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QUITOBAQUITO SPRINGS — Eleanor Ortega filled a clear plastic water bottle from the small current of a sacred spring that has sprouted lifefor centuries in the heart of the Sonoran desert.

It sustained generations of Tohono and Hia-Ced O’odham — the Desert and Sand Dune People, respectively — including her great-great-grandfather, who is buried a short distance away.

As the sun began its ascent into the clear Sunday sky, she poured the water into a pumpkin gourd lying in the hardened white sand next to her. 

When she finished, she picked the gourd up with both hands, stepped over the concrete-lined ditch carrying the water downstream, and began walking back along a clearly-marked trail. 

“When I was young, my grandfather used to bring me up here all the time,” Ortega said as she walked, the sand crunching loudly beneath her black