TOCA's Approach to Community Change

Among the principles that drive TOCA's programming are the following:


• O’odham Himdag: Wisdom from our past creating solutions for our future

The O’odham Himdag (Desert People’s Lifeways) guides us as we seek to develop culturally appropriate solutions to the challenges that confront our community. By drawing upon our heritage and cultural traditions we are able to create lasting solutions and a stronger community.


• Empowerment Model

TOCA embraces and advocates an empowerment model of programming.  This approach stands in contrast to a “service model” in which programming is developed and implemented for and to the community, rather than by and with the community.  Significant policy and systems change requires that the broad community has the skills, resources and capacity to engage in the process of change. Throughout the years, all of our programming has been developed and implemented by and with community members.


• Community Assets: See our resources, not just our needs

Our community already possesses many of the assets that are necessary to create a healthy and sustainable community. TOCA encourages people to take stock of our various community assets in order to develop indigenous solutions, rather than focus on the problems while importing “solutions” from the outside. The wisdom of our elders, the enthusiasm of our young people, the richness of our land, the centrality of our extended families, and our desire to create a healthier community all contribute to the capacity to create solutions that will be culturally-based and sustainable.


• Encourage community self-sufficiency

Social programs on the Tohono O’odham Nation have too often created dependent relationships which destroy the sustainable structures that have previously supported the people. Programs have often led to destructive dependency where self-sufficiency had previously existed. In response, TOCA attempts to re-empower the community to become increasingly self-sufficient.


• Context is crucial: Strengthening the material roots of O’odham culture

It is not enough to simply preserve cultural activities, such as ceremonies, songs and stories. The material basis out of which these cultural practices grew must also be maintained. A ground blessing dance loses much of its power when only ever performed for an audience in an auditorium rather than in the fields were the O’odham have planted for generations. TOCA works to redevelop the material foundation of the O’odham culture.


• Tohono O'odham Culture is an "Agri"-Culture: Knowing traditional agriculture and how native food sovereignty was lost is key to rebuilding all parts of our community.


TOCA's staff have developed a brief history of the Tohono O'odham Foods System's changes over time:


TOCA offers a comprehensive set of programs aimed at creating a healthy, culturally vital and sustainable Tohono O'odham community.  Like spokes on a wheel, each one is linked to the others and contributes to the strength of the whole.


Broadly speaking, TOCA's programming falls into two categories: Food Systems and Wellness & Cultural Revitalization. However, the rich programming within each of these areas is linked with everything else that we do and serves multiple goals.  We believe that vitality is a community, not merely individual, quality sustained by fresh foods, sung songs, and shared cultural activities re-interpreted by each generation.

  About TOCA:  What We Do

A History of the Tohono O'odham Food System


Chapter 1: The Traditional Tohono O'odham Food System


Chapter 2. The Loss of the Tohono O'odham Food System


Chapter 3: The Impact on Health


Chapter 4: O'odham Foods and  Diabetes


Chapter 5: Native Food Sovereignty