We are honored that Ramona is sharing with us the food traditions of her tribe, the Akimel O'Odham (Gila River Pima) Community. Ramona's father, Francisco ‘Chiigo’ Smith, an O’dham farmer, grew many traditional crops on the Gila River Indian Reservation in Arizona. Her mother was an herbalist and traditional healer. Together they taught Ramona the value of their traditional foods and way of life. She continued the traditions with her own family, farming on this ancestral land with her husband.
In the late 1970’s, some community elders asked Ramona and her husband us to grow the Bafv (tepary bean), which had nearly become extinct due to the lack of water that put many of the local subsistence farmers out of business. They discovered that her father had left a few seeds of the white and brown tepary beans in glass jars in a trunk in the old adobe house that I grew up in. They knew that it was to become their mission to ‘bring the bafv back’ to the community.
The tepary bean is part of the Slow Food Ark of Taste and its roots go back thousands of years in our native foodways. The remains of the tepary have been found in archeological sites in Mexico that are 5,000 years old and it has been grown in what is now California and Arizona for thousands of years. This incredibly hearty bean was a staple food source for Native American tribes who cultivated it to survive in the incredibly arid conditions.
It is through Ramona's tireless efforts that we can now enjoy this delicious part of our American cultural heritage and honor the traditions of the Animal O'Odham people and their ancestors that have cared for the land for generations.