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Cocopahs hold historic meeting across border
EJIDO POZAS DE ARVISU, Son. - Colin Soto stood in front of the crowd and welcomed people to the event in a language most listening didn't understand.
Then he said in English that the event was meant to increase the understanding the general public, especially children, has of the Cocopah Indian Tribe's culture and language on both sides of the border.
***image1:left***"Those of you that are young here will be my friends, my doctors, people that are going to help the Cocopah people for years to come," said Soto, a member of the Cocopah Indian Nation in Somerton.
Soto's comments were made during the meeting of the Cocopah Nations that was held in the town of Pozas de Arvisu, Son., which is located a few miles south of San Luis Rio Colorado and is the home of the Cucupahs of San Luis Rio Colorado.
Tribal officials said the meeting was the first of its kind to bring together tribal members from Arizona, Sonora and Baja California. The tribes split between the United States and Mexico by the Gadsden Purchase of 1853.
Hermes Flores, a Cucupah historian, said the event was created to allow the communities to learn about the tribal customs in Mexico and the United States.
"We want them to see how the people who were the first to inhabit this land live," he said.
On Sunday, hundreds of people made their way to the event and got a first-hand look at the arts and history of the tribes.
They were also treated to musical performances and an exhibitions of a tribal game that involved two players using a stick to push a small rubber ball into a goal area.
Several area schools bused in students and used the gathering as a way to teach the kids a little more history.
Susan Ivethe Garay Leon, a 15-year-old San Luis Rio Colorado student, said she was working on a report on the tribes and brought her camera to take pictures of the displays and musical shows.
"This is very interesting," she said as she looked at pictures of tribal artifacts on display.
Attendees could also purchase arts and crafts such as dolls or necklaces from the various tribal members who made the items by hand.
Antonio Santos and Santiago Reyes were selling flutes they spent hours making to the young children who enjoyed watching the men play the instruments, which were made from bamboo.
Reyes said he welcomed the event and was appreciative of the children's excitement over his flutes.
"Now they know we are here," he said.
A big part of the event, though, was talking about where the tribes go from here.
Jose Palafox, the mayor of San Luis Rio Colorado, said it was important to make sure the needs of the tribes aren't overlooked.
He said his office will start working with the local tribe to help improve the tribal facilities and see about getting them a museum similar to the one tribal members in Somerton have.
"They need to be respected and get the dignity they deserve," he said.
Louie Villalobos can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6858.