By Frances Manuel and Deborah Neff
Basket weaver, storyteller, and tribal elder, Frances Manuel is a living preserver of Tohono O’odham culture. Speaking in her own words from the heart of the Arizona desert, she now shares the story of her life. She tells of O’odham culture and society, and of the fortunes and misfortunes of Native Americans in the southwestern borderlands over the past century.
In Desert Indian Woman, Frances relates her life and her stories with the wit, humor, and insight that have endeared her to family and friends. She tells of her early childhood growing up in a mesquite brush house, her training in tribal traditions, her acquaintance with Mexican ways, and her education in an American boarding school. Through her recollections of births and deaths, heartache and happiness, we learn of her family’s migration from the reservation to the barrios and back again. In the details of her everyday life, we see how Frances has navigated between O’odham and American societies, always keeping her grandparents’ traditional teachings as her compass.