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«Item type text; Electronic Dissertation Authors DeJong, David Henry Publisher The University of Arizona. Rights Copyright © is held by the author. ...»

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The larger mean field sizes of Casa Blanca, Sacaton and Blackwater were in older villages, reflecting the pinnacle of Pima agriculture (1845-1870) when they sold millions of pounds of surplus grain, corn and vegetables to military expeditions, government contractors and California-bound emigrants. This is substantiated by Pima informants, who tell the story of villages constructing canals downstream in new districts to irrigate smaller fields with the limited seepage water available. Having little time to build ditches and having little expectation of planting larger fields, heads of families reestablished their farms—and villages—downstream in areas where they believed limited amounts of water would sustain them. 625 The variance in field size and water availability did not escape officials within the Indian Service. A farmer in Gila Crossing stated the Pima once “always had an ample water supply for from 4,000-6,000 acres,” even though they were then cultivating less than one-quarter that amount. Yet, in Sacaton, the “Indians have had little water since 1890.” Farms that were productive before that time were now idle. While occasional floodwater or localized rainfall enabled the cultivation of a crop, the uncertainty over

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water resulted in most Indians “ceas[ing] to prepare their fields” for production or sowing them to grain. They also planted smaller fields and experienced social disruptions in water distribution. 626 To tie the analysis together, I determined the approximate quantity of water utilized by the Pima in 1914. To do this, I estimated the number of acre-feet of water required to grow each of the crops on the reservation. No data is available on crop watering requirements until 1944, when the Indian Service published a study on the economic conditions of the reservation. For purposes of analysis, these values were adopted. The minimum cotton requirement was three and a half acre-feet per acre with hay requiring five acre-feet of water. Grain required the least amount of water, with two acre-feet required per acre. Corn and other crops were estimated at five acre-feet per acre.

Using these values, calculations of the overall water usage and supply shows the reservation probably used no more than 29,374 acre-feet of water in 1914. More than two-thirds of this water (67.5%) was to cultivate grain.627 That the Pima faced difficult and uncertain times is clear. Pima farmers had already reduced their mean field size by more than a fifth—and more than one-third of all their fields were out of production. The older and more established villages on the eastern portion of the reservation exhibited a pattern of land going fallow and no longer being 626 Lee, The Underground Waters of Gila Valley, Arizona, pp. 64-66. “Each man takes what he can get whenever he wants it,” Lee asserted. “The result is that certain farms fail entirely for want of water even when there is water enough for all.” M.M. Murphy, superintendent of irrigation on the west end of the reservation, attributed the inequitable distribution of water to the inability of the Gila Crossing families to adjust to the changes in farming that resulted from the diminished flow of the river. Statement of George Pablo, p. 33.

627 Water duties are from Report on Economic Conditions Existing on the San Carlos Irrigation Project and the Gila River Indian Reservation Arizona, (United States Department of the Interior, Office of Indian Affairs, Irrigation Division, Agricultural Economics Unit, Los Angeles, Calif., May 1944). These values are considered liberal in that they were recommended water requirements for 1944, after Coolidge Dam and a more assured supply of water was available for the reservation. In 1914, the application of water was likely less than these idea amounts, especially on the reservation where there was a shortage of water.

271 productive. In fact, these eastern villages—Blackwater, Sacaton and Casa Blanca—show the greatest percentage of fields abandoned. Blackwater had abandoned 40% of its irrigation ditches, Sacaton 50% and Casa Blanca 58%. Family groups from the North Blackwater area moved downstream to the newly created Santan district in the late 1870s.

Whole villages within the Casa Blanca cluster abandoned their fields and reestablished themselves downstream or moved to the Salt River. These family groups established new villages when insufficient water in their home villages caused them to abandon their farms.628 The degree of water deprivation can be ascertained when comparing differences in reservation and statewide cropping patterns. These differences are so distinct that they are not likely to occur under normal conditions. Inter-village analyses demonstrate grain was the most dominant crop in the eastern villages, supporting the belief these villages were hard hit by water loss.629 While isolated Pima farmers grew an abundance of crops in 1914, most grew little beyond their own subsistence needs.

A comparative analysis with state patterns points to two final factors. First, the Pima were preeminent farmers. The proportionally-calculated cropping patterns indicate they should have cultivated no more than 5,818 acres; yet they attempted to cultivate more than twice that amount and desired to cultivate still more. Secondly, by cultivating over 12,000 acres of crops in 1914, the Pima remained committed to an agrarian way of 628 Later shortages affected some of these new villages. Most occupants of Cooperative, for example, moved to the central part of the reservation in the late 1920s when Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company began farming thousands of acres of land in south Chandler.





The result was a new village on the reservation called Goodyear. Around the same time as the establishment of Cooperative Village, returning boarding school students founded another “progressive” village—called Progressive Colony—just west of Sacaton.

629 It could be argued that grain production was a function of cultural attitudes—the Pima and Maricopa certainly were conservative farmers who grew large quantities of food crops to sell and trade, especially with the tens of thousands of California “forty-niners” passing through their villages—or due to other variables such as quality of soil or market access.

272 life, one fully compatible with their social, cultural and economic heritage. Ironically, their agrarian nature was the focal point of latter nineteenth and early twentieth century federal Indian policy. While federal policy was theoretically designed to enable the Pima to cultivate the land in order to regain a level of economic independence, water policy— monopolized by the Reclamation Service—and land (allotment) policy—administered by the Indian Service—countered this goal. Despite efforts to quantify Pima water, nonIndians continued to use it, with the Indian Service impotent in leveraging the survey to benefit the Pima.

In the following chapter, I evaluate the Florence-Casa Grande Project (FCGP), an irrigation project indirectly premised on the adjudication survey. Approved by Congress in 1916, the FCGP was to provide water primarily to the Pima. Notwithstanding this assertion, implementation of the act circumscribed its intended purpose by failing to protect Pima water rights. Having water rights for 35,000 acres, the Pima struggled to farm one-fifth of the land, with actual farming declining 48% due to repeated crop failures caused by increasing water diversions above the reservation. The Indian Rights Association, having assisted the Pima in their water struggle, even acknowledged that the FCGP “resulted disastrously” to the Pima. While Ashurst-Hayden Diversion Dam and Sacaton Diversion Dam both were constructed, their overall impact on the Pima was minimal. While the annual diversion of natural flowing water at Ashurst-Hayden

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With the completion of the adjudication survey and the Lockwood Decree, Congress addressed Pima water rights by enacting into law the Florence-Casa Grande Project (FCGP), believing it would “thoroughly safeguard” Pima rights.630 Envisioned as an integral component of the larger, still-hoped-for San Carlos Project, the FCGP instituted a joint-use irrigation system designed to facilitate the economic integration of the Pima Reservation and effect efficient utilization of the remaining natural flow waters of the Gila River. Having already been outmaneuvered by the Salt River Valley for the first federally financed reclamation project, farmers in the Florence-Casa Grande Valley learned important lessons. Politically involved and enfranchised with the vote, these farmers aligned themselves with the politically impotent and disenfranchised Pima to generate a strong moral and legal rationale for development of the area’s water resources.

Arizonans predicated their rights to the use of water on the doctrine of prior appropriation, which conflicted with the Pima’s reserved rights to the water. While the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that tribal nations had “reserved rights” to the water, neither Congress nor the Indian Service gave much credence to the ruling. Lacking resources to develop a competitive and modern irrigation system, the Pima struggled to put water to

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beneficial use as defined by local law. Much to the chagrin of the Indians, the Indian Service “waver[ed] between near panic and lackadaisical awareness” of their rights.631 The debate over the FCGP involved deep moral issues that dated back at least half a century. Few informed citizens denied the historicity of Pima water utilization and agricultural productivity. Some, such as Carl Hayden, saw Pima water losses as a byproduct of environmental change in the Gila River watershed. While the national media documented the conditions among the Pima when it served the interests of national reclamation, it was nowhere to be found when debate began on the extent of Pima rights.

Well-heeled political forces, meanwhile, marketed the need for additional reclamation in the Florence-Casa Grande Valley to Arizona’s congressional delegation.

The debate also involved conflicting cultural values. For centuries, the Pima represented an oasis for passing emigrants. Only with the blessing of—and protection afforded by—the Pima were American and Mexican settlers able to establish the upstream towns of Florence and Adamsville as agricultural villages safe from Apache raids. As settlers demanded additional land and water, the state congressional delegation was called on for its support. The Pima did not have the voice necessary to advocate their needs. With “resistance to Indian projects … so intense” in the West, approval for Indian irrigation projects was unlikely without “non-Indian recipients [being] included.”632 The political and social forces mobilizing to develop an irrigation project for the Pima stemmed not only from a Congressional desire to integrate the reservation economy with that of Pinal County, but also from the long standing national goal of cultural

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assimilation. With Congress moving in one direction for political reasons, the federal courts moved in another, collision-bound course. The matter at hand was whether or not the Pima would have sufficient water to allow them to compete on an economic basis with their neighbors or be relegated to the fringes of society.633 The Pima grew increasingly frustrated by the government’s inattention to their water resources. Unable to restore water on their own accord, the Indians were forced to rely on the federal government for redress of their grievances. Lack of federal action clearly affected the integrity of the tribe. “Following a year of plenty of water,” Wendell Reed lamented, “the Indians take heart … and cultivate a large part of the land.” But when water was scarce, they became discouraged and “the next year they will not farm so much.”634 Loss of water not only encouraged the Pima to abandon their agrarian heritage—and this at a time when it was official federal policy to promote agriculture among the Indians—but it also tested their faith in the ability and commitment of the government to restore their water.635 New concerns over Pima water were raised when Agency Superintendent Frank Thackery alerted Valentine that landowners near Florence intended to build another canal. The Pinal Mutual Irrigation Company of Florence had incorporated in 1911 with plans to head a new canal above and parallel to the Florence Canal. While it sought to secure federal funds for construction, Pinal Mutual targeted putting as much water as possible under prior appropriation and pushing forward with its plan without federal 633 Lewis Meriam, in The Problem of Indian Administration, argued the federal government “assumed some magic in individual ownership of property would in itself prove an educational civilizing factor.” The result, Meriam opined, tended to “pauperize” the Indians.

634 Indians of the United States: Hearing Before the Committee on Indian Affairs, House of Representatives, p. 1004.

635 “Charles R. Olberg to Frank Thackery, Superintendent of the Gila River Indian Reservation,” dated Sacaton, September 4, 1913, in C.R. Olberg Letterbox, Historical Research, 1913-1914, in SCIP files.

276 involvement. Consulting engineer James Schuyler, who earlier evaluated Pima water projects, believed there was enough water to irrigate 25,000 acres above the reservation.



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