Native American ward united through family history, temple work

Members of the Papago Ward, Mesa Arizona Lehi Stake - whose roots trace back to 48 different Native American tribes in the United States - are excited about doing family history and temple work for their ancestors.

In fact, the day before President Gordon B. Hinckley rededicated their renovated meetinghouse Sept. 13 - the youth from the ward performed baptisms for the dead for more than 400 of their Pima ancestors at the Arizona Temple.Tela Barrick, the family history specialist in the ward, has been instrumental in family history work among the Native Americans for more than 10 years and arranged for the young men and women to do the temple work.

Her involvement began in 1984 when she was working at the Arizona Temple and assisting with temple excursions for Native Americans from throughout the Southwest.

A year later, Pres. LeRoy Layton, who was then temple president, met with Sister Barrick and they discussed the idea of having Native American names available in order for their work to be done during these temple excursions.

Robert Scabby, then bishop of the Papago Ward, suggested his ward members should also have the opportunity to do family history and temple work for their own ancestors.

A week later Sister Barrick was called as the Indian Family History consultant at the Papago Ward on the Salt River Indian Reservation and the ward's family history program began in earnest.

Sister Barrick, recalling her feelings at that time, said: "I knew virtually nothing about Indian records nor how to find them. The experiences with gathering this information are too many to mention. Help came from everywhere."

She explained that Ron Livingston, former president of the Family History Center in Mesa, and his counselors were a great help. They created an Indian Department in the library and many volunteers began gathering records and placing them there. "Miracles began to happen," she said. "The people of the ward and the Southwest area were all excited about the possibility of doing work for their ancestors."

They began extracting and submitting names from these records. Then they asked the Extraction Department in Salt Lake City for additional records. "

There wasT the question of which records to extract," Sister Barrick said. "It was suggested we take a poll of the [Papago] Ward and see which tribes were represented."

The poll showed that 48 different tribes were represented by members of the ward. "So we alphabetized them and sent the list expecting the Extraction Department to choose the first and send it in a small brown package," she said.

It was quite a surprise when soon afterward 48 boxes arrived at Sister Barrick's house - one box of records for each tribe.

The extraction program moved into high gear: Computers with the FamilySearch program were acquired, classes were taught, and many people began extracting the names both by hand and on the computer. Within the first year 25,000 names were filed into the computer. Temple work for all of these people has been completed in addition to about 10,000 more. Names continue to be submitted to the temple in groups of 300 to 400 every two to three months.

Many members of the Papago Ward have also been able to put together their own personal family histories and see to it that their own ancestors' temple work be completed.

Darlene Achin, a Pima in the Papago Ward, finds great joy in doing her own family history and has helped many others do theirs. She, along with Sister Barrick, served as family history specialists during the last decade. Sister Achin logged many hours extracting and filing the original 25,000 names.

"My mother also helped us very much," she said. "She would help us interpret the names and tell us about the people of long ago. It was very interesting and I felt the spirits of those people. It felt really good to do that work for them and to think about what life was like for them back then."

"I feel the need to know about my ancestors," said Sister Achin, mother of six children. "I feel the urgency to get it done. I guess I've become the keeper of the records for my family and I want to have

themT for my children and their children and others who aren't born yet."

She said she encourages everyone she talks with to do their family histories and offers to help them. "Sometimes I wonder if others realize that the time is short - we all need to get busy."

She also explained that the records are not difficult to obtain. "The local tribal committees have much information available to members of the tribe and more information can be obtained by writing to your tribe of origin," she said. "You can usually get four to five generations, then we run out of written information."

Sister Barrick said that many times she has seen the work fall into place. Several times in just a few hours she has been able to find records and put together a pedigree chart of three or four generations. "The people are waiting for their work to be done and the Lord will do a whole lot," she said. "All someone has to do is to show up with a little desire."

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