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Tohono O'odham (Papago)
Literature

In O'odham language, "Tohono O'odham" means "Desert People."

The Tohono O'odham are a group of Native American people who reside primarily in the Sonoran Desert of the southeastern Arizona and northwest Mexico. "Tohono O'odham" means "Desert People."

Although the Tohono O'odham were previously known as the Papago, (meaning literally "tepary-bean eater"), they have largely rejected this name. It was applied to them by conquistadores who had heard them called this by other Piman bands that were very competitive with the Tohono O'odham. The term Papago derives from Ba:bawĭkoʼa, meaning "eating tepary beans." That word was pronounced Papago by the Spanish.

The Tohono O'odham Nation, or Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation, is located in southern Arizona, encompassing portions of Pima County, Pinal County, and Maricopa County.

The Tohono O'odham share linguistic and cultural roots with the closely related Akimel O'odham (People of the River), whose lands lie just south of Phoenix, along the lower Gila River. The Sobaipuri are ancestors to both the Tohono O'odham and the Akimel O'odham who resided along the major rivers of southern Arizona. Ancient pictographs adorn a rock wall that juts up out of the desert near the Baboquivari Mountains.

Debates surround the origins of the O'odham. Claims that the O'odham moved north as recently as 300 years ago compete with claims that the Hohokam, who left the Casa Grande Ruins, are their ancestors. Recent research on the Sobaipuri, now extinct relatives of the O'odham, shows that they were present in sizable numbers in the southern Arizona river valleys in the fifteenth century.

Collection of Poems

   'O'odham (Papago)        English

  • D'ac 'O'odham    We Are Papago
  • Da:m Ka:cim    Sky
  • Do:da'ag    Mountains
  • From the Papago Ceremony for Bringing Rain   
    In English
  • Hasao    Saguaro
  • Ha:sao    Saguaro Cactus
  • Hevel    Wind
  • Ju:ki    Rain
  • Mat hekid o ju:    When It Rains
  • 'Oks Daha    Lady Sitting Mountain
  • S-ke:k 'O'odham Ha-jewedga    The Desert #2
  • Sopol Esabig Masad    August
  • Tadai    Roadrunner
  • Tas    Sun
  • Tohono    Desert #1
  • Untitled Poem-'O'odham    Untitled - English
  • Wi'ikam Do'ag    Lonely Mountain
  • The Great Seal of the Nation consists of items that are symbolic to the Tohono O'odham. Starting from the outside of the Seal is a purple border containing the words "Great Seal of the Tohono O'odham Nation". Inside the yellow border there are eleven stars which represent one of the eleven districts of the Tohono O'odham Nation: Pisinemo, Hickiwan, Gu Vo, Chukut Kuk, San Lucy, San Xavier, Baboquivari, Sif Oidak, Schuk Toak, Sells and Gu Achi. At the bottom of this border are the dates 1937-1986.

    1937 is the year in which the original constitution and by-laws of the Papago Tribe was approved by the United States Department of the Interior. 1986 represents the year in which the Nation adopted a new constitution and changed its name from the Papago Tribe to the Tohono O'odham Nation. The inside picture has a view of the sacred mountain, Baboquivari Peak, home of I'itoi. Also in view is a saguaro, prickly pear and barrel cactus from which the O'odham pick fruit and have various uses from each of these cactus to cook and use for building materials.

    The Tohono O'odham share linguistic and cultural roots with the closely related Akimel O'odham (People of the River), whose lands lie just south of Phoenix, along the lower Gila River. The Sobaipuri are ancestors to both the Tohono O'odham and the Akimel O'odham who resided along the major rivers of southern Arizona. Ancient pictographs adorn a rock wall that juts up out of the desert near the Baboquivari Mountains.

    Debates surround the origins of the O'odham. Claims that the O'odham moved north as recently as 300 years ago compete with claims that the Hohokam, who left the Casa Grande Ruins, are their ancestors. Recent research on the Sobaipuri, now extinct relatives of the O'odham, shows that they were present in sizable numbers in the southern Arizona river valleys in the fifteenth century.

    Images


    The Tohono O'odham (Papago) nation's native word papah, beans, is the source for being called the "bean people." They belong to the Piman branch of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic family, and are closely related to the Pima tribe southeast of the Gila River and south of Tucson, Arizona, and extending west and southwest across the desert Papagueria on into Sonora, Mexico. In 1694, Father Kino became the first white man to visit the Tohono O'odham (Papago) nation, finding a very large population into the thousands. Census figures in 1937 listed 6,305 members of the Tohono O'odham (Papago) nation.

    The desert people (as they are called), recently reestablished their ancestral name after many years of being known as Papagos. They reside in a portion of the northwestern Sonoran Desert. Their ancestral homelands bridge the international border of Mexico and the United States; however, in 1916 the United States defined for them a four-part Reservation of 4,462 square miles in southern Arizona. Recent estimates approximate the tribal population on the Reservation to be between 7,500 and 12,000 with about 2,000 living in Sells, the largest community.

    Their land is the hottest of North American deserts. Hot summers, cool winters, extreme diurnal temperature fluctuations, low humidity, high evaporation and a biannual rainfall pattern dictate strategies for maintaining human comfort. At Sells mean daily temperatures range between 72 F to 10 F in July and 36 F to 65 F in January. Water evaporation from an open tank can exceed 6 ft. annually. Sells receives a yearly precipitation of about 12 inches with approximately the same amounts falling during the winter and summer rainy seasons.

    The Papago women who weave baskets continue their ancient art form mainly for economic survival. One of the weavers indicated that she weaves to sell baskets in order to support her family. She sells to traders who come to her home. As is true of most Papago weavers, she is willing to create new designs and innovate her work to please the demand of the market. Therefore, instead of doing the time-consuming tight stitched baskets, many weavers do the split stitch because they can weave more baskets in the same time.

    They have their own printed alphabet and language studies:

    Ofelia Zepeda has authored the first grammar of the Tohono O'odham language.
    She has actively worked with her tribe to improve literacy in their native language and in English.

    Ofelia Zepeda
    Jewed 'I-hoi / Earth Movements:
    O'odham Poems

    Rain House and Saguaro Wine Festival

    A Story in O'odham Language

    It is said that somewhere there lived some quail. The time came to go for their food. They all got ready, and went to the place where it was abundant, and arrived there and were taking it. Then the hawk came, striking down those quail. He would swoop down from above and raise himself and strike down a number of them in this manner. But one little quail completely hid himself under the brush. He was the only one that was leff. The hawk destroyed all the rest of the quail. And be [the quail] rushed out and ran back. And he was running to his home saying: "We just went to try to get something to eat. The enemy came. Destroyed us all! Destroyed us all!"

    Stories

    Desert Indian Woman

    The cultural resources of the Tohono O'odham are threatened—particularly the language—but are stronger than those of many other aboriginal groups in the United States.

    Every February, annually, the Sells Rodeo and Parade is held in the capital of the Nation. The rodeo has been an annual event for 73 years. February 2012 was the 74th year the Nation has held the Event.

    In the visual arts, Michael Chiago and the late Leonard Chana have gained widespread recognition for their paintings and drawings of traditional O'odham activities and scenes. Chiago has exhibited at the Heard Museum and has contributed cover art to Arizona Highways magazine and University of Arizona Press books. Chana illustrated books by Tucson writer Byrd Baylor and created murals for Tohono O'odham Nation buildings.

    In 2004, the Heard Museum awarded Danny Lopez its first heritage award, recognizing his lifelong work sustaining the desert people's way of life. At the National Museum for the American Indian (NMAI), the Tohono O'odham were represented in the founding exhibition and Mr. Lopez blessed the exhibit.



    Sing Down the Rain
    Slide Show
    Tohono O'odham Baskets
    Tohono O'odham Community College
    Tohono O'odham / Papago
    The Tohono O'odham Nation
    Tohono O'odham Nation Maps
    O'odham Sacred Site of Quitovac
    O'odham language

    How To Speak Tohono O'odham
    A Native American Indian Indigenous Language


    Constitution

    The O’odham way of life is based on the land that has held the remains of our ancestors since the creation of this world. The O’odham did not migrate from anywhere according to our oral history.  Our creation tellings record our history and teach the O’odham the principles of life. The survival of O’odham today is our him’dag.

    Now numbering more than 25,000 enrolled members, the Tohono O'odham Nation gains most of its income from its three Desert Diamond casinos. This source of income is just over a decade old. It has paid for the tribe's first fire department, but the casinos cannot cover the numerous basic needs of tribal members. Housing, emergency services, medical, and educational needs require expensive infrastructure, including transportation, personnel, education, and technology. The physical isolation of the Nation has always been a handicap to its economic development.

    Indigenous Peoples' Literature Return to Indigenous Peoples' Literature

    Compiled by: Glenn Welker
    ghwelker@gmx.com

    Copyright @ 1993-2016

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