«Item type text; Electronic Dissertation Authors DeJong, David Henry Publisher The University of Arizona. Rights Copyright © is held by the author. ...»
Realizing these theses aids in understanding Pima agriculture before water deprivation, recognizing the roots of Pima water rights and documenting the nature and extent of water deprivation among the Pima. I have employed the metaphorical Damoclean sword to demonstrate how non-Indian usurpation of Pima water cast doubt on non-Indian use of the water and at the same time despoiled the Pima economy.
The Gila River Indian Community today encompasses 371,792 acres in the middle Gila Valley, a seventy-two mile stretch along the Gila River extending from The Buttes, fifteen miles east of Florence, west to the confluence of the Gila and Salt rivers.
miles in width, with a low western gradient of 579 feet. This valley was historically composed of a mosaic of agro-environments shaped by variations in precipitation, soil types, geomorphic processes, drainage patterns and slope gradients. It is surrounded by a series of mountain ranges providing rain runoff that the Pima have used to their advantage for centuries. The mountains, including the Sierra Estrella, Salt River, Santan and Sacaton, are composed mostly of Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks and are surrounded by Quaternary sediment aprons called alluvial fans. Fans emanating from the mountains in turn coalesce to form bajadas, which intermingle with the floodplain of the Gila River. Coarser sediment loads are discharged higher up the bajadas, with the finer textured materials remaining in suspension and washing down into the basin, leaving fertile soil capable of retaining moisture and nourishing plant maturation.
Physiographic aspects of the natural environment—including temperature and precipitation—have impacted cultural attitudes toward the land. The reservation portion of the valley receives a mean annual rainfall of 8.37 inches, with a slight moisture gradient from east to west. Precipitation is bimodal, being distributed in short but intense summer monsoons and gentle winter rains. The spring months of April, May and June are the driest. The entire middle Gila Valley is arid, with evapotranspiration exceeding annual precipitation, necessitating supplemental water to yield adequate harvests. Human cultural attitudes are centered on irrigated agriculture, a practice extending back at least two thousand years to the ancient Hohokam civilization.
Despite its aridity, groundwater beneath the Gila Valley can be found in most
deepest aquifers in the State of Arizona. The upper alluvium is the primary water-bearing strata beneath the valley and consists of “unconsolidated fine to coarse sand, gravel and cobbles with local silt interbeds.”33 The average saturated depth of this aquifer is 400 feet.
The geology of the middle aquifer consists of lacustrine silts with intermingled beds of fine sands and evaporate minerals, with the silts acting as an aquitard to confine groundwater to the underlying aquifer. This middle aquifer is an estimated 700 to 1,200 feet in depth. Extensive off-reservation groundwater mining in the middle Gila and Lower Santa Cruz basins has initiated severe environmental deprivation on the reservation over the past century. Groundwater over-drafting, for example, has created cones of depression that have reversed the natural flow of groundwater beneath the reservation. Such dewatering has had an adverse effect on the water table and compounded the effects of surface flow losses from the Gila River.34 The dominant geophysical feature and cultural focal point within the valley is the Gila River, which once served as the main water source for south-central Arizona. With its headwaters in the mountains of western New Mexico, the Gila flows west-southwest and empties into the Colorado River near Yuma. The river drains a watershed of 63,000 square miles, with the Salt and Santa Cruz rivers, Queen Creek and McClellan Wash all major on-reservation tributaries of the Gila, providing an abundance of water for the Pima before upstream diversions interrupted this flow (see map 1). The Gila River today no longer flows across the reservation except during or after major storm events.
The Gila River Indian Reservation is part of a larger geopolitical area classified as Indian Country. The concept of Indian Country represents more than just a legal definition of land held in trust by the U.S. Government. It includes matters of residual sovereignty and jurisdiction, which enable tribal nations to exercise economic and property rights without state interference. The United States Code defines Indian Country as “all land within the limits of any Indian reservation under the jurisdiction of the United States Government, notwithstanding the issuance of any patent and underlying rights-of
which have not been extinguished,” also remain Indian Country.35 The Pima Reservation, therefore, is land to which Indian title has not been extinguished and over which tribal and federal law applies to the exclusion of state statutes (except in cases where federal law has conferred such authority). The reservation has been enlarged seven times by executive order (see map 2).36
When President George W. Bush signed into law the Arizona Water Settlements Act on December 10, 2004, the Gila River Indian Community celebrated a milestone in
its long-standing water rights dispute. The act established an annual tribal water budget of 653,500 acre-feet.37 This set into motion the means by which the Gila River Indian Community seeks to restore its economic self-sufficiency and agricultural economy.
Plans to develop up to 146,330 acres of agricultural land in a region of the state where similar land adjacent to the reservation is rapidly being displaced by residential subdivisions have been in place since 1985. Maricopa County on the northern boundary of the reservation has experienced a 56.2% decline in agricultural land (1,429,539 acres to 627,254 acres) since 1982, as developers gobble up some of the most productive farmland in the Southwest and convert it to urban uses. Although initiated later, a 51.7% decline (2,403,901 acres to 1,161,563 acres) has occurred in Pinal County on the southern boundary of the reservation, as once small farming communities have exploded in growth.38 Upwards of one million people living adjacent to the southern boundary and as many as ten million to the north are projected by 2025. The upshot of this development and the water settlement act is that the Gila River Indian Community can position itself to again serve as the granary of Arizona.
For the 150 years between 1694 and 1848, Spaniards, Mexicans and Americans penned glowing reports of the Pima, praising their industry, fidelity and moral probity.
These chroniclers described an emerging and dynamic cultural adaptation occurring along the Gila River. In the following chapter, I consider these cultural descriptions among the Pima during the formative years of Spanish and Mexican administration. By
analyzing Spanish (ecclesiastical and military), Mexican (military) and American (military and emigrant) journals I am able to deduce a cultural mindset among the Pima as an agricultural people. This aids in understanding their adaptation to new crops and new growing patterns made available through a combination of an adequate supply of water and new technology, such as Spanish wheat. These formative years demonstrate the proclivity of the Pima to maximize their agricultural production and make the necessary
Between 1694 and 1848 a medley of ecclesiastical and military chroniclers described an emerging and dynamic cultural adaptation occurring among the Pima, or the Akimel O’otham—the “River People.” While Pima culture was by no means static prior to 1694 it was certainly less so after as the Pima adapted to new crops and growing patterns. Villages clustered together more frequently than before and other Piman groups, including some of those in the San Pedro Valley (Sobaipuris) and in the Santa Cruz Valley (Koahadk) moved to join the Gila Pima (see map 3). Core cultural values such as industriousness, virtue and honesty continued to guide the Pima.39 The Gila River, variously labeled the Rio Grande, Rio de hila, Rio Grande de hila, Rio Azul, Rio de los Santos Apostoles, Rio del Nombre de Jesus, the River of Hila, the Jila, hee-la, Helay, Xila and Jee-la, was simply called Akimel (“River”) or Keli Akimel (“Old Man River”) by the Pima.40 The river was the socio-economic lifeline of the Pima, with its waters embodying the very essence of their existence. With its waters, the Pima cultivated a variety of crops to sustain a salubrious diet and economy in the midst of an 39 The term Pima villages refers to the villages along the middle Gila River inhabited by the Pima—or Gileño, as the Spaniards referred to them. References to the Koahadk, who were part of the Pima confederacy, are frequent as they resided just south of the Pima villages. The principle Koahadk village was near Picacho Peak along the Santa Cruz River on the modern Tohono O’odham Reservation. The term Pima throughout refers to the Gila River Pima and not the Piman peoples to the south.
40 See Francisco Eusebio Kino, Kino’s Historical Memoir of Pimeria Alta, translated and edited by Herbert E. Bolton (Cleveland: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1919), 1:230, 249; Bolton, Rim of Christendom (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1984 original publisher New York: The Macmillan Company, 1936), p. 284; Bolton, ed. Anza’s California Expeditions: Opening a Land Route to California, (Berkley: University of California Press, 1930), 2:119; Juan Mateo Manje, Unknown Arizona and Sonora, 1693-1721, from the Francisco Fernandez del Castillo version of Luz De Tierra Incognita, Harry Karns and Associates, eds. (Tucson: Arizona Silhouettes, 1954), p. 121; Edwin Corle, The Gila River of the Southwest (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1964), p. 10; and Gregory McNamee, Gila: The Life and Death of an American River (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1998), p. 16.
39 otherwise inhospitable desert. While also dependent upon natural foods and wild game from the desert, the Pima engaged in inter-tribal trade for a portion of their food.
Written accounts of the agricultural skill of the Pima abound, beginning in 1694 when Jesuit priest Francisco Eusebio Kino made the first recorded observations of the Indians. These accounts, like those of eighteenth century Franciscan priest Pedro Font, concluded that the industriousness of the Pima was made possible by the river and was responsible for their hospitality, enabling them to provide for their own needs and trade with neighbors. Cultivating food and fiber crops, the Pima developed and sustained a stable economy that endeared them to Spaniards, Mexicans and Americans alike.41 The Gila River defined the Pima and shaped the ways in which they perceived those around them. It allowed them to annually grow two crops—summer cotton, corn, melons, beans and squashes as well as winter wheat. The latter, introduced by the Spanish, became a mainstay supplement to their indigenous seasonal crop patterns.42 Their relatives to the south, called Papago by the Spaniards, are the Tohono O’odham or “Desert People.” Absent a perennial source of irrigation water, the Papago response to their environment differed from the Pima in that they subsisted by annually migrating from summer, floodwater-farming (or ak chin) villages in the desert to winter, hunting settlements in the mountains.43 After the eighteenth century, the Pima, while 41 Anza’s California Expeditions: Font’s Complete Diary, 4:44.
42 More than fifty edible desert plants and nearly two dozen animals—excluding nine native fish—rounded out the Pima diet. Edward Castetter and Willis H. Ball, Pima and Papago Indian Agriculture (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1942), pp. 56-57.
Frank Russell, The Pima Indians (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1975 reprint of the Twenty-sixth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1904-1905), pp. 69-78, lists fifty-seven edible plants and twenty-two animals used as food. Beaver was “esteemed highly for food.” 43 Edward H. Spicer, Cycles of Conquest: The Impact of Spain, Mexico, and the United States on the Indians of the Southwest, 1533Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1962), p. 119, notes that while most the people of the Pimeria Alta were called Pima, Spain called those in the east along the San Pedro River the Sobaipuris, those in the western deserts the Sobas, those along the Gila River the Gileños, and those in the southeast simply upper Pima. The Papago were in the west central desert. The Pima on the Gila River Indian Reservation today are both Sobaipuris and Gileño, with some of the Santa Cruz River Valley Pima (Koahadk) mixed in.