The Southside Heritage and the use of the Tohono O’odham Language
In 1906 Southside was founded for members of the Tohono O’odham nation and generation after generation this history and heritage has been foundational for our life together as a congregation. We have honored this heritage in a variety of ways throughout the years. One of the most cherished part of our worship service on Sunday mornings is the Prayer of Blessing in Tohono O’odham led by one of our native speakers.
When we set to building new spaces at Southside we wanted to honor our heritage through the design of the space and naming of the space, giving the new rooms Tohono O’odham names. Though the new names are challenging for those of us who did not grow up speaking Tohono O’odham, we are committed to learning the language of the land. We affirm with the O'odham people and other native peoples of the country that we are supporting, reclaiming, speaking the language that our creator gave to each and every one of our varied nations.
As a Christian church we confess the way in which we, as a church, participated in the erasure of native language and culture through, among other things, boarding schools. Through the boarding school experience, children were taken from their families, traumatized and denied food, basic dignity such as relieving themselves if they could not ask for what they needed in English. Virtually every contemporary native person has this experience in their own family history. When it is challenging to pronounce these Tohono O’odham words, we remember how challenging it is to not know your own language and to try and relearn and reclaim it. To speak this language is an act of reparations, it is an act of repair, it is an act of healing. And it is an honor to once again speak and hear the language again in this land from whence it came. We invite you all to learn the words we have used for different rooms within our new space.