Tohono O'Odham

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Tohono O'Odham

Tohono O'Odham (tōhō´nō ō-ō´dəm) or Papago (păp´əgō´, pä´–), Native North Americans speaking a language that belongs to the Uto-Aztecan branch of the Aztec-Tanoan linguistic stock (see Native American languages) and that is closely related to that of their neighbors, the Pima. The probable ancestors of both the Pima and the Tohono O'Odham were the Hohokam people. They were a semisedentary tribe who farmed corn, beans, and cotton and gathered wild vegetable products (e.g., the beans of the mesquite and the fruit of the giant cactus). Although farming remains the major economic activity of the Tohono O'Odham, many now are engaged in cattle raising. The women are known as excellent basket makers. The Tohono O'Odham formerly suffered dreadful depredations from their enemy, the Apache. They were early visited by Spanish missionaries, including Father Eusebio Kino in 1694. In the 1860s they joined with the Pima and Maricopa in helping the United States to force a peace with the Apache. By an executive act of 1874 the United States created a reservation for the Tohono O'Odham in S Arizona; another was created in 1917. Today they live on these and on Pima and Maricopa reservations as well, all in Arizona. In 1990 there were close to 17,000 Tohono O'Odham in the United States; many others live in Sonora, Mexico.

See R. M. Underhill, Social Organization of the Papago Indians (1939, repr. 1969); J. Waddell, Papago Indians at Work (1969); B. Fontanta, Of Earth and Little Rain: the Papago Indians (1989).

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