Phoenix, Arizona, USA –
Earl Ray (Salt River Pima/Maricopa) makes his debut recording with Canyon
Records with his album, Traditional Songs of the Salt River Pima. The ‘Akimel ‘O’odham
(meaning “River People”), formerly known as the Pimas, live in the deserts of
Arizona on the Salt River and Gila River Reservations.
As some of the oldest residents of the American Southwest, the ‘Akimel
‘O’odham trace much of their agriculturally rooted culture to the ancient
Hohokam people. A member of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa tribe, Earl Ray (known
in Pima as Lo:doc, pronounced “Law-Dutch”) is a singer, linguist, and tribal
activist and is currently the only person who reads and writes the Salt River
Pima dialect. On this recording Earl sings a collection of rare and historic
songs evoking the rich mythology and cultural’ pageantry of the ‘Akimel ‘O’odham.
The album also includes detailed notes of the “River People” in addition to
translation and transliteration of Salt River Pima words.Earl has spent more than two decades researching the culture of his people As a
native speaker he understood the loss of his language, which prompted him to
leam to read and write his own Pilria dialect at the University of Arizona in
1978-1979 under the instruction of Dr. Ofelia Zepeda.
Eventually Ray’s work took him to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, where he lived
for four and a half years. There he contributed information to the National
Museum of Ethnology, in Leiden, where Pima artifacts were discovered as a part
of the collections of the Hemenway Expedition, in the 1880’s. Ray has produced
teaching videotapes and also helped save the Hole-in-the-Rock, a sacred site in
Phoenix that was a prehistoric astronomical observatory used by the Huhukam.