Pima and Maricopa Indians

 

The Pima Indians and Maricopa Indians occupy a reservation on the Gila river, about two hundred miles east of Arizona City, and number about four thousand. They have occupied this locality as far back as we have any written knowledge of them. Many years ago, they cultivated fields, also in other localities, though not far distant from the reservation, but the continued raids made upon them by the Apaches compelled them for self-protection to draw their settlements close together. They live in round huts, made by placing poles ten to twelve feet long in a circle of ten or twelve feet in diameter at the bottom, and pointed together at the top. These poles are then covered with hay and earth; only a small opening is left for a door. Their principal occupation is agriculture and stock raising. Although their mode of agriculture is rude, still they raise all the vegetables, wheat, barley and corn necessary for use, and sell annually about two million pounds of wheat. They are at peace with the whites and all Indian tribes except the Apaches, with whom an uncompromising feud exists. In their warfare no quarter is asked or given so far as the male adults are concerned. The women and children are generally made captives. The Apache captives are treated as well as their own people, and very soon become so attached to their captors that they cannot be induced to again live with their own people. In religion, they believe in a Great Spirit, and future rewards and punishments, but, like all other people, worship a deity and imagine a place of rewards and punishments peculiarly suited to their intellects and condition in life. They are very superstitious and believe in witches; often make great sacrifices of property to find and destroy the evil one that is generally in the form of a stick or stone. They work with great energy and excitement until the mischievous object is found and destroyed. They then return to their legitimate labors with a sense of feeling that a great calamity has been averted. Sometimes they imagine that one of their people is bewitched, and in such cases his or her life pay the forfeit. At the death of the head of a family, all personal property is either eaten, burned or destroyed. If deceased had been in good circumstances and had horses and cattle, then all the tribe is invited to the feast, which lasts until his stock is eaten up. The balance of his earthly goods are placed in a pile and burned. The property destroyed and eaten is supposed to be placed in the unknown world for the benefit of the deceased. They are simple minded, and have but little knowledge of the world beyond what they have seen. A few years ago their head chief, Antonio, was induced to visit Washington and our great eastern cities. He was much beloved and confided in by the tribe, and the many months he was absent left a void in their midst. Sometimes unpleasant rumors were put in circulation that he was dead, and when the time approached that he was soon expected, the days and hours were counted with anxious solicitude. Finally the glad news came that Antonio was coming, and but a few miles away, and large numbers hurried forth to welcome him home again, and there was joy throughout the tribe. After the excitement of meeting was over, the tribe gathered round to listen to his recital of the wonders he had seen. He told them of the immense oceans and rivers; of untold thousands of ships sailing for months between given points at rapid speed; of the iron horse fed on wood and water; of the immense loads he drew, and how he fairly flew over mountains and valleys and never tired; of curious machines by which men instantly talked together and understood each other, though thousands of miles apart; of the immense towns and cities he bad passed through, and of the countless thousands of men under arms (it was during our Rebellion) he had seen at one time. They listened in silence until he had finished and then waited for him to tell them that he was merely relating a fancy story-the creation of his own imagination; but Antonio remained serious, and when given an opportunity to regain his reputation for veracity, he firmly declared and insisted that every word he had said was true. Then the truth began to flash upon the Pima mind that by long contract with the whites, the tongue of their beloved chief had become forked, and he was no longer to be believed. It was a sad day to the poor Pimas, and an unfortunate day for Antonio. He is still their chief, but has never regained their entire confidence, though he studiously avoids relating any more of the marvelous things he saw during his travels.

Their disputes are generally settled by arbitration or a council of judges; and, although they are not supposed to be governed or influenced by the common law of England, or the decisions of eminent jurists, still in a decision made recently by one of these tribunals it will be observed that if the decision was not in accordance with our enlightened practice, the reasoning was good. It seems that a man and his wife, having but one child, disagreed, and it was carried to such an extent that they finally agreed to separate, and the terms were all amicably arranged, except as to who should have the child. The wife plead that the tender youth needed a mother's fostering care-that the tendrils of affection clung more closely to a mother's heart; but the husband insisted that it required his strong will to launch the frail bark properly on the stormy sea of life. The difference of opinion was finally decided to be irreconcilable, and it was brought before the council of judges. Both sides plead their case with all the ardor of parental love, and each showed strong claims for the custody of the child. The judges having no precedents to govern them, and being only desirous of doing right, were sorely perplexed and hesitated in their own mind which side of the scales had the most weight. Finally an old, gray headed, patriarchal looking fellow arose and said that it was a certain fact and admitted by all, that the woman was the mother of the child, but there was no positive evidences showing that the man was his father, and under these circumstances he felt constrained to give the child to the mother. This decided the case, and the mother was awarded the child.

Their morals are not good; like all Indian tribes that come in contact with the whites, they adopt all our vices and few of our virtues. Rev. Mr. Cook has established a school among them, and seems much encouraged in the progress he has made during the brief period he has been there. If an earnest Christian desire to elevate and educate them will avail anything, then he will succeed.

The Maricopas occupy the lower portion of the Pima reservation, and in habits are similar in every respect to the Pimas. They are friendly with the whites and at war with the Apaches. They formerly were a part of the Yuma tribe, but many years ago a feud sprang up among them, and they were driven from the Colorado river and obliged to seek a new home. The Pimas offered them a part of their reservation and it was accepted.

Source: Resources Of Arizona Territory. Francis & Valentine, Steam Printers And Engravers. 1871.
This site includes some historical materials that may imply negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the historical record and should not be interpreted to mean that the webmasters in any way endorse the stereotypes implied.

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