Human Ecology

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 423–435 | Cite as

The Anthropology of Dust: Community Responses to Wind-Blown Sediments within the Middle Gila River Valley, Arizona

  • David K. Wright
  • J. Andrew Darling
  • Barnaby V. Lewis
  • Craig M. Fertelmes
  • Chris Loendorf
  • Leroy Williams
  • M. Kyle Woodson


Dust in its myriad forms impacts human existence in arid environments; but dust is more than an environmental nuisance. It shapes and reshapes adaptive response and human ideology over the short and long term. In 2011, the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC), Arizona, U.S.A. sponsored a study of dust entrainment within the jurisdiction of its airshed. The study’s primary objectives were to determine the relationship between sediment sources and sinks in premodern contexts and how indigenous people have coped with eolian activity since intensive settlement of the Middle Gila River Valley began. Ethnographic and archaeological sources indicate that people respect winds and observe cultural procedures consistent with their origin and to reduce their ill effects. Geomorphic data also show stratigraphic correspondence between relic wash channels and adjacent terrace and sand sheet deposits demonstrating a long history of eolian activity derived from fluvial sources. Climatological data from PM10 “exceedance events” corroborate anthropological analyses indicating that extreme dust events are typically westerlies and occur during exceptionally dry periods. Eolian dust is part of the ambient ecosystem of the GRIC and should be viewed as such within the modern cultural and regulatory environment governing these emissions.


Ethnoarchaeology Middle Gila River Valley, Arizona Dust entrainment Household settlement 



This research was undertaken in conjunction with the Gila River Indian Community, Cultural Resource Management Program (CRMP), the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Pima-Maricopa Irrigation Project under funding from the Department of the Interior, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, under the Tribal Self-Governance Act (PL 103–413), for the design and development of a water delivery system utilizing Central Arizona Project water. A grant provided to the GRIC-DEQ from the United States Environmental Protection Agency funded portions of this project involving geochemistry, climatologic and geomorphologic analyses. We are grateful to the late Henrietta Pablo, David DeJong, Henrietta Lopez, Margaret Cook, the air quality team at GRIC-DEQ, and the GRIC administration under the leadership of Governors William Rhodes and Gregory Mendoza.


  1. Anderson, R. S., and Haff, P. K. (1988). Simulation of Eolian Saltation. Science 241: 820–823.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson, R. S., and Hallet, B. (1986). Sediment Transport by Wind: Toward a General Model. Geological Society of America Bulletin 97: 523–535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bagnold, R. A. (1941). The Physics of Blown Sand and Desert Dunes. Methuen & Co. Ltd, London.Google Scholar
  4. Bahr, D. M., Gregorio, J., Lopez, D. I., and Alvarez, A. (1974). Piman Shamanism and Staying Sickness (Ká:Cim Múmkidag). The University of Arizona Press, Tucson.Google Scholar
  5. Bahr, D. M., Smith, J., Allison, W. S., and Hayden, J. D. (1994). The Hohokam Chronicles: The Short Swift Time of Gods on Earth. University of California Press, Berkeley.;query=;brand=ucpress.
  6. Barrera-Bassols, N., Alfred Zinck, J., and Van Ranst, E. (2006). Symbolism, Knowledge and Management of Soil and Land Resources in Indigenous Communities: Ethnopedology at Global, Regional and Local Scales. CATENA 65: 118–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Basso, K. H. (1996). Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language among the Western Apache. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.Google Scholar
  8. Berkes, F., Colding, J., and Folke, C. (2000). Rediscovery of Traditional Ecological Knowledge as Adaptive Management. Ecological Applications 10: 1251–1262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brazel, A. J., and Nickling, W. G. (1986). The Relationship of Weather Types to Dust Storm Generation in Arizona (1965–1980). Journal of Climatology 6: 255–275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Butterfield, G. R. (1998). Transitional Behaviour of Saltation: Wind Tunnel Observations of Unsteady Winds. Journal of Arid Environments 39: 377–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Castetter, E. F., and Bell, W. H. (1942). Pima and Papago Indian Agriculture. Interamericana Studies No. 1. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.Google Scholar
  12. Crown, P. L. (1990). The Hohokam of the American Southwest. Journal of World Prehistory 4: 223–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. d’Aquino, P., and Bah, A. (2012). A Bottom-up Participatory Modelling Process for a Multi-Level Agreement on Environmental Uncertainty Management in West Africa. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 56: 271–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dove, M. (2006). Indigenous People and Environmental Politics. Annual Review of Anthropology 35: 191–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Doyel, D. E. (2008). Hohokam Residential Organization at Kearny, Arizona. Journal of Field Archaeology 33: 249–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Eberle, R. F., and Allen, V. K. (2012). Exceptional Events Demonstration Report for the Gila River Indian Community. Kleinfelder West, Inc., Tempe, Arizona.Google Scholar
  17. Ezell, P. H. (1963a). Is There a Hohokam-Pima Culture Continuum? American Antiquity 29: 61–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ezell, P. H. (1963b). The Maricopas. An Identification from Documentary Sources. Anthropological Papers of the University of Arizona Number 6. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.Google Scholar
  19. Fish, S. K., and Fish, P. R. (eds.) (2007). The Hohokam Millennium. School for Advanced Research Press, Santa Fe, New Mexico.Google Scholar
  20. Gilman, P. A. (1987). Architecture as Artifact: Pit Structures and Pueblos in the American Southwest. American Antiquity 52: 538–564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gladwin, H. S., Haury, E. W., Sayles, E. B., and Gladwin, N. (1938). Excavations at Snaketown: Material Culture. Medallion Papers 25. Gila Pueblo, Globe, Arizona.Google Scholar
  22. Goossens, D., and Offer, Z. Y. (1997). Aeolian Dust Erosion on Different Types of Hills in a Rocky Desert: Wind Tunnel Simulations and Field Measurements. Journal of Arid Environments 37: 209–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hagerman, S., Witter, R., Corson, C., Suarez, D., Maclin, E. M., Bourque, M., and Campbell, L. (2012). On the Coattails of Climate? Opportunities and Threats of a Warming Earth for Biodiversity Conservation. Global Environmental Change 22: 724–735.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Haury, E. W. (1976). The Hohokam: Desert Farmers and Craftsmen: Excavations at Snaketown, 1964–1965. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.Google Scholar
  25. Hayden, J. D. (1985). Food Animal Cremations of the Sierra Pinacate, Sonora, Mexico. The Kiva 50: 237–248.Google Scholar
  26. Heim Jr., R. R. (2000). Drought Indices: A Review, Chapter 11. In Wilhite, D. A. (ed.), Drought: A Global Assessment. Routledge, London, pp. 159–167.Google Scholar
  27. Hirschboek, K. (1985). Hydroclimatology of Flow Events in the Gila River Basin, Central and Southern Arizona. PhD Thesis. Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, Tucson.Google Scholar
  28. Hrdlička, A. (1908). Physiological and Medical Observations among the Indians of Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. GPO, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  29. Huckleberry, G. A. (1993a). Late-Holocene Stream Dynamics on the Middle Gila River, Pinal County, Arizona. PhD Thesis. Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, Tucson.Google Scholar
  30. Huckleberry, G. A. (1993b). Surficial geology of the Middle Gila River Area, North-Central Pinal County, Arizona. Report No. 93–3. Arizona Geological Survey, Tucson.Google Scholar
  31. Huckleberry, G. A. (1995). Archaeological Implications of Late Holocene Channel Changes on the Middle Gila River, Arizona. Geoarchaeology 10: 159–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kendall, M. B. (1983). Yuman Languages. In Sturtevant, W. C. (ed.), Handbook of North American Indians Vol 10, Southwest. Smithsonian Musuem, Washington, D. C., pp. 4–12.Google Scholar
  33. Lancaster, N., and Tchakerian, V. P. (2003). Late Quaternary Eolian Dynamics, Mojave Desert, California. In Enzell, Y., Wells, S. G., and Lancaster, N. (eds.), Paleoenvironments and Paleogydrology of the Mohave and Southern Great Basin Deserts, Boulder, Colorado. Special Paper No. 368. Geological Society of America, Boulder, Colorado, pp. 231–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lloyd, W. J. (1911). Aw-Aw-Tam Indian Nights: Being the Myths and Legends of the Pimas of Arizona. The Lloyd Group, Westfield, NJ.Google Scholar
  35. Loendorf, C. (2012). The Hohokam-Akimel O’odham Continuum: Sociocultural Dynamics and Projectile Point Design in the Phoenix Basin, Arizona. GRIC Anthropological Research Papers Number 5. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.Google Scholar
  36. Macpherson, T., Nickling, W. G., Gillies, J. A., and Etyemezian, V. (2008). Dust Emissions from Undisturbed and Disturbed Supply-Limited Desert Surfaces. Journal of Geophysical Research 113: F02S04.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mathiot, M. (1973). A Dictionary of Papago Usage. University of Indian Press, Bloomington.Google Scholar
  38. McGuire, R. H., and Schiffer, M. B. (1982). Hohokam and Patayan: Prehistory of Southwestern Arizona. Academic, New York.Google Scholar
  39. McIntosh, R. J., Tainter, J. A., and McIntosh, S. K. (eds.) (2000). The Way the Wind Blows: Climate History and Human Action. Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  40. Miller, A. M., Davidson-Hunt, I. J., and Peters, P. (2010). Talking About Fire: Pikangikum First Nation Elders Guiding Fire Management. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 40: 2290–2301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Miller, W. R. (1984). The Classification of the Uto-Aztecan Languages Based on Lexical Evidence. International Journal of American Linguistics 50: 1–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Moller, H., Berkes, F., Lyver, P. O., and Kislalioglu, M. (2004). Combining Science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge: Monitoring Populations for Co-Management. Ecology and Society 9:
  43. Molnar, J. J. (2010). Climate Change and Societal Response: Livelihoods, Communities, and the Environment. Rural Sociology 75: 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Nabhan, G. P., and Sheridan, T. E. (1977). Living Fencerows of the Rio San Miguel, Sonora, Mexico: Traditional Technology for Floodplain Management. Human Ecology: An Interdisciplinary Journal 5: 97–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Nabokov, P., and Easton, R. (1989). Native American Architecture. Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  46. National Weather Service (2009). Phoenix Monthly Precipitation from 1896 to Present. Accessed September 2, 2011.
  47. Nickling, W. G., and Gillies, J. A. (1989). Emission of Fine-Grained Particulates from Desert Soils. In Leinen, M., and Sarnthein, M. (eds.), Paleoclimatology and Paleometeorology: Modern and Past Patterns of Global Atmospheric Transport. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, pp. 133–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Otero, I., Boada, M., and Tàbara, J. D. (2013). Social-Ecological Heritage and the Conservation of Mediterranean Landscapes under Global Change. A Case Study in Olzinelles (Catalonia). Land Use Policy 30: 25–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Phillips, S. J., and Comus, P. W. (2000). A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert. Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum, Tucson.Google Scholar
  50. Pye, K. (1995). The Nature. Origin and Accumulation of Loess Quaternary Science Reviews 14: 653–667.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Ravesloot, J. C., Woodson, M. K., and Boley, M. J. eds. (2007). Results of testing and data recovery, Sfpp, Lp, east line expansion project, Arizona portion. Cochise, Pima, Pinal, and Maricopa Counties, Arizona. WAS Technical Report No. 2007–04. William Self Associates, Inc., Tucson, Arizona.Google Scholar
  52. Rea, A. M. (1997). At the Desert’s Green Edge: An Ethnobotany of the Gila River Pima. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, Arizona.Google Scholar
  53. Rea, A. M. (1998). Folk Mammalogy of the Northern Pimas. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.Google Scholar
  54. Russell, F. (1908). The Pima Indians. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. Reprinted 1975, University of Arizona Press, Tucson.Google Scholar
  55. Sarre, R. D. (1987). Aeolian Sand Transport. Progress in Physical Geography 11: 157–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Saxton, D., Saxton, L., and Enos, S. (1989). Dictionary, Papago/Pima-English. O’otham-Milgahn. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.Google Scholar
  57. Shao, Y. (2000). Physics and Modeling of Wind Erosion. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht.Google Scholar
  58. Sheppard, P. R., Comrie, A. C., Packin, G. D., Angersbach, K., and Hughes, M. K. (2002). The Climate of the Us Southwest. Climate Research 21: 219–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Smith, W. (1986). The Effects of Eastern North Pacific Tropical Cyclones on the Southwestern United States. N.O.A.A. Technical Memorandum NWS WR-197, U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  60. Spier, L. (1933). Yuman Tribes of the Gila River. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  61. Stone, T. (1993). Small Site Function and Duration of Occupation in the Hohokam Northern Periphery. The Kiva 59: 65–82.Google Scholar
  62. Terer, T., Muasya, A. M., Dahdouh-Guebas, F., Ndiritu, G. G., and Triest, L. (2012). Integrating Local Ecological Knowledge and Management Practices of an Isolated Semi-Arid Papyrus Swamp (Loboi, Kenya) into a Wider Conservation Framework. Journal of Environmental Management 93: 71–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Underhill, R. M. (1946). Papago Indian Religion. Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  64. Underhill, R. M., Bahr, D. M., Lopez, B., Pancho, J., and Lopez, D. (1979). Rainhouse & Ocean. Speeches for the Papago Year. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.Google Scholar
  65. Uprety, Y., Asselin, H., Bergeron, Y., Doyon, F., and Boucher, J.-F. (2012). Contribution of Traditional Knowledge to Ecological Restoration: Practices and Applications. Ecoscience 19: 225–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Waters, M. R. (1996). Surficial geologic map of the Gila River Indian Community. P-MIP Technical Report No. 96–1. Cultural Resource Management Program, Gila River Indian Community, Sacaton, Arizona.Google Scholar
  67. Waters, M. R. (2008). Alluvial Chronologies and Archaeology of the Gila River Drainage Basin, Arizona. Geomorphology 101: 332–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Waters, M. R., and Ravesloot, J. C. (2000). Late Quaternary Geology of the Middle Gila River, Gila River Indian Reservation, Arizona. Quaternary Research 54: 49–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Waters, M. R., and Ravesloot, J. C. (2001). Landscape Change and the Cultural Evolution of the Hohokam Along the Middle Gila River and Other River Valleys in South-Central Arizona. American Antiquity 66: 285–299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Waters, M. R., and Ravesloot, J. C. (2003). Disaster or Catastrophe: Human Adaptation to High- and Low-Frequency Landscape Processes - a Reply to Ensor, Ensor, and Devries. American Antiquity 68: 400–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Williams, J. J., Butterfield, G. R., and Clark, D. G. (1993). Aerodynamic Entrainment Threshold: Effects of Boundary Layer Flow Conditions. Sedimentology 41: 309–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Wilson, G. R., Edwards, M. J., and Smits, J. K. (2010). Support for Indigenous Wildlife Management in Australia to Enable Sustainable Use. Wildlife Research 37: 255–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Wright, D. K., and Fertelmes, C. M. (2012). D*U*S*T: Developing understanding of sediment transport, Gila River Indian Community, Arizona. P-MIP Technical Report No. 2011–13. Cultural Resource Management Program, Gila River Indian Community, Sacaton, Arizona.Google Scholar
  74. Wright, D. K., and Forman, S. L. (2010). Geomorphological testing of eolian landforms, Gila River Indian Community, Arizona. P-MIP Tec Report 2008–05. Cultural Resource Management Program. Gila River Indian Community, Sacaton, Arizona.Google Scholar
  75. Wright, D. K., Forman, S. L., Waters, M. R., and Ravesloot, J. C. (2011). Holocene Eolian Activation as a Proxy for Broad-Scale Landscape Change on the Gila River Indian Community, Arizona. Quaternary Research 76: 10–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Wright, D. K., and Waters, M. R. (2011). Results of geomorphic test excavations along the Middle Gila River within the Gila River Indian Community, Arizona. P-MIP Report No. 11. Cultural Resource Management Program. Gila River Indian Community, Sacaton, Arizona.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • David K. Wright
    • 1
  • J. Andrew Darling
    • 2
  • Barnaby V. Lewis
    • 3
  • Craig M. Fertelmes
    • 4
  • Chris Loendorf
    • 4
  • Leroy Williams
    • 5
  • M. Kyle Woodson
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Archaeology and Art HistorySeoul National UniversitySeoulSouth Korea
  2. 2.Southwest Heritage Research LLC/Department of AnthropologySouthern Methodist UniversityDallasUSA
  3. 3.Tribal Historic Preservation OfficeSacatonUSA
  4. 4.Cultural Resource Management ProgramSacatonUSA
  5. 5.Department of Environmental QualitySacatonUSA

Personalised recommendations