Papago Woman

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Papago Woman, written by Ruth M. Underhill, is an ethnography of the life of a native american woman named Maria Chona, a member of the Southern Arizona Papago people located right outside of Tucson, Arizona on a reservation. Ruth lived among the Papago from 1931 till 1933. She studied the life of the Papago with her main subject an older Papago woman named Chona. She says at one point how she learned amongst these people and Chona, “I feel, nevertheless, that out of all this flurry there came the story as it had appeared in Chona's mind,” (27). By hearing the life of this Papago woman she learned about life as a Papago. To collect data about the Papago way of life and Chona, Ruth Underhill asked many questions. She was very forward with her questions at first because she had not yet known the Papago way of life, such as asking the name of Chona's dead son and not knowing that the name of the dead are not said out loud. Underhill integrated her life into that of the tribe. In the 3 years she stayed there she learned much through this method. She studied the language and Papago method of breathing by listening to the way they say their words and learned how they pronounce r's as l's and f's as p's. She also used translators along the way. Part one of the Papago woman describes Ruth Underhill's first encounter with the Papago people. Ruth goes to Tuscon, Arizona on a grant from Colombia University, the college she was attending, to live amongst this native american tribe in the southwest. Underhill drives to Arizona and meets a few friends living in Tuscon who tell her about the tribes people . They tell her how a few Papago come to their homes looking for work. They describe them as soft-spoken, brown people. Underhill inquired about any of the english speaking Papago she could meet. She is then introduced to a yardman, Rafeal, or Lapai in the language of his people. Lapai in turn takes her to meet a woman named Chona who lives on a reservation in an unfurnished


Cited: Underhill, R. M. U. (1979). Papago Woman. (Reprint ed., Vol. 1, p. 98). Prospect Heights, Illinois: Waveland Press, Inc.

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