Most Viewed Stories
Quechan mourning loss of tribal elder, head bird singer
On a cold and blustery day Wednesday, the Quechan and Yuma communities woke up to sad news: the loss of a beloved tribal elder and head bird singer. Willard Golding Sr. died Tuesday at the age of 70 from complications of pneumonia.
The Quechan believe weather is a reflection of the Creator's presence, and it was fitting that the skies turned gloomy after Golding's passing.
“When I woke up this morning and saw the rain, I though it was our Creator's way of expressing his sadness,” noted Kenrick Escalanti, president of Kwatsan Radio.
Accordingly, he called Golding's death a “major loss to the Quechan Nation and Indian Country.”
“Mr. Golding was an amazing man and teacher with cultural influence that will stand for generations to come.”
Tribal president Keeny Escalanti noted that Golding assisted a lot of families in his lifetime. “He was well respected. He attended a lot of community events and provided his services by singing traditional songs at funerals, community events and special occasions.”
Golding, who was a member of the Roadrunner Clan, lived his entire life on the Fort Yuma Reservation, teaching and promoting his culture.
He served as the head singer for more than 50 years, teaching five generations of bird singers, his son Lyman Golding said.
“We are losing a very valuable person in the community, not just Winterhaven, not just Yuma, not just the Quechan. He was a pillar of the whole community.”
He described his father as a humorous and soft-spoken man, someone to be admired for putting aside his “personal things” to help his tribe grow “strong in tradition.”
Daniel Golding pointed out that his uncle dedicated his life to instilling younger generations with love of the Quechan culture and sharing his knowledge.
“He gave a lot of his time to the community. He loved all tribal members. He considered them all to be his family. He knew a lot of the Yuma community, too.”
His influence extended beyond Fort Yuma, touching the lives of the Cocopah Tribe and all of the Colorado River tribes, according to Kenrick Escalanti.
Golding had an early career in law enforcement, working for the Imperial County Sheriff's Office and later providing security to the tribe.
But in the last years of his life, his focus was on maintaining and passing along the traditions of his people.
“He made sure to pass on his knowledge. He was willing to share his knowledge to make sure it continued. He did it with myself, his grandchildren, his nieces and nephews,” Daniel Golding said.
“He gave a lot of his time and efforts to taking care of people. He will surely be missed, but he passed on the traditions to his sons and brothers who will carry on the traditions. He was proud of taking on that task,” Keeny Escalanti said.
The tribal elder had been ill and hospitalized for some time, Daniel Golding said.
Kenrick Escalanti noted that Golding had experienced the loss of many family members and friends.
“There have been a lot of family and tribal deaths. It takes a toll. He sings for everyone, whenever there is a passing.
“It's tragic. It's still hard to take in. A lot of us, we're in a fog. It hasn't hit us,” he added.
Golding is survived by three children — Lyman Golding, Wendlen Golding and Toni Golding — and numerous grandchildren “up and down the Colorado River.”
He was predeceased by his wife, Louise Barley Golding; daughters Sonia H. Moody, Helena Golding and Michelle Golding; sons Johnny Hernandez, Malcolm Golding and Willard Golding Jr.; and his parents, Edna Wilbur Golding and Albert Golding Sr.
The Golding family will have a private viewing Sunday, followed by a 5 p.m. public procession over the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge from Funeraria del Angel to the Cry House (Fort Yuma Big House) on the Fort Yuma Quechan Reservation, where tribal rites will be held.
Lyman Golding asked the community to join the family in mourning his father with a traditional fast Saturday through Monday. Traditional fasting means no fats, salt, sugar and oils. Only boiled foods and water are to be consumed.
“We want to thank everybody for what they have done. We know we can't reach everyone, but we want to make sure to express thanks for their thoughts and prayers,” Daniel Golding said on behalf of the family.
Mara Knaub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6856. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSMaraKnaub or on Twitter at @YSMaraKnaub.