Peoples of a Sonoran Desert Oasis: Recovering the Lost History and Culture of Quitobaquito

Front Cover
University of Oklahoma Press, Oct 17, 2023 - Nature - 226 pages
In the southwestern corner of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, on the border between Arizona and Mexico, one finds Quitobaquito, the second-largest oasis in the Sonoran Desert. There, with some effort, one might also find remnants of once-thriving O’odham communities and their predecessors with roots reaching back at least 12,000 years—along with evidence of their expulsion, the erasure of their past, attempts to recover that history, and the role of the National Park Service (NPS) at every layer.

The outlines of the lost landscapes of Quitobaquito—now further threatened by the looming border wall—reemerge in Peoples of a Sonoran Desert Oasis as Jared Orsi tells the story of the land, its inhabitants ancient and recent, and the efforts of the NPS to “reclaim” Quitobaquito’s pristine natural form and to reverse the damage done to the O’odham community and culture, first by colonial incursions and then by proponents of “preservation.”

Quitobaquito is ecologically and culturally rich, and this book summons both the natural and human history of this unique place to describe how people have made use of the land for some five hundred generations, subject to the shifting forces of subsistence and commerce, tradition and progress, cultural and biological preservation. Throughout, Orsi details the processes by which the NPS obliterated those cultural landscapes and then subsequently, as America began to reckon with its colonial legacy, worked with O’odham peoples to restore their rightful heritage.

Tracing the building and erasing of past landscapes to make some of them more visible in the present, Peoples of a Sonoran Desert Oasis reveals how colonial legacies became embedded in national parks—and points to the possibility that such legacies might be undone and those lost landscapes remade.


of Quitobaquito
Becoming and Persisting in an Impermanent World
And They Had Water Multiethnic Settlement
Science Conservation and NPS Placemaking
Quitobaquito 19001962
Americas Most Dangerous Park Bordering Space
Quitobaquito 19372013
Designs for an Impermanent World Blue
Glossary of Oodham and Spanish Terms

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2023)

Jared Orsi is Professor of History at Colorado State University and has served as the Colorado State Historian. He is the author of Citizen Explorer: The Life of Zebulon Pike and Hazardous Metropolis: Flooding and Urban Ecology in Los Angeles.

Bibliographic information