Pascua Yaqui dance ramada display 'comes home'
Display had been housed at Az State Museum
A pascola dance ramada scene and informational panels now reside at the Pacua Yaqui Tribe's Itom Mahtawa'apo Community Education and Cultural Center, having been moved from the Arizona State Museum.
The Tucson-area tribe's Department of Language and Culture opened the exhibit on Sept. 17.
Mannequins depicting the deer dancer, musicians and pascola dancers lived in the State Museum's "Paths of Life" exhibit since the 1990s. The full exhibit portrayed the lifestyles of different Native American tribes and displayed items such as Navajo woven baskets.
There was a total of 10 sections themed after origin stories, history and modernity. While it was enjoyed by museum patrons, it was time to shut it down.
"The exhibit was 30 years old," ASM's head of community engagement Lisa Falk said. "It had become a bit outdated."
Falk said the depiction of modern life shown at the museum was no longer an accurate representation of current cultures. For example, women weren't as vocal in the past. As the "Paths of Life" exhibit was being retired, the museum consulted with tribes to see where the items in the display would go.
Some of the items will be given to tribal museums, but Falk said the Pascua Yaqui were the most interested in the return of their artifacts and photographs. The mannequins in the ramada were modeled after real members of the Yaqui nation — from a man playing the water drum to the deer dancer, they were all shaped in the likeness of real men who had families and loved ones.
"Out of all of them, only four are still alive," Yaqui traditional arts instructor Joe Gastello said. "For us, it is a chance to see the ones that are no longer here again."
Falk reminisced about the time the men served as models for the mannequins came to see the ramada with their families. She said they were happy to see themselves.
"One of the men asked me to take a picture of him with his mannequin," Falk said.
At the opening of the new exhibit at the Yaqui center this month, Gastello stood in the room before the ramada. Traditional music for the pascola dancers played from speakers around the room.
"We felt pride seeing them in U of A," Gastello said. "But now, they're home."
Bianca Morales is TucsonSentinel.com’s Cultural Expression and Community Values reporter, and a Report for America corps member supported by readers like you.