Maria Chona was born at Mesquite Root, Arizona, around 1846. When she was young, the O'Odham fought the Apache and inclined more toward Mexico than the United States. Chona's lifetime saw a transformation of Papago life. By the 1930s, when she told her autobiography, the Papagos had adopted "Western" dress in place of their breach clouts, guns in the place of bow and arrow, English as a second language in place of Spanish, and--to some extent--a sedentary reservation farming way of life in place of seasonal migrations. Chona lived much of the typical O'Odham woman's life; she bore children, learned woman's work, and shared her chores with a man- woman sister. She also had less typical experiences; she left her husband when he took a second wife, she had visions and made songs, and she learned how to heal babies.
Ruth Underhill was born into an upper middle-class Quaker family in Ossining-On- Hudson, New York, in 1884. After a B.A. at Vassar, social work in the Eastern U.S. and service with the American Red Cross in Italy during World War I, Underhill enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Anthropology at Columbia University. A feminist, she studied with Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, and Gladys Reichard before embarking on a series of field research trips among the Tohono O'Odham.
Papago Woman illustrates the role that feminist ideology played in the transformation of the discipline of anthropology during the first part of the twentieth century. It also affords a rare glimpse of the relationship between an Eastern Anglo-American woman and a Southwestern O'Odham woman. Chona and Underhill saw continuities in their own experiences--both left their husbands, both defied the traditional gender roles of their own culture, both were seekers of knowledge at a time when women were discouraged from doing so. In the end, their cooperation produced a text which stresses their differing concepts of the universalities of female experience.
2) What is the story? Is there a moral to this story? Does the moral change over time and in the eyes of the author and audience?
3) What concerns distinguish the 1933 introduction (by Ruth Benedict) from the 1978 introduction (by Ruth Underhill)? What does Benedict mean by the statements that "the daily task of the ethnologist is with the alien ways of acting, the alien ways of thinking, that are the traditional heritage of different peoples," and "the reader who is interested in the things men live by under their codes of right and wrong, other hopes and terrors, will find [Chona's] a real story ... of a human life among a primitive people"? Compare Benedict's 1933 statement that the ethnologist "need not fear a journalistic distortion" to Underhill's 1978 assertion that "this whole introduction, meant to show [Chona's] environment, is a memory picture of my own--true in essence." What is the difference?
4) How is this story narrated? Is there one story here or two? What is the relationship of the pieces of this story to each other? To the whole?
5) What is the significance of the land in this story for Chona and Underhill? What strategies does Underhill utilize to create its presence?
6) What is Chona getting from this relationship of informant to anthropologist? and Underhill? Is there evidence of any way in which Chona is using Underhill for her own purposes?
7) What evidence have we in the text of Underhill's reworking of Chona's story?
8) What was Chona's sense of time? Was it the same as Underhill's? What role did her sense of time play in crafting the narrative?
9) What was the Papago view of people different from them? What was Underhill's view of the Papago?
10) What evidence have we in the text about native-white interaction, and of Chona's relation to the capitalist market, in particular? What does Underhill do with this information?
11) What do we learn about female sex roles among the Papago?
12) Is there any evidence in the text of a woman's culture, a gender specific set of values and rituals, among the Papago? How does Underhill understand this culture?
13) Is there a woman's culture which is shared by both Underhill and Chona? Does Chona believe so? Does Underhill?
14) What do we learn about marriage among the Papago? How were marriages contracted and dissolved? Were marriages monogamous or polygamous? What were the expectations for the relationship of marriage?
15) What do we learn about child-bearing and rearing?
16) What do you make of Shining Evening, the brother of Chona's husband? Is she a homosexual? a transvestite? a hermaphrodite? a morphological male who takes on the female gender? Is she seen as abnnormal according to her community and family? What was Chona's relationship with Shining Evening?
17) Define the terms "sex," "sexuality," and "gender." How many sexes, sexualities, and genders are there? Do sexual and gender identity necessarily go together? Do sexual identity and sexual behavior go together--that is, if one engages in homosexual or heterosexual behaviors, does that make one homosexual or heterosexual? What did Chona think about this? What did Underhill think?
18) Was Shining Evening a unique individual or were there others like her? If she was a man-woman, a morphological male who takes on the gender of a woman, are there examples in the text of a woman-man, or morphological females who take on the gender of a man?
19) How did Chona define true womanhood? Is Chona a feminine woman, a traditional woman, by the terms of her culture as you understand it?
20) What work did women do among the Papago? Did Chona follow these female sex roles? What did Underhill think of Chona?
21) What did her family and community make of Chona's dreams and powers? How did Chona think of them? Was the significance of her dreams and powers a life-long concern?
22) What evidence do we have about Papago gender relations? Is the Papago tribe patriarchal or matriarchal? What evidence do you have for it being patriarchal or matriarchal?
23) Underhill talks of Chona's independence and her rebellions and seems to hold her up as a kind of proto-feminist. Was Chona a feminist?