Capturing a Chediskai childhood

  • A temporary Western Apache home near Roosevelt Dam, Roosevelt, Arizona, date unknown

    Arizona State University Libraries, Nohwik? Bagowa, White Mountain Apache Culture Center and Museum
  • Don't Let The Sun Step Over You

  Eva Tulene Watt was born in 1913 on the Fort Apache Reservation, just north of the Salt River in southeastern Arizona. She’s traveled far during her long life, living and working in Spokane, Wash., Stillwell, Okla., and San Francisco, Calif., among other places. But her home has always been in and around the small reservation settlement of Chediskai, where she spent most of her childhood and young-adult years.

Her reminiscences, recorded by University of New Mexico anthropologist Keith Basso in Don’t Let the Sun Step Over You, recall the mundane, delightful, and painful details of life on and off the reservation. Her extensive memories and family stories include childhood games, square dances in the street in Show Low, Ariz., outbreaks of flu and trachoma, ceremonies by local medicine men, run-ins with wildlife, and cattle drives with her stepfather ("I helped him keep the horses together. I think I was the only woman who did that," she says).

Watt, who now lives on the reservation with her son’s family, lost two siblings and her father to illness and accident during her childhood, and she and her surviving siblings were repeatedly separated by stints at government boarding schools. Though her tone is never bitter, her stories often show the overt discrimination of earlier times: For instance, U.S. government officials referred to male heads of Western Apache families by codes — such as A-1 and F-1 — rather than proper names.

Basso, who recorded these tales over five years and more than 200 hours of interviews, is a quiet mediator, providing only small clarifications in the text and helpful historical endnotes. At Watt’s request, he refrained from ethnographic analysis, letting her stories stand largely alone. "Too much of that stuff can throw a blanket over your thinking," Watt said of his interpretive urges. When Basso agreed, she teased him: "Good, that way you won’t get a headache."

Don’t Let the Sun Step Over You: A White Mountain Apache Family Life, 1860-1975
Eva Tulene Watt, with assistance from Keith H. Basso. 340 pages, softcover $24.95
University of Arizona Press, 2004.

High Country News Classifieds
  • CANYONLANDS FIELD INSTITUTE
    Field Seminars for adults: cultural and natural history of the Colorado Plateau. With guest experts, local insights, small groups, and lodge or base camp formats....
  • PLANNED GIVING OFFICER
    National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation's oldest and largest national parks nonprofit advocacy organization seeks a Planned Giving Officer. Do you find energy in...
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    The Methow Valley Citizens Council has a distinguished history of advocating for progressive land use and environmental values in the Methow Valley and Okanogan County...
  • ACTING INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS DESK EDITOR
    High Country News is seeking an Acting Indigenous Affairs Editor to oversee the work of our award-winning Indigenous Affairs Desk while our editor is on...
  • GRANTS PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Cinnabar Foundation seeks an enthusiastic, team-oriented and knowledgeable Grants Program Director to work from their home in Montana. Established in 1983, the Cinnabar Foundation...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Artemis Program Manager will work with National Wildlife Federation sporting and public lands staff to change this dynamic, continue to build upon our successful...
  • ALASKA SEA KAYAK BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Well-known and successful sea kayak, raft, hike, camp guiding & water taxi service. Sale includes everything needed to run the business, including office & gear...
  • MEMBERSHIP AND EVENTS PROGRAM COORDINATOR
    Great Old Broads for Wilderness seeks a detail-oriented and enthusiastic Membership and Events Coordinator to join our small, but mighty-fun team to oversee our membership...
  • PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT FACILITATOR
    ABOUT THE HIGH DESERT MUSEUM Since opening in 1982, HIGH DESERT MUSEUM has brought together wildlife, culture, art and natural resources to promote an understanding...
  • LAND STEWARD, ARAVAIPA
    Steward will live on-site in housing provided by TNC and maintains preserve areas frequented by the visiting public and performs land management activities. The Land...
  • DEVELOPMENT WRITER
    Who We Are: The Nature Conservancy's mission is to protect the lands and waters upon which all life depends. As a science-based organization, we create...
  • CONNECTIVITY SCIENCE COORDINATOR
    Position type: Full time, exempt Location: Bozeman preferred; remote negotiable Compensation: $48,000 - $52,000 Benefits: Major medical insurance, up to 5% match on a 401k,...
  • EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
    ArenaLife is looking for an Executive Assistant who wants to work in a fast-paced, exciting, and growing organization. We are looking for someone to support...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Mountain Lion Foundation is seeking an Executive Director. Please see our website for further information - mountainlion.org/job-openings
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Driggs, ID based non-profit. Full time. Full job description available at tvtap.org. Submit cover letter and resume to [email protected]
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • SPRING MOUNTAINS SOLAR OFF GRID MOUNTAIN HOME
    Located 50 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada in the pine forest of Lee Canyon at 8000 feet elevation. One of a kind property surrounded...
  • MAJOR GIFTS MANAGER - MOUNTAIN WEST, THE CONSERVATION FUND
    Cultivate, solicit and steward a portfolio of 75-125 donors.
  • NATURE'S BEST IN ARAVAIPA CANYON
    10 acre private oasis in one of Arizona's beautiful canyons. Fully furnished, 2123 sq ft architectural custom-built contemporary home with spectacular views and many extras....
  • HEALTH FOOD STORE IN NW MONTANA
    Turn-key business includes 2500 sq ft commercial building in main business district of Libby, Montana. 406.293.6771 /or [email protected]