Thursday, November 18, 2021

OVHS Features the "Tohono O’odham Nation"

This article is part of our continuing series by the Oro Valley Historical Society. Future OVHS articles will appear every other Thursday.
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The Oro Valley area has a long history of Native American presence beginning with the Hohokam thousands of years ago. The most widespread Native American community in our area is the Tohono O’odham Nation.

Tohono O’odham Nation
The Tohono O’odham people and their ancestors (Hohokam) have lived in southern Arizona for thousands of years.  There are four communities of Tohono O’odham;
  • Ak-Chin – Mouth of the Wash people (Pinal Community)
  • Akmiel O’odham – River people (Gila River Community)
  • Salt River – Pima Maricopa Community
  • Tohono O’odham – Desert people
The language base is Uto-Aztecan.

The Papago become the TohonoO'odham in 1986
The original name of the Tohono O’odham people (given to them by the Spanish) was Papago. In 1986, the Papago established a new tribal constitution and took the name Tohono O’odham (Desert People). Tohono O’odham were both sedentary and nomadic in order to adapt to the dry desert conditions.
Much like their ancestors, the Hohokam, Tohono O’odham were masters at water use and water conservation.

The Man in the Maze
Baboquivari Peak is the sacred mountain home of I’itoi, the Creator God (also known as The Man in the Maze).  According to Tohono O'odham oral history, the labyrinth design depicts experiences and choices individuals make in the journey through life. In the middle of the "maze," a person finds their dreams and goals. When one reaches the center, the individual has a final opportunity (the last turn in the design) to look back upon choices made and the path taken, before the Sun God greets them, blesses them and passes them into the next world.

This image of the Man in the Maze is used frequently in basket making, weaving and other Tohono O’odham artwork. It has also been popularized in contemporary movies and books. 

Father Kino
In 1687 - Father Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit missionary, began working with Native American Tohono O’odham in Sonora and southern Arizona.  Father Kino established the Tumacacori and San Xavier del Bac Missions.

By1690, Father Kino had introduced various crops, livestock and metal tools to Tohono O’odham.
The Tohono O’odham accepted Christianity as introduced by Father Kino while keeping their ancestral beliefs and traditions.

Tribe reside on several lands today
Tohono O’odham tribal lands were lost to both Mexico and the United States as a result of the Gadsden Purchase in 1854 and other treaties. The Tohono O’odham Nation (then Papago) was established in 1916.

Today, the Tohono O’odham, a nation of approximately 28,000 members, reside on one of the four separate reservation lands: The “Main” reservation, Florence Village, San Xavier, and San Lucy. The Tohono O’odham Nation is the second largest reservation in Arizona in both population and geographical size with 2.8 million acres There are also O’odham who live in Mexico.
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