Speaker Series, “Climate Change and Cultural Resources”

Climate change represents a significant challenge to resource managers. Wildfires, monsoons, and hurricanes (oh my!) all threaten and impact cultural resources in different ways. Join Casa Grande Ruins National Monument archeologist Christopher Combel as he discusses the ways he has seen climate change impact sites that he has managed and some of the strategies that land managers are trying to mitigate the impacts of climate change to cultural resources in the National Park Service.

Christopher Combel is a National Park Service Archeologist at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument and has worked at several stints at units across the Western United States including, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Hovenweep National Monument, Lava Beds National Monument, Natural Bridges National Monument, Tule Lake National Monument, and Yosemite National Park. Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Chris has always had a deep fascination with the preservation of history and culture.

Massai will speak about the indigenous Arizona Conservation Corps (AZCC) crews, the projects they are doing, and how they are always looking for people to join the program. He will also talk about AZCC’s relationship with the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument and the projects they have worked on here.

Massai Leon started in the conservation world in 2019 by working with American Conservation Experience and has since been involved with AZCC and was one of  the first interns with the Indian Youth Service Corps at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. As a graduate from the Traditional Trades Apprenticeship program, he currently works for AZCC as a program coordinator and recruitment technician. Being a Chiricahua Apache, he is involved in his community by working with and coordinating the Indigenous crews with AZCC and continuing his family’s culture and traditions.

Program Description:

The National Park Service was created in 1916 due to the efforts of Stephen T. Mather and Horace M. Albright, along with countless other people. Join Park Ranger Pam Tripp to hear about the early creation of this then new government agency and it’s protected lands. Pam’s talk is based on the book Creating the National Park Service; The Missing Years, by Horace M. Albright and Marian Albright Schenck.

Speaker Bio:

Pam Tripp has been with the National Park Service since 2002, working in the interpretation and education division at Joshua Tree National Park and now Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.  Pam is fascinated with history and the historical places that the National Park Service protects.

Program Description:

Although the desert may seem like a desolate landscape devoid of life, it is actually home to hundreds of unique species. Some are only visible or appear alive for a short time, others grow for hundreds of years, and many are not found anywhere else on earth. Participants will learn about the many traditional Tribal plants uses, what plant life makes North American Deserts so unique, and how the Mojave stands apart from the rest of America.

Speaker Bio:

Carrie Cannon is a member of the Kiowa tribe of Oklahoma and is also of Oglala Lakota descent. She has a B.S. in Wildlife Biology, and an M.S. in Resource Management. She began working for the Hualapai Tribe of Peach Springs, Arizona in 2005 where she began the creation of an intergenerational ethnobotany program for the Hualapai community. She is currently employed as an Ethnobotanist for the Hualapai Department of Cultural Resources. She administers a number of projects promoting the intergenerational teaching of Hualapai ethnobotanical knowledge working towards preservation and revitalization to ensure tribal ethnobotanical knowledge persists as a living practice and tradition.

Program Description:

This visual presentation shows how Indigenous American women have contributed service to Arizona and the US yet were stereotyped in films and remain invisible in the media. Nevertheless, they have been honored in all areas of public service—law, medicine, literature, military and activism with awards such as, the Presidential Freedom, the McArthur (genius award), the Secretary of Interior, and others. Among some traditional tribal cultures, women’s lives are modeled after female heroes and sacred women who exemplify and express courage and kinship values. Rites of passage celebrate female creativity and the transformative nature of women, hence there was not a need for the concept of feminism. This talk presents cultural aspects of Indigenous culture and how women have contributed in significant ways, not only to their tribal nations, but to contemporary American life.

Speaker Bio:

Laura Tohe is Diné and the current Navajo Nation Poet Laureate. She is Sleepy Rock People clan and born for the Bitter Water People clan and the daughter of a Navajo Code Talker. She published 3 books of poetry, an anthology of Native women’s writing and an oral history on the Navajo Code Talkers. Her librettos, Enemy Slayer, A Navajo Oratorio (2008) and Nahasdzáán in the Glittering World (2021), performed in Arizona and France, respectively. Among her awards are the 2020 Academy of American Poetry Fellowship and the 2019 American Indian Festival of Writers Award. She is Professor Emerita with Distinction from ASU.

Program Description:

Ancient American Indian petroglyphs (symbols carved or pecked on rocks) and pictographs (rock paintings) are claimed by some to be forms of writing for which meanings are known. But are such claims supported by archaeology or by Native Americans? Archaeologist Allen Dart illustrates how petroglyph and pictograph styles changed through time and over different parts of the U.S. Southwest both before and after non-Indian peoples entered the region and discusses how even the same rock art symbol may be interpreted differently from popular, scientific, and modern Native American perspectives.

Speaker Bio:

Registered Professional Archaeologist Allen has worked in Arizona and New Mexico since 1975 for federal and state governments, private companies, and nonprofit organizations. He is the executive director of Tucson’s nonprofit Old Pueblo Archaeology Center, which he founded in 1993 to provide educational and scientific programs in archaeology, history, and cultures. Al has been an Arizona Humanities speaker since 1997. He has received the Arizona Archaeological Society’s Professional Archaeologist of the Year Award, the Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society’s Victor R. Stoner Award, the Arizona Governor’s Archaeology Advisory Commission Award in Public Archaeology, and other honors for his efforts to bring archaeology and history to the public.

COOLIDGE, AZ – The Casa Grande Ruins Speaker Series takes place weekly through January 18, 2023. On November 16, 2022 Casa Grande Ruins will host Sistine Lewis at 1:00 pm.  Sistine will present “O’odham Dresses through the Decades”. The speaker series will continue every Wednesday at 1:00 pm through January 18.

Sistine Lewis, is the daughter of Cecilia Andrews and the Late Knute Lewis. Sistine is a member of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and this years’ Miss Indian Arizona 2022-2023. She is the 4th woman from her community to hold this title as she now represents all 22 federally recognized tribes across the state. As Miss Indian Arizona her platform is: Promoting Culture amongst the youth, “our youth are next generation, and I would love to connect with youth on and off the reservation involved with their cultures”.

Sistine is currently attending Scottsdale Community College in the Honors Program where she is majoring in Nursing to become a future Labor and Delivery nurse, to help welcome newborn babies while also providing a safe environment for mothers.

Sistine will be sharing the history of O’odham dresses and how they’ve evolved through time. There will also be in-person visualization of the unique collection of O’odham traditional dresses.

Program Description:

Join Zarco for a series of stories that share the vibrant and tragic history of water and the River People, over a 2,000 year period. Beginning with the Toltec trade route that brought agriculture and corn to the Southwest. The history of the O’Odham before and after the expansion west is revealed. We learn about the Yaqui Indians who fled persecution and found refuge in Arizona rebuilding the ancient canal system. A descendant of the first Mormon settlers tells his families’ story of finding an oasis in the desert given to them by God and their determination to tame the mighty Salt River. Our story culminates when an endearing elderly woman shares the hope that there still is to protect our water resources and to right the wrongs committed against the land and its River People.

Speaker Bio:

As a sculptor, muralist, storyteller and performance artist Zarco has dedicated his career to creating positive social change through the arts. Born in Arizona, he has been instrumental in the development of Latino Arts statewide. His art has been exhibited in Mexico and throughout the United States. He has received international acclaim, and awards, such as a National Endowment for the Arts Japan Fellowship, a Governor’s Arts Award, a Zony Award, became the Southwest Folklife Alliance Master Artist, and has been awarded grants for artistic projects by The Doris Duke Foundation, Valley Metro and Arizona Community Foundation. Visit www.zarkmask.com.

Program Description:

Join Maegen to learn about the Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace at Mission Garden in Tucson and Tohono O’odham ecological knowledge as it has been taught to her and relates to her work with plants and people.

Speaker Bio:

My name is Maegan Lopez, I am from the Tohono O’odham Nation, located in Southwest Arizona. I was brought up in a village called Wejij Oidag (“New Fields”) which is about 90 miles from Tucson, AZ and a mile from the U.S./Mexico border.  I’m a mother, daughter and sister. I currently work at Mission Garden, my role at Mission Garden has given me the opportunity to work with wonderful plants and people, and I am on the Board of Old Pueblo Archeology Center, which helps implement policies for the organization.

COOLIDGE, AZ – The Casa Grande Ruins Speaker Series takes place weekly through January 18, 2023. On November 9, 2022 Casa Grande Ruins will host Precious Vicente at 1:00 pm.  Precious will present “More than a Fruit”. The speaker series will continue every Wednesday at 1:00 pm through January 18.

Precious Vicente is Akimel O’odham from the Gila River Indian Community. She is currently a Park Ranger at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument in the Interpretive and Education division where she helps visitors to the Monument learn about this rich cultural site.

Join Precious Vicente to learn about traditional food, specifically Bahidaj (Saguaro Cactus Fruit). Precious will discuss why Bahidaj is more than just a fruit and the importance of taking care of the land.

The Speaker Series is funded by the Friends of Casa Grande Ruins National Monument (http://friendsofcasagranderuins.org/) with additional support from Arizona Humanities (https://azhumanities.org/). The program begins at 1:00 pm in the Casa Grande Ruins visitor center theater at 1100 W Ruins Drive, Coolidge AZ, 85128. There is no fee for the program, and entrance is free at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.

Family Day, Casa Grande National Monument
A family enjoys taking a selfie. (Courtesy Brad Sutton)

Educators have known for years that helping children develop core social and emotional strengths, like self-regulation, self-awareness and social awareness, is necessary for students to succeed in school and other areas of life. That’s why two years into the pandemic, which educators have said has resulted in a significant loss of progress in academic and social-emotional learning,  Casa Grande Ruins National Monument held a family-day event in March called Mission: Resilience.

More than 1,300 children and families participated in the event, which sought to strengthen children’s mastery of six tenets of resiliency—optimism, self-regulation, self-awareness, self-management, connection, and strength of character—through a host of fun activities. In support of Mission: Resilience, Western National Park Association funded staff training on social-emotional learning.

“Over the past two years, we’ve all had a hard go of it,” said Sara Sutton, education coordinator at Casa Grande Ruins NM who developed the program. “We wanted children to know they can learn ways to handle whatever life throws at them.”


Family Day, Casa Grande National Monument
A child showing off her pitch pot. (Courtesy of Brad Sutton)

At a character development activity station, children made clay pinch pots to encourage reflection on their own personal strengths. To demonstrate self-awareness, they took selfies with the Great House, a four-story adobe structure, as a backdrop and then shared a personal attribute that is a source of pride. In a lesson on optimism, children were reminded that they have the choice to adjust to disappointment and difficult circumstances after learning how plants, animals and the Ancestral Sonoran Desert People had to adapt to survive.


Family Day, Casa Grande National Monument
Precious Vincente showcasing a game. (Courtesy of Brad Sutton)

In an activity on self-regulation, Precious Vincente, a member of the Gila River Indian Community (Akimel O’odham) and a conservation legacy cultural education intern, taught children and families about games that were played by the Ancestral Sonoran Desert People and their descendants, the O’odham. The Ko’omai (women’s game) and Gins (men’s game), played after a hard day’s work, gave the desert people a chance to connect with family and friends.

The games were played with pieces made of arrow weed and cactus rib. Each piece had an assortment of markings representing different values, or points. The first person to score the target amount of points was the winner, and prizes were awarded.

“Games aren’t just all about fun but are a tool to help self-regulate,” said Precious. “We all have different ways of coping with stress, whether it be art, music, or even just taking a walk.”

Family Day, Casa Grande National Monument
A child stands in awe of the ruins. (Courtesy of Brad Sutton).

Casa Grande Ruins NM protects the multistory Great House and the ruins of other ancient structures built by the Ancestral Sonoran Desert People over 800 years ago. There are six traditionally associated tribes that trace their ancestry to Casa Grande Ruins NM: Ak-Chin Community; Gila River Indian Community (Akimel O’odham); Hopi; Salt River Pima-Maricopa Community; Tohono O’odham Nation; and Pueblo of Zuni.

“Resilience is a challenging idea to translate into something easy to understand for young children,” said Sutton, “but we used examples of daily setbacks they could understand, like forgetting a school lunch or missing the school bus, and then we suggested ways they could manage their frustration or disappointment.”

She added, “By drawing on the resiliency of our site’s resources, we hope kids will tap into the resiliency within themselves and ultimately see Casa Grande Ruins and other national park sites as places of healing.”


Families gathered at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument this past March to help children develop core social and emotional strengths, like self-regulation, self-awareness and social awareness. The result, was a fun-filled day of learning!