(December 15, 2022)—On Saturday, November 5, I drove up to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in Scottsdale for the Huhugam Ki Museum’s anniversary celebration. My job was to help remodel the replica historical pithouse we’d built together four years ago.
During previous treatment in 2020, we added more arrowweed to the exterior and cleaned rodent disturbance from the interior. At this time, however, we needed to fix a slumped section of the southwestern corner of the structure, and we needed to replace the arrowweed, as well.
Our plan was to replace several of the uprights that had slumped in (and were not quite long enough to begin with). After removing the outer layers of arrowweed, we used a digging stick and a rock hammer to expose the bases of the posts. The adobe we had used for the berm was really hard, and digging was difficult. We discovered major termite damage to all the posts. Still, the hardness of the berm mud and the tight weave of the superstructure meant that the termite damage didn’t weaken the structure.
We ended up removing six termite-chewed posts and replacing them with fresh, flexible desert willow posts. We needed the posts to be flexible so that we could bend them into the existing locations. To shore up this section of the wall, we even added some extra posts. Once we had all the new posts in place, we mudded them in and rebuilt the berm.
We did not have to replace the lateral stringers, which were made from arrowweed stems, but we did wire the new posts to the existing stringers.
Next, we had to weave in fresh arrowweed. We used the densely leafed upper portions. We wove in overlapping bands for a nice visual effect. Community members helped weave in the arrowweed, and they also helped me make new mud.
After we finished those repairs, there was still more work to do. I returned on November 16 to complete the work with a new group of helpers. We removed the remainder of the old arrowweed. It took the rest of the day, but we got the entire exterior re-thatched, the berm repaired, and the edges of the roof re-mudded. I also smoothed out the interior floor.