Desert Humanities Community Engagement

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Indigenous Knowledge and Public Universities: A Panel Discussion

November 1, 2023: Arizona State University is located in Indian Country, on the ancestral lands of 23 Native Nations, including the Akimel O’odham (Pima) and Pee Posh (Maricopa) Indian Communities in the Salt River Valley. Like many universities, it has a complicated relationship with Indigenous knowledge and communities, past and present. Academic research and artistic work have contributed to the exploitation and subjugation of Indigenous peoples everywhere by treating Indigenous people as mere objects of study, conducting research in ways that actively harmed Indigenous people and disvaluing our knowledge. Yet, ASU and other public universities in Arizona are institutions that have many Indigenous staff, students, and faculty. This reality creates complex dynamics surrounding Indigenous identity, values and comforts existing on our own lands. Join us as we bring together a panel of Indigenous minds to discuss a range of topics within this current reality.

Panelists: Felix Muniz (S-cuma:ciddam), Valentina Andrew, Tohono O’odham, Napolean Marrietta, Akimel O’odham, Tohono O’odham, Pii-Posh, and Tonana Ben, a member of the Navajo Nation.

DryLab image of mountains

Drylab: A 30 Day Challenge To Live Water Wise

October 1, 2023: We are experiencing a water crisis in the US southwest. In 2017, eight ASU students lived for 30 days in an abandoned motel in Amboy, California, on 4 gallons of water a day (per person) to experience life under extreme water scarcity. The original Drylab team came together to instigate this challenge, contribute water-wise prompts, and will be interacting with current challenge participants calling upon their experiences. We invite you to participate in this 30 day challenge and engage in creative and innovative ways with your everyday use of water. The challenge is pretty simple: each day, there is a new prompt and an action to take. Pick at least 7 action items to commit to this month, and you can leave comments on our Instagram posts to share your experience. 

Project website:

image of Arizona canal

Food-Energy-Water Nexus: A Workshop Hosted by the Desert Humanities Initiative

September 29, 2023: This all-day workshop seeks to foster artistic and humanistic projects that are at the food, energy and water nexus, including work that is based in indigenous ways of knowing and relating to land and place. It also welcomes projects from the sciences and social sciences that seek to include knowledge, skills and/or methods from the arts and humanities, as well as constructive and critical engagement with interdisciplinary methods more generally. Food, energy and water are intimately related in the desert Southwest. Agriculture uses most of the water in Arizona; Lake Mead has been shrinking towards “dead pool,” at which point it will be unable to generate electricity or flow downstream; and transporting water consumes a substantial amount of energy. Workshop participants will build networks among scholars working across arts, humanities, social sciences and sciences on deserts and the desert Southwest, and become eligible for a seed grant competition (awarding 2 projects up to $6,000 each). Seed grant applications will be due by Dec. 1. Information regarding the seed grant will be provided at the workshop.           

Randolph event crowd shot

March 22, 2023 The Power of Community: How Randolph, AZ used its History to fight for its Future

Two of Randolph AZ's citizens discuss the “David vs. Goliath” win, stopping Salt River Project's planned expansion to surround the town with toxic infrastructure. Participants: Curtis Austin, associate professor of History, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies (SHPRS), ASU (moderator), Susan Wright, Randolph resident, Ron Jordan, Randolph resident, Rev. Dr. Warren Stewart, senior pastor of the First Institutional Baptist Church, Phoenix, Steve Brittle has over 30 years of experience in environmental and environmental justice issues in Arizona, and served as policy advisor for Corporation Commissioner Sandra Kennedy. The event will take place at the First Institutional Baptist Church in Phoenix.  

March 18, 2023 | Listening to the Land: Engaging with the Desert Landscape with Arizona State University humanities scholar Melissa Nelson (member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians), ASU acoustic ecologist Garth Paine, and ASU Natural History Museum biologist Elizabeth Makings. Participants will learn how to see and engage with the desert landscape from multiple perspectives through narrative and embodied experience. Dr. Nelson will discuss indigenous narrative and ways of knowing, seeing, and interacting with the landscape. Paine will lead participants in exercises in listening—attuning to the acoustic ecology of a place—from urban sounds to those of animals and winds and even air. Making will help us identify a range of desert plants and explain their growing patterns.

Jon Mincks Deset Shack Instructor

November 19, 2022 | You Are Here: Way Finding and Emergency Preparedness with Arizona Hiking Shack Instructor, Jon Mincks and Matthew Toro Director of Map and Geospatial Services at ASU. Toro and Broglio will provide an introduction to the cultural history and power of maps. What gets mapped, how places are named, and what is left off of maps tells us much about culture. Jon Mincks will provide instruction on orienteering using a map and compass. Toro and Broglio  will engage participants in the relationship between representations of space and experience in a place.

Knowing Rocks event with Dean Cohen

November 5, 2022 | Knowing Rocks with ASU's Dean Jeffrey Cohen, author of "Stone" and ASU geologist Linda Lorraine Carnes, and ASU artist Erika Hanson. Participants will learn how to see and engage with rocks from the perspective of philosophy, art, and science and how these disciplines come together to create our cultural understanding of our surroundings. Ron Broglio will provide an introduction and conclusion to the humanities frame for the event.

2022-2023 | Desert Experiences
October 22, 2022: Smart Hiking with Arizona Hiking Shack Instructor, Jon Mincks. Ron Broglio will provide an introduction as to how hiking attunes people to their surroundings, aids mental and physical health, and creates personal investment in the local environment. Mincks will provide basics on how to hike safely including maps, hydration and nutrition, things to enjoy and notice on hikes (basics of flora and geology), and how to handle emergency situations.