ThePima-Maricopa Indians have struggled and endured a constant hardship of eventsin its background, history, and location. Thomas Dobyns, the author of The Pimaand Maricopa stated, they have suffered through their worst years at thehands of ruthless investors and land grabbers, and the fight to undo the damagewill never end. Descendants of the regions original inhabitants are, however,gaining skills in law, business, farming, and community organization that theyare utilizing to win back the water and land that was once theirs. The SaltRiver Pima-Maricopa Indian community is in-fact two Indian tribes, made up ofthe Pima tribe and the Maricopa tribe. According to the Gale Encyclopedia ofNative American Tribes, these two tribes joined together between 1740 and 1780in a federation and would be governed by a single tribal council, although theywould follow their own tribal traditions. Although speaking distinctly differentlanguages the Maricopa and Pima have since dwelled in harmony.
The Pima Indiantribe is believed to be the ancient ancestors of the Hohokam. The Hohokam were afarming tribe that mysteriously vanished centuries ago. The Pima attributedtheir decline to the rapacity of foreign tribes, who came in three bands, andkilling or enslaving many of their inhabitants destroying their pueblos,devastating their fields, and killing or enslaving many of their inhabitants. Itis speculated the Hohokam people may have suffered from plague and disease afterphysical contact with the Spaniards. The ancient Hohokam villages can still beseen today at different archaeological sites in the southwest. The Pima hadabundance of water from the Gila River that gave the Pima a distinctagricultural advantage over other Indian communities.
Therefore they had lessneed to wander in search of wild foods and were able to live a settled life invillages near the river. Pima translates to Akimel OOdham, which meansriver people. They developed irrigation systems that channeled water to theirfields; this promoted a more abundant supply of food. They also benefited fromthe Spanish, whom introduced them to wheat. Wheat being a winter crop allowedthem to double their productivity, this resulted in a surplus of grains andallowed the Pima to engage in an increased amount of trading and commerce. ThePima remained neutral during the Mexican-American War, which took place from1846 to 1848.
Shortly after the Mexican-American War the land the Pima dwelledon became U. S. territory. During the California gold rush of 1849 the tribethrived on agriculture, bartering food and livestock for guns and shovels toU. S. troops and prospectors passing through.
They also protected them fromIndian raids on the white-man. The Maricopa joined the Pima, whose language theydid not understand, for mutual protection against their enemies. They were atwar with the Mohave and Yavapai Indians as late as 1857 near Maricopa Wells,South Arizona. The result was 90 of the 93 Yuman warriors gave their lives inbattle, after this disaster for the Yumans they never wandered further up theGila River. The years preceding 1871 were devastating for the tribe due to ashortage of water from the Salt River attributable to the recent non-Indiansettlements.
The Pima were unable to reclaim their water rights, causing thefailure of crops and before long famine that would diminish the population ofthe tribe significantly. Today the Pima tribe resides in Southern Arizona alongthe Gila and Salt rivers, near Phoenix, Arizona. The Spanish estimated therewere approximately 2,000-3,000 members of the tribe in 1694, and a 1989 censusshowed a joint population of about 16,800 members. Evidence shows that theMaricopa Indians originated in Southern California.
Prior to the fifteenthcentury they dwelled near the shores of the Salton Sea, approximately fiftymiles east of San Diego. The Maricopa migrated east towards the Colorado Riverbasin. The Maricopa tribe lived among other Yuman language speaking tribes. Living among other tribes caused constant fighting because of the scarcity ofavailable resources. By the early 1600s the Yuman speakers were divided onthe lower Colorado River Valley into three distinct groups. The Mohave hadsettled in the Mohave River Valley northward along the Colorado.
The Quenchanhad settled at the junction of the Gila and Colorado Rivers. And theCocomaricopa settled between the Mohave and Quenchan tribes. By the mid 1700sthe Maricopa were being victimized by both the Mohave and the Quenchan. Theywere forced upstream with their rancherios extending about 40 miles along theGila from the mouth of the Hassayampa to the Auguas Caliente. Later, that samedecade, they made their historic alliance with the Pimas for mutual protectionagainst their kindred.
The Maricopa tribe was at war with the Mohave and YavapaiIndians as late as 1857 near Maricopa Wells in southern Arizona. The result was90 of the 93 Yuman warriors gave their lives in battle. After this disaster forthe Yumans they never wandered further up the Gila River. Two years later theUnited States Congress created the Gila River Reservation on which they stilllive today. In 1775 the Maricopa population was estimated at 10,000, and only200 in 1986.
BibliographyDobyns,Henry F. The Papago People. Phoenix: Indian Tribal Series, 1972. Furtaw, JuliaC. Native Americans Information Directory. Detroit: Gale Research Inc, 1993.
Maricopa. Handbook of North American Indians. 1979 ed. Myers, John. TheSalt River Pima-Maricopa Indians.
Phoenix: Lifes Reflection, 1988. Pima. Handbook of North American Indians. 1979 ed.
Pima-MaricopaIndians. 25 February 1999. On-line. Internet. *http://www.thememall.com/tribes/pima.htm*American History