Native storytellers talk cultural and personal history - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Native storytellers talk cultural and personal history

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Posted: Thursday, January 12, 2012 7:00 am | Updated: 11:15 pm, Sat Mar 17, 2012.

Amil Pedro started tracking wild animals when he was just a young boy. His family taught him how to look for certain things - fur caught on a bush or the markings of a rock that had been kicked, for example - and how to analyze situations he would encounter in the wild. He went on to use these skills that he learned at such a young age in a successful career, but returns to his roots as part of an ongoing performance program at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa.

Pedro, 67, who was once called "High Eagle" because of his unquenchable desire to learn, is one of three speakers from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community who bring the "Storytelling and Song" program to life. Five nights a week, from Tuesday to Saturday, one of the three will take their place around the fire pit outside and tell stories of their past or talk about their culture to the visitors in attendance.

Pedro's tale is that he grew up in Fort Yuma, in California, which sits just across the border from Yuma, Ariz. He came to Maricopa County and currently lives in the Gila River Indian Community.

He is retired now but has had a variety of jobs, including human tracking. Pedro said when people go missing, in the desert for example, he would get a call from local authorities to find them. He used his years of training, from back when he was just a boy, to get a feel for the environment and location and follow his instincts.

"You look for small things - a branch out of place or how a smell carries on the wind," Pedro said. "You can also look at how the distance in footprints changes when they start to slow down."

Also part of his performance is to show audience members how to build an arrow and arrowhead from scratch. Pedro also talks about the local wildlife and native plants that occupy the area and practical, everyday uses for these items.

Pedro said his friends and family called him "High Eagle" because he always wanted to learn more, to "have enough knowledge to reach the sky," he said, and now his role has been reversed. After learning his whole life, he has now become the teacher.

"I look at the kids that come out and when I talk I can see it in their eyes if they are listening or not," Pedro said. "When they are and I can see it in their eyes, they are learning, that is my favorite. I love teaching now because of that."

"Storytelling and Song" takes place every Tuesday through Saturday from 6 to 7 p.m. at the fire pit just outside the main lobby of the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa, 5594 W. Wild Horse Pass Blvd. It is open to the public. For more information, call the resort at (602) 225-0100.

Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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