Casa Grande Ruins National Monument Speaker Series

Dec 7th

  • Hours1:00 pm until 2:00 pm
  • AdmissionFree
Beginning November 2, 2022 through January 25, 2023, Casa Grande Ruins will host its annual speaker series. The speaker series will kick off on November 2 at 1:00 pm featuring Leland Thomas who will present a lecture titled "O’odham Relation to Casa Grande Ruins". The speaker series will continue every Wednesday at 1:00 pm through January 18.

2022-23 Speaker Series
November 2: Leland Thomas
Leland Thomas, Tohono O’odham/Akimel O’odham, is member of the Tohono O’odham Nation. He is an Assistant Curator/Exhibits Project Manager at the Huhugam Heritage Center on the Gila River Indian Community. Leland has worked in collections management, cultural education, exhibition design and development, and museum interpreter. For many years he has been continuously working in the field of cultural preservation within museum programs. His previous experience includes working at the Casa Grande Museum as a Cultural Exhibit Consultant, Amerind Foundation as a Collections Management Assistant, G.R.I.C. Cultural Resources Management Program as Laboratory Aide and the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument as an Interpretive Ranger.
O’odham relation to the Casa Grande Ruins.
Leland will be sharing the cultural perspective of the Casa Grande Ruins.

November 9: Precious Vacente
Precious Vicente is Akimel O'odham from the Gila River Indian Community. She is currently a Park Ranger at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument in the Interpretive and Education division where she helps visitors to the Monument learn about this rich cultural site.

Join Precious to learn about traditional food, specifically Bahidaj (Saguaro Cactus Fruit). Precious will discuss why Bahidaj is more than just a fruit and the importance of taking care of the land.

November 16: Hunter Nish
Hunter Nish started work for the National Park Service mid-January early this year, working Maintenance at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.

Through discovering his culture and traditions, Hunter has learned through his community about the importance and sacred aspects of the area, O'odham practices, and plants such as the Saguaro Cactus. Come and learn why these aspects need to be protected and the purpose behind why O'odham practice certain traditions and crafts with the Saguaro.

November 23: Meagan Lopez
Maegan Lopez comes from the small community of New Fields, Arizona, on the Tohono O'odham Nation at the edge of the U.S./Mexico boundary. Maegan holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Family Studies and Human Development from the University of Arizona and works fulltime as a teacher aide in the Special Education Department at Tucson’s Ha:sañ Preparatory and Leadership High School (a bicultural public high school designed for all Native Nations) saying she is “honored to be a part of a team of individuals who foster our traditional history alongside contemporary curriculum.” She also works as a Gardener's Assistant for the Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace at Mission Garden in Tucson, noting “I started as a volunteer three years ago and began to form a strong connection to this amazing and resilient space. A strong resonance of my own childhood, my personal bond with cultivating plants comes from experiences and memories of my grandpa and his gardens. I enjoy planting and raising everything we have at Mission Garden. I especially enjoy learning from the Board, co-workers and community".

Join Maegan to learn about “Traditional O’odham Agriculture”. Maegan will discuss the Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace at Mission Garden in Tucson and how their work connects with traditional O'odham agriculture.

November 30: Zarco Guerrero
As a sculptor, muralist, storyteller and performance artist Zarco has dedicated his career to creating positive social change through the arts. Born in Arizona, he has been instrumental in the development of Latino Arts statewide. His art has been exhibited in Mexico and throughout the United States. He has received international acclaim, and awards, such as a National Endowment for the Arts Japan Fellowship, a Governor’s Arts Award, a Zony Award, became the Southwest Folklife Alliance Master Artist, and has been awarded grants for artistic projects by The Doris Duke Foundation, Valley Metro and Arizona Community Foundation. Visit

Our River Stories: The Gila and the Salt
Join Zarco for a series of stories that share the vibrant and tragic history of water and the River People, over a 2,000 year period. Beginning with the Toltec trade route that brought agriculture and corn to the Southwest. The history of the O’Odham before and after the expansion west is revealed. We learn about the Yaqui Indians who fled persecution and found refuge in Arizona rebuilding the ancient canal system. A descendant of the first Mormon settlers tells his families’ story of finding an oasis in the desert given to them by God and their determination to tame the mighty Salt River. Our story culminates when an endearing elderly woman shares the hope that there still is to protect our water resources and to right the wrongs committed against the land and its River People.

December 7: Allen Dart
Registered Professional Archaeologist Allen has worked in Arizona and New Mexico since 1975 for federal and state governments, private companies, and nonprofit organizations. He is the executive director of Tucson’s nonprofit Old Pueblo Archaeology Center, which he founded in 1993 to provide educational and scientific programs in archaeology, history, and cultures. Al has been an Arizona Humanities speaker since 1997. He has received the Arizona Archaeological Society’s Professional Archaeologist of the Year Award, the Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society’s Victor R. Stoner Award, the Arizona Governor's Archaeology Advisory Commission Award in Public Archaeology, and other honors for his efforts to bring archaeology and history to the public.

Set in Stone but Not in Meaning: Southwestern Rock Art
Ancient American Indian petroglyphs (symbols carved or pecked on rocks) and pictographs (rock paintings) are claimed by some to be forms of writing for which meanings are known. But are such claims supported by archaeology or by Native Americans? Archaeologist Allen Dart illustrates how petroglyph and pictograph styles changed through time and over different parts of the U.S. Southwest both before and after non-Indian peoples entered the region and discusses how even the same rock art symbol may be interpreted differently from popular, scientific, and modern Native American perspectives.

December 14: Laura Tohe.

Laura Tohe is Diné and the current Navajo Nation Poet Laureate. She is Sleepy Rock People clan and born for the Bitter Water People clan and the daughter of a Navajo Code Talker. She published 3 books of poetry, an anthology of Native women’s writing and an oral history on the Navajo Code Talkers. Her librettos, Enemy Slayer, A Navajo Oratorio (2008) and Nahasdzáán in the Glittering World (2021), performed in Arizona and France, respectively. Among her awards are the 2020 Academy of American Poetry Fellowship and the 2019 American Indian Festival of Writers Award. She is Professor Emerita with Distinction from ASU.

More than Pocahontas and Squaws: Indigenous Women Coming into Visibility
This visual presentation shows how Indigenous American women have contributed service to Arizona and the US yet were stereotyped in films and remain invisible in the media. Nevertheless, they have been honored in all areas of public service—law, medicine, literature, military and activism with awards such as, the Presidential Freedom, the McArthur (genius award), the Secretary of Interior, and others. Among some traditional tribal cultures, women’s lives are modeled after female heroes and sacred women who exemplify and express courage and kinship values. Rites of passage celebrate female creativity and the transformative nature of women, hence there was not a need for the concept of feminism. This talk presents cultural aspects of Indigenous culture and how women have contributed in significant ways, not only to their tribal nations, but to contemporary American life.

December 21: Carrie Cannon
Carrie Cannon is a member of the Kiowa tribe of Oklahoma and is also of Oglala Lakota descent. She has a B.S. in Wildlife Biology, and an M.S. in Resource Management. She began working for the Hualapai Tribe of Peach Springs, Arizona in 2005 where she began the creation of an intergenerational ethnobotany program for the Hualapai community. She is currently employed as an Ethnobotanist for the Hualapai Department of Cultural Resources. She administers a number of projects promoting the intergenerational teaching of Hualapai ethnobotanical knowledge working towards preservation and revitalization to ensure tribal ethnobotanical knowledge persists as a living practice and tradition.
Plants of the Mojave Desert and the Traditional Tribal Uses
Although the desert may seem like a desolate landscape devoid of life, it is actually home to hundreds of unique species. Some are only visible or appear alive for a short time, others grow for hundreds of years, and many are not found anywhere else on earth. Participants will learn about the many traditional Tribal plants uses, what plant life makes North American Deserts so unique, and how the Mojave stands apart from the rest of America.

December 28: Pam Tripp
Pam Tripp has been with the National Park Service since 2002, working in the interpretation and education division at Joshua Tree National Park and now Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. Pam is fascinated with history and the historical places that the National Park Service protects.

The National Park Service was created in 1916 due to the efforts of Stephen T. Mather and Horace M. Albright, along with countless other people. Join Park Ranger Pam Tripp to hear about the early creation of this then new government agency and it's protected lands. Pam's talk is based on the book Creating the National Park Service; The Missing Years, by Horace M. Albright and Marian Albright Schenck.
January 4: Matthew Goodwin
Matthew has a Ph.D. in Philosophy and has taught environmental ethics, media ethics, and technology and human values at Northern Arizona University, Coconino Community College, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Matthew recently participated in a National Endowment for the Humanities summer seminar on extending Aldo Leopold’s “Land Ethic.” He is co-founder of Sedona Philosophy, which offers guided hikes and retreats in Sedona and northern Arizona.

Dams, Mines, and Hotels: Media and Misinformation Affecting the Grand Canyon
In 1961 a newspaper article discussed a proposal to build an 18-story, 600-room hotel inside the Grand Canyon descending from the south rim to the canyon floor. A letter-writing campaign ensued that succeeded in blocking the hotel. But lawmakers instead passed a bill that allowed the company to mine uranium there—they never had any intention of building the hotel. In 1967 a newspaper ad asked, “Should we also flood the Sistine chapel, so tourists can get nearer the ceiling?” This ad is famously attributed with successfully mobilizing people to oppose construction of two dams in the Grand Canyon. This also resulted in the construction of the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station. This presentation will cover these and other historical and contemporary examples of propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation campaigns in which public opinion has been shaped to respond, or not respond, to environmental concerns.

January 11: Massai Leon
Massai Leon started in the conservation world in 2019 by working with American Conservation Experience and has since been involved with Arizona Conservation Corps (AZCC) and was one of the first interns with the Indian Youth Service Corps here at Casa Grande Ruins. As a graduate from the Traditional Trades Apprenticeship program, He currently works for Arizona Conservation Corps as a program coordinator and recruitment technician. Being a Chiricahua Apache, he is involved in his community by working with and coordinating the Indigenous crews with Arizona Conservation Corps and continuing his family’s culture and traditions.
Massai will speak about the indigenous AZCC crews, the projects they are doing, and how they are always looking for people to join the program. He will also talk about AZCC’s relationship with the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument and the projects they have worked on here.

January 18: Chris Combel
Christopher Combel is a National Park Service Archeologist at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument and has worked at several stints at units across the Western United States including, Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Hovenweep National Monument, Lava Beds National Monument, Natural Bridges National Monument, Tule Lake National Monument, and Yosemite National Park. Born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Chris has always had a deep fascination with the preservation of history and culture.

Climate change represents a significant challenge to resource managers. Wildfires, monsoons, and hurricanes (oh my!) all threaten and impact cultural resources in different ways. Join CAGR archeologist Christopher Combel as he discusses the ways he has seen climate change impact sites that he has managed and some of the strategies that land managers are trying to mitigate the impacts of climate change to cultural resources in the National Park Service.

The Speaker Series is funded by the Friends of Casa Grande Ruins National Monument ( with additional support from Arizona Humanities ( The program begins at 1:00 pm in the Casa Grande Ruins visitor center theater at 1100 W Ruins Drive, Coolidge AZ, 85128. There is no fee for the program, and entrance is free at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument.
  • Location Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
  • 1100 W Ruins Drive
  • Coolidge , Arizona 85128
  • Upcoming Dates
  • Wednesday, Dec 7
  • Wednesday, Dec 14
  • Wednesday, Dec 21
  • Wednesday, Dec 28
  • Wednesday, Jan 4
  • Wednesday, Jan 11
  • Wednesday, Jan 18