Thursday, November 17, 2022

November Is Native American Heritage Month

A celebration
November is Native American Heritage Month, an annual celebration when we can all come together to honor and celebrate the cultures, traditions, history and contributions of American Indians and Alaska Natives.
As President Biden stated in his Proclamation of October 31, 2022:
"During National Native American Heritage Month, we celebrate Indigenous peoples past and present and rededicate ourselves to honoring Tribal sovereignty, promoting Tribal self-determination, and upholding the United States’ solemn trust and treaty responsibilities to Tribal Nations. 

America has not always delivered on its promise of equal dignity and respect for Native Americans.  For centuries, broken treaties, dispossession of ancestral lands, and policies of assimilation and termination sought to decimate Native populations and their ways of life.  But despite this painful history, Indigenous peoples, their governments, and their communities have persevered and flourished.  As teachers and scholars, scientists and doctors, writers and artists, business leaders and elected officials, heroes in uniform, and so much more, they have made immeasurable contributions to our country’s progress.

Grown in importance over time
What started in the early 1900s as a day of recognition for the contributions of America’s first inhabitants has grown into a month designated to acknowledge their achievements and cultures. In 1990 President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as the first National American Indian Heritage Month (now known as Native American Heritage Month).

574 federally recognized tribes
There are currently 574 federally recognized tribes, and Native Americans comprise about 2 % of the United States population. They account for over 10% of the population in Oklahoma, New Mexico, and South Dakota, and 20% in Alaska. 
22 in Arizona
Arizona is home to 22 federally recognized tribes, each with its own history, culture, and traditions. Nearly 30 percent of the land base in the state belongs to tribal nations and communities. The first reservation established in the state was the Gila River Indian Reservation south of Phoenix, in 1859, under U.S. government treaty authority. It is home to the Akimel O’odham (Pima) and Pee-Posh (Maricopa) tribes.
Arizona contains the largest Indian Reservation in the United States, the Navajo Nation, established in 1868, which also extends into Utah and New Mexico. The reservation covers over 27,000 square miles. Nearly 200,000 members (Dine’) live on the reservation while the Navajo population is approximately 400,000 enrolled members.
Oro Valley has a rich Native American heritage
The land that is now Oro Valley was once used and maintained by Indigenous people. Before Spanish explorers, Mexican settlers, miners, and other European-Americans entered the Cañada del Oro Valley the land was occupied by numerous people. Seasonal hunting and food gathering camps from many hundreds of years ago were located along the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains and large villages were present near the Cañada del Oro.
The Romero Ruin in Catalina State Park was a large Hohokam village occupied for centuries. It is open to the public and has an interpretive trail that provides information about the inhabitants who lived there around 1000 years ago. Honey Bee Village was also a large Hohokam village, located near Rancho Vistoso Boulevard. The central portion of the village (13 acres) has been set aside as an Archaeological Preserve surrounded by residential development. It is also open to the public. A third large village, known as Sleeping Snake Village, was located near the foothills of the Tortolita Mountains. It was excavated in preparation for development of the Vistoso Golf Course that is now the Town of Oro Valley Vistoso Trails Nature Preserve. A few petroglyphs remain near the trails.
These three large villages are considered ancestral villages by the Tohono O’odham. The Tohono O’odham Nation, the second largest reservation in Arizona, established in 1916, lies in the Sonoran desert west of Tucson although Oo’dham people historically lived throughout much of southern Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico.
Certain place names in early Arizona history were derived from the O’odham language of the late 1600s and 1700s. Tucson came from Cuk son meaning “black base” (Black Mountain lies at the southern edge of Tucson). The state name, Arizona, is derived from “Al sonag” meaning “Place of the small spring”.
By the time Spanish explorers and then Mexican settlers entered the Tucson Basin there were apparently no O’odham settlements near the Cañada del Oro. The valley had become part of Apache raiding territory.
Apaches are culturally distinct from the Akimel O’odham and Tohono O’odham peoples who consider the Hohokam their ancestors. By the early 1700s nomadic Apaches (Ndee) had acquired horses from Spanish explorers and with them they developed raiding practices that became an important part of their economy. Mexican settlements and O’odham villages were frequent targets.
While under Mexican rule in the late 1700s and early 1800s military troops stationed in Tucson occasionally pursued Apache raiders north along the western edge of the Santa Catalina Mountains crossing the Cañada del Oro in what is now Oro Valley. The Cañada del Oro crossing played an important role in a number of raids among the Apaches, Tohono O’odham and the increasing number of Mexican and American settlers.
Most Apaches in the Cañada de Oro Valley were moved to the San Carlos Apache Reservation, established in 1872, although some were allowed to live freely in the San Pedro Valley. They hunted and farmed in the Oro Valley area until the first large ranches, including Romero, Sutherland, Pusch’s Steam Pump and San Pedro, were established. Soon afterward the transition to a livestock and ranching economy dominated by newly settled Americans was complete in southern Arizona and there was no longer a home for Apaches outside of established reservations. Today, little evidence remains of their historic use of Cañada del Oro Valley.
The Pascua Yaqui Tribe is located in the Tucson vicinity, however there is no material evidence that they lived or used the lands that are now part of Oro Valley. Their roots are in Sonora, Mexico and many still live there on reserved lands. Some migrated to Arizona in 1884 fleeing government persecution for their traditional agricultural lands. The Tribe received reservation status for a small parcel of land southwest of Tucson in 1964 and they were granted federal recognition in 1978.
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November is a special time to learn more about the legacy of native traditions and people as well as the important issues facing Indian country today. There are numerous events, museum exhibits, programs and lectures throughout the state honoring our first residents. In Oro Valley there is an exhibit devoted to Native American cultures in the Pusch House Museum at Steam Pump Ranch.