Man in the Maze

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By Anthony Tarin

In honor of Native American Heritage month I would like to talk about my people, the Akimel O’odham people (Gila River Indian Community). The Akimel O’odham people are people of the desert. Today, we are located south of Phoenix, AZ. In the picture (Fig. 1) a young girl and the others following her are doing a traditional basket dance. This dance holds a lot of meaning in my culture. Just as important, is the basket the young girl holds. This image (also seen in Fig. 2) on the basket represents life; my tribe calls this image “The Man in the Maze.”
The story of The Man in the Maze was told to me by my grandmother. She said that the Man in the Maze shows the different stages of life all people go through and the things we experience in life. She said it’s a maze because life does not have straight paths, because we are not perfect. We make mistakes, we change our minds, we open different doors and this is what the maze represents. The humanly figure at the top of the maze is Se:He, our elderly brother, our Creator.
Another thing the Man in the Maze tells us about is the stages of life we all go through. These stages are birth, adolescence, adulthood, and old age. All of them are necessary to live in order to be spiritually at peace with ourselves and our surroundings. And at the center of the maze is a dark dot, this dot represents death. When my grandmother told me about this story she said that death has to happen in order for birth to happen. It’s what represents balance in this world. It does not necessarily mean death but that you have reached a point self-actualization.
This is one story that carries a lot of meaning to me and I am very happy to have shared this story with my Haskell Fam in honor of Native American Heritage month. It is a piece of my oral history I will always carry around with me. Onward Haskell!