Work in Arizona’s cotton fields was the last hope for some of the thousands of migrating Okies and Arkies. These new arrivals brought their preference for Southern food, music, religion and culture with them. The shift in demographics and tastes changed Arizona forever. These emigrants transformed Arizona, displacing thousands of migrant Mexican laborers. Racism was rampant. Hundreds of thousands of Mexican and Mexican-American citizens were forcibly deported south of the border. Unlike migrant Mexican laborers who previously went home at the end of the harvest, Arizona’s new residents stayed, most lived in squalor, and survived on the public dole.
The people on the Navajo and Hopi reservations in Northern Arizona were not excluded from the affects of the Dust Bowl. Concerned about the overgrazing of livestock, the economic backbone for the Native Americans, the Soil Conservation Service feared that Hoover Dam would silt up. The service convinced the Bureau of Indian Affairs to carry out a stock reduction program on the Navajo and Hopi reservations. A million sheep and goats were slaughtered, and thousands of families decimated.
Could we suffer another Dust Bowl? Are the recent droughts across the southwest and deadly dust storms that engulfed Phoenix a sign of things to come? Have we learned any lessons?
Arizona’s Dust Bowl: Lessons Lost, Sunday at 7 p.m. on PBS 6.