.

I believe the main point of the 2 tales that are related in this excerpt is that basically you cannot live in a desert without being one with it. What I mean is you have to have an understanding of the desert since it can be a complicated region. I think there were more than one characteristic s of the Yuma area that seemed to be portrayed in the tales, but the one that stood out to me the most or the one that I feel is the more common is the Bitter Man using a specific type of field to harvest and if we know anything about our hometown is that it is known for its variety of harvests.

The Yuma Folktale explains why the desert is so hot and why there are no clouds or rarely any wind. According to the tale due to the bitterness and rude behavior of man we are no longer able to live with the privileges of good weather that doesn’t burn our skin when in direct contact. As someone who's lived in Yuma county her entire life, there are many characteristics of this store that are particular to our region. For example, most of the time we see no clouds in the sky and the sun feels like it’ll burn your skin off if you stand in it for too long. However, I feel like we do get a good amount of wind but not when we compare it to other areas. I think the western civilization's view-point of the desert is more technical when compared to the Native American world viewpoint (more religious viewpoint).

Student Discoveries, 2020 edit

I find that the main point for both the stories is that you cannot live in the desert without the help of someone else. How I relate to it in the Yuma area is that in reality very few of us will be actually be able to live in this area without the help of someone else for example the City of Yuma is the one that supplies us with water.

The main point from both of these folktales is that in this area it can be complicated to harvest. In the first tale, the Bitter Man struggled to have a good harvest season because he fired his two servants. During this time, it was a difficult time, and it was causing him great hardship. In the second tale, the Drinker was harvesting more men into saguaros and using the sun to burn them. There are a couple of similar characteristics from these tales to Yuma. From the first tale, the fact that they had to travel a long way for pines and timber. There isn't a place in Yuma that contains these things. Another thing is the type of field that the Bitter Man was using to harvest. Yuma is known for being able to reap several various things. In the second tale, the saguaros are something that thrives in Yuma or this area. What I got from the main point of these two tales is that despite the harsh weather, you will be able to find plants and animals in the desert. This goes for any other region in the world. Plants and animals have adapted to these types of conditions and can survive when the water is scarce.

They show how much we depend on nature. We depend on the sun for the field and we depend on the wind and clouds for our life. If there was no clouds or wind to move the clouds then we would be doomed. Living on the desert with little to no rain means that every drop is important just like the cloud and wind we’re important to the Bitter Man.

The characteristic related to Yuma is a plant, saguaros, and the heat that occurred due to having dun be closer to the land. This related to mythology due to the fact that the cause of hot summer and formation of earth was determined by a God-like figure punishing the people.

The main point of the two tales is to describe the relentless temperature of these two places but to ensure that that isn’t an obstacle for the wildlife living there. People, animals, and plants have become acclimated to their environments and this is the same for these two places. Even though the temperatures are scorching the organisms living there have become used to it.

The desert is a very hot place to live in, especially for humans and it made me think how do animals and plants survive this weather? Animals and plants do live in the desert and thrive here, surprisingly. It takes a certain plant or animal to be able to withstand the harsh conditions that surround us. Even though is water is scarce here, that doesn't affect the plants and animals as much since they have developed in this environment.

Many of the plants and animals that live in the desert have adapted to its environment. We usually don’t get to much rain in Yuma but when we do it’s amazing. The plants and animals here have to adapt the the weather we have and the dry months we get. Not every animal is fit for that but we do have a large variety of different animals here.

C. Carl Lumholtz, “The Pinacate” edit

Guiding Questions edit

Out of only about a dozen literary excerpts that McNamee chose to represent the deserts of North America in his Desert Reader, why do you suppose he chose this one?  That is, what does this relatively objective, unadorned prose communicate to us without being particularly opinionated or philosophical?

Student Discoveries, 2021 edit

The fact that this piece was not particularly opinionated or philosophical added to its meaning because I could read it as though I was taking the journey with the author. The ending scene of trying to taking a picture, missing the opportunity, and never getting that opportunity again struck me as a call to worry about taking pictures less, and enjoying moments more.

The Pinacate, I liked much better than most of the other reading in this book, because it isn't too vague and stylistic and just expresses this guys experience during his travels. It shows some dangers of the desert having no water which is why the desert has its stereotypes, but then also expresses his interest in how beautiful his adventure was and how pretty the landscape looks with all the species that do live here plants included. He does this without being too philosophical which is good that this is added in here as it appeals to a different type of reader than the previous entries. It's simple and not overly exaggerated.

It is our pleasure to observe those interacting elements on an ecosystem, he acknowledges nature as an equal and I believe that is what expresses a true sensation of adventure that makes you thrive to explore the outside.

For those who don’t live in the desert, their imagination runs wild in efforts of interpreting McNamee’s writing, but for those who have lived in the desert, it enriches their appreciation of the area in which they live in.

I think that the reason why this excerpt was chosen was because it perfectly encapsulates the idea of what people think a desert is versus what it actually is. While many think of a desert as empty land with no life, the excerpt is able to prove those ideas wrong without having to get philosophical about it. There is no need to search for the beauty and uniqueness of the desert that many believe to be absent, all you have to do is go out and see it for themselves.

I think that McNamee chose this specific reading to represent the deserts of North America because of the way the author describes the desert. Since McNamee is a person that shows a lot of respect and admiration towards nature, it would only make sense that he would choose a reading that can portray the beauty and history of the region. Lumholtz writing style is similar to McNamee; they both a descriptive way of writing that is able to capture the reader's attention and personify life in the desert.

Out of only about a dozen literary excerpts that McNamee chose to represent the deserts of North America in his Desert Reader I believe he chose this one because it is similar to his writing style and it shares the same passion he feels towards the desert. This was very descriptive, and it portrays everything the same way his writing does as well.

I think McNamee chose to represent the desert of North America in his Desert Reader because of the diversity and versatility the topic can offer. There are many misconceptions about this region McNamee wants to clear up. It is not just a hot dried-up plain that has no thriving plants (flowers) or thousands of species of animals. There is so much to study and see that provides McNamee with many topics to talk about.

Student Discoveries, 2020 edit

I believe why McNamee choose this story was because maybe he was able to relate with Lumholtz’s love for the desert with the way he felt with it as well besides the great information and journey Lumholtz did. I believe that McNamee chose this excerpt because of how detailed the reading is. It may not portray the desert as something that beautiful or exotic like this writer believes it to be, but it does give an example of the desert. From reading this passage, I was able to think of a specific area near Yuma, where I could see these things. We have the opportunity to experience all of this and not have to travel that far. Something this simple and unadorned is close enough for us to experience it. /Aileen

I believe McNamee chose to represent the deserts of North America using this article because it captures the history and beauty of the desert way before his time; way before invasive species had altered the ecosystem. Not only does he give an example of the desert, but it portrays a personal experience in which he fell in love with the desert.

An area can be greatly impacted by the culture of the people who live on it. People that know how to depend on nature are probably going to find ways to make every plant important.

I believe that McNamee might have chosen this excerpt because it is very similar to his writing style. There was a lot of detail in this texts that allows the audience to picture what is being described, McNamee also uses this in his writing style. The point of this excerpt is to share with us the love they have towards the desert in a story-like way.

Out of only about a dozen literary excerpts that McNamee chose to represent the deserts of North America in his Desert Reader, McNamee chose this one because he can relate to it. It contains the same views but also has the same descriptive writing the McNamee has that personifies the water and life of the desert.

McNamee chose to discuss the deserts that reside close to us. This excerpt truly captures the meaning of the desert, without it being this vivid beautiful image that we always see it as. Before coming to Arizona, I never was able to envision the desert, but now that I live here, I've been able to see things first hand for myself.

I think McNamee picked this story because it closely related to his own writing. It is very descriptive and it gives an experience of what the desert was before his time. Living in Yuma I think it is very important to remember it is a beautiful place and we have so many opportunities to go and see different landmarks here. I feel the objective of this reading was to encourage a loving relationship with the desert while also showing how great areas within the desert truly are.

D. Tohono O’odham song, “Salt Gathering” edit

Guiding Questions edit

What themes seem to be found in this piece that are common to the story from the Yuma Indians? Asked another way, what can we conclude from these very short excerpts about the world view of the Native American, as distinct from the European? What's actually happening in this story, anyway?

Student Discoveries, 2021 edit

From these readings, I have gotten the impression that the views of the Native Americans are to wait for what they need. That is, they have religious narratives where they are seeking something, and then it is provided for them. I feel that the European or Western way of thinking is to alter the land and bring about what you want yourself, rather than waiting for the powers that be to supply it.

What can be concluded about Native American people is that they believed that there was only a way to follow defined by the route on the gathering of salt, life becomes a journey to connect and adapt to nature and they express their love for nature by singing, dancing, and observing the preserved state of nature. While Western Cultures believe there are innumerable ways in which a person can adore nature, however, they all agree that what must be preserved is the moment in which they connected with it that often leads to getting trophies and mementos, the connection to nature must be recorded in their personal memory while on Native American cultures the memory must forever reside on those trails, those trees, and in nature.

In the Native American folklore, there always seems to be a direct relationship with man and nature. Nature is represented not only as it is but through various representations of higher power.

I think that we can conclude from the short excerpts that the world view of the Native Americans was that they were a part of nature and were living alongside it. This is very distinct from European world view that saw nature as a force to be tamed and controlled.

A theme found in this piece and is common to the story of the Yuma Indians is the importance of water for humans. In this story, the Native Americans were struggling to get water since it hardly rained. The rainmaker noticed their struggle and decided to help them by making it rain. This issue showed how much humans depend on the natural resources of the environment and helps us understand the value of water.

We can conclude from these very short excerpts the world view of the Native American is that they deeply care about nature and their land. Basically, what happens is the Native Americans were in a tough situation since there was no rain and they needed water for their harvest. Natura was saw as “high power” which could give them what they need which it eventually rains for them giving them plenty of water for their harvesting.

The story “salt gathering” is about someone who see their guardian who brings prosperity and water to the land. The song mentioned “earth spongy with moisture” by the end meaning in the end they were able to get water from all directions which filled ditches to the brim. As I mentioned, I think the world view of Native Americans is more spiritual. In general, I feel like they are more in touch with nature and can genially appreciate its beauty and use without abusing its resources.

Student Discoveries, 2020 edit

What we can conclude is that they worshipped the rain. In this story what is happening is that the Rain Maker came down and saw that the Native Americans were struggling so he then made it rain to help them.

The themes that it connects to is the short stories of the Bitter Man and The Drinker. By comparing all these three pieces, I can conclude that they care about their land and respected nature. They knew that they would have a hard time harvesting if they didn't have rain. What happens in this short story is that the Native Americans were struggling because there wasn't any rain in sight. After they saw the Native Americans struggling, they decided to help and let it rain for them. The theme seems to connect from the stories of The Drinker and the Bitter Man. After reading these short experts, I can conclude that they each shared the same respect and love for nature. They even captured the importance of water in the stories.

They all depended on nature, like we still do today but they saw nature as a higher power that could make choices.

In this course, we have focused many of our in-class discussions on water use and how essential it is and it must be used wisely. In this case, harvesting needs water, the Native American was worried about how he would get water in order to harvest. It was then provided for him to use.

The themes of the Bitter Man and the Drinker collide with their love for their land, nature, water, etc. They both closely relate to the water aspect and in this class we have also related a lot of our learning content to the usage of water.

The themes throughout this piece connects to The Drinker and the Bitter Man. These pieces tie together very well because they include water and the love for nature that they all have. Land and water have been a major factor in our class and I definitely felt that in these three pieces.

The themes from the stories The Drinker and the Butter Man seem to share the same love for nature. It even stressed the importance of water. See I how many different readings we have read it is very important to me to see how much people need to value water more.

E. Monica D Ketchum, AWC Professor of History (visiting speaker, 2021) edit

Description: edit

Professor Monica Ketchum has an extensive knowledge of history and gave an insightful presentation into the Columbian Exchange in the Sonoran Desert.

Monica Ketchum gave a presentation on the human impact in the Sonoran Desert along with the notion of the myth of pristine wilderness she mentioned this Eurocentric belief that before the colonization of the Americas the wilderness was largely populated, and there was barely any perceptible human disturbance, this was a central element to the presentation.

The history of the Sonoran Desert holds a rich, innovating background that has helped shape the Sonoran Desert we know of today. Professor Monica Ketchum presented us with a serious of interesting information regarding the history of the Sonoran Desert. From the Colombian exchange to the five-C’s of Arizona, all the way to present day, the Sonoran Desert has undergone tremendous transformations within the last century.

Monica Ketchum gave us a an extremely interesting look into the history of the Sonoran Desert and how it reached the place which it sits in today. It is no exaggeration to say that the Sonoran Desert is nothing like it was before, and Ketchum was able to walk us through and explain every step along the way.

Reflection: edit

There exists a false belief in “pristine wilderness,” the idea that wilderness was pure before humans populated it. This concept of pristine wilderness is one that I think many of us assume to be true, especially in our journeys into the most “remote” corners of the world. The truth is that what may seem “remote” has been influenced by something or someone in one way or another. The topic of the Columbian exchange also brings up an environmental issue that we have talked about before about bringing new species of plants and animals into an area and how that affects the native population. The Columbian exchange resulted in many diseases for both sides bringing smallpox to the natives and syphilis to the Euro-Americans, but this could have also been an issue for animals and plants they brought along.

...Whether or not is there a similar notion about wilderness in actuality, is there some kind of modern myth of pristine wilderness related to the state of the environment? And if so, why? I thought about this as she gave the presentation, and the basis of them was that a large group of people not only in the United States but in the whole world not believes in climate change, even though the evidence pointing at it states that is a fact.

On one hand, there is a feeling of appreciation for the sacrifices that have been made of the land. Without these advancements in technology, we wouldn’t be living the life we have right now. However, it also bring about a certain despair. Why must we take complete control of everything we hold and encounter? Why must we make nature work for us? Why can’t we work alongside with it?

Which is fair to do considering how much changed once Europeans came to the land. It reminds me of a documentary my dad showed me and my sister called “The Great Indian Wars: 1540 - 1890”. It is a great documentary talking about the build up to the wars between Native and Europeans as well as the many conflicts that happened through the ages for land and resources.

I have heard about the Eurocentric belief in the pristine wilderness that prior to Europeans coming to the Americans, the area was sparsely populated, and indigenous population interacted with the environment quite different and left it somewhat untouched. To my surprise Professor Ketchum mentioned that this myth has been perpetuating through the centuries and was used as a justification for civilizing the world, especially the American world.

One myth that she mentioned was the “Myth of the Pristine Wilderness” which was basically the belief that the Americas were a sparsely populated wilderness, a world where humans did not disturb. I personally believe this myth because I have always thought of nature being here before us and how we are the reason nature is deteriorating slowly.

Professor Monica Ketchum has lived and experienced the diversity of the Sonoran Desert. This beautiful desert has been impacted very early on by humans during the western expansion or the Spanish colonial period. It is believed the indigenous population was much more conscious of the environment and left the place untouched. During the 1500s and 1600s, the Europeans perception of “untouched” wilderness was very different from what we think today. They believed the “empty” land was a waste land. They wanted to cultivate the land and make use of the space. After the modern shift, the humans were able to benefit from the resources however our land suffered for this. One of the problems that arose was erosion as a result of irrigation systems, roads, and field construction.

F. Ellen Riek, on A Sense of Place (visiting speaker, 2020) edit

Description: edit

Ellen Riek once attended a program in Philadelphia in which the students separated into groups and explored the land using their senses to describe what they see and why they see it that way. The curriculum was really powerful for her and made her who she is today.

In this program a group of people would break into sections and each section had a different area of the city. They would go to neighborhoods, restaurants, stores, and areas that were not as popular as areas that attracted people from other places. They were supposed to document the area and then return to the group and tell everyone their experiences.

She shared her experience with us trying to explain the idea of ​​"sense of place" which is what makes a place that place. And she said that many times when we travel we really forget to feel in a different place and we go to common places that we normally see in our place as it is.

Professor Ellen Riek has a background in Cultural Anthropology and with this she tries to look back on history and make it not look so “dry”. Something that is very important to Riek is the experience people get when they travel to different cities. She was looking more at what people are interested in seeing. When people travel they go to some of the more popular places in town that everyone knows about but Riek wants to show people what the community is really about. She talked about people going out and trying to find what things people in the community normally do and to look at different places that make the community. For example Riek mentioned people going to the mall when they come to Yuma. Instead she wants people to think of going to Downtown Yuma instead and seeing all the local businesses and restaurants we have here. This she mentions is what people really come to look for the “sense of place” we have here in Yuma. Riek mentioned a class that used to be offered at NAU and throughout the class the students would go to local places in the community and learn about the area. In doing this the students were able to get hands on experience on things they didn't know about. This helped the students come up with a “sense of place” for the area they were exploring. Something Riek asked was “What makes a place meaningful to you?” and I think this is important to remember when talking about sense of place.

Reflection: edit

Even before this presentation, I was confused on what the term "sense of place" meant. I have a general idea of what this means but after this guest speaker, it really broaden my knowledge on this topic. I tried to connect all that she said to previous readings and presentations. I concluded that this phrase means its the feeling you get from a place. It made me think if I had a place that made me feel good, and I found mine. The times that I have traveled to this place I try not to use my phone, but somehow I always do. After this guest speaker, I would like to try to take advantage of the places that I travel to. By reducing the amount of time spent on our cellular devices, we will be able to appreciate our surroundings more. We have been referring to a sense of place since the beginning of this course and to this day it is something that crosses my mind on occasions. After this meeting with Professor Riek, it makes a little more sense although it does not have an actual definition. To my understanding it is just a place where you feel comfortable to be, I can also think of it as not just a place, but even people where you feel you belong.

So essentially, we think about what it means to have a sense of place and things that contribute to a sense of place (meaning). I personally think it is the experience you get from that place, the people there, what it means to you and the feelings that are evoked from that place. So essentially all things help create a sense of place but we don’t always recognized and appreciate this. Listening to her talk about how different experiences and different writer's really change the narrative of the story, was super interesting. I tended to be someone who if it is information coming to me through a book from someone with all these degrees and experience on the topic, I normally wouldn't question it. But the fact is we're all human, we all have a subliminal bias hidden in us somewhere and sometimes that changes how we perceive certain things. Ellen Riek really gave me some perspective on what a sense of place is and should mean to someone as an individual. Thinking of a place that gives you a certain feeling and creates this self-awareness really helps someone determine their sense of place in this world.

I thought all of her information was very insightful and it helped better understand what a “sense of place” means and the different interpretations people can have.

This idea she has shared is amazing and couldn't be more timely. We must become connected to our "places". We must become part of the ecological communities like Leopold suggested. There is no other option and the time is now. Sustainability starts with learning about and caring for our local lands. If we care for them they will care for us, and maybe some healing can occur.

As the presentation continued, Riek explained that people only see the surface level of places, and they fail to experience the culture of the city itself - I totally agree with Riek on this! Personally, I have noticed this problem with Mexicali, a city in Baja California I have a lot of history with. For example, Mexicali is commonly known as an industrial city and is attributed as one of the most polluted cities in Mexico besides the capital. Whenever I talk to someone about Mexicali that is familiar with city they always reply with “oh, that place is ugly”, or “there is nothing to do there”. However, since I grew up visiting this city at least once a month due to family, I must strongly disagree. Mexicali without a doubt has some of the best food variation I have ever had. From tacos to carne asada to the delicious Chinese food – Mexicali has a large history of Chinese immigrants and therefore has plenty of Chinese restaurants to choose from. On top of the food culture though, Mexicali also has some beautiful scenery hidden behind the Coca-Cola factory and the Oxxos. From the forest of the city to the dunes outside of the city, there is some diamonds in the rough to be found. One of the most important things I took from that story was that when we go to a new place, we only look at the surface and the most popular places. In reality to truly capture the essence, or Sense of Place, of a location we should look beyond the most touristy places and not leave out the hidden gems found by exploring and connecting with the place we are in.

When it comes to our discussion with Ellen Riek we learned a variety of things such as her view on sense of place. Her thoughts on this was that it was a sense of belonging or placement that an individual feels in the habitat that we live in. This type of view that she had made me realize the way we ourselves view our importance to the environment in the sense of the way that we play a part to it