«Item type text; Electronic Dissertation Authors DeJong, David Henry Publisher The University of Arizona. Rights Copyright © is held by the author. ...»
These federal actions represent direct federal intervention in populating the West and encouraging yeoman farmers among settlers. At the same time, these policies served to discourage yeoman Indian agriculture. The 1887 General Allotment Act further limited Indian agriculture by fractionating reservation land holdings and providing for the leasing of Indian land. The practical result was that tribal nations faced a juggernaut of continental imperialism This study is significant in that it not only illustrates the remarkable economic adaptations the Pima made in the nineteenth century but also because it demonstrates that convenient scholarly assumptions that American Indians were inherently unfit for, or unfamiliar with, Western economies are specious. It was not the triumph of Western civilization that displaced the Pima from the national and their traditional agricultural economy but discriminating federal policies.
The Pima quickly recognized the advantages of joining the national economy, but
sovereignty over their land, water and people, as demonstrated by Antonio Azul’s visit to Los Nogales in 1855 and his demand that the overland mail lines respect Pima resources.
This was further demonstrated by Pima participation in the Arizona volunteers after the Civil War, as the Pima understood that their protection of the national transportation routes through central Arizona also protected their own economic interests in the growing territorial economy. While not altruistic, the Pima were not materialistic, desiring the technology by which they might expand their economy, improve their standard of living and gain access to new trade goods.
The establishment of the Southern Trail through the villages proved to be an economic boon to the Pima, whose economy rapidly expanded after 1848. Tens of thousands of emigrants passed through the villages, purchasing or trading for food and forage crops. While the Pima initially accepted red flannel and white muslin as trade for their crops, by 1850 they demanded silver and gold, using the coin to purchase goods directly from merchants in Tucson. The opening of the national road through the villages in the late 1850s further expanded their economy. While the Pima sold 145,000 pounds of grain in 1858, within four years they surpassed 2,000,000 pounds in annual sales to the military alone. Pima farmers constructed new acequias upstream of the villages in 1858 and, again, in 1859. By 1860 the Pima grew more than 11,640,000 pounds of grain and 15,120,000 pounds of corn.
Pima desire for technology was fueled by emigrant traffic and after 1850 their demand for agricultural technology rapidly increased. Tools, metal ploughs, seed and
the Pima so that they might cultivate additional lands. This is further witnessed by the fact that the Pima sought oxen, mules and other draft animals, indicating that their mode of agriculture was changing from manpower to animal power. As a result, the Pima were entering a market economy that might well have paralleled that of local settlers had it not been capriciously strangled. Federal policy encouraged American Indians to become cultivators of the soil; the Pima, already cultivators, demonstrated their commitment to this policy and repeatedly proved that they were committed to continuing and expanding their agrarian economy.
The newfound wealth among the Pima would not last. In 1863, Charles Poston
informed federal officials of the three most important considerations facing the Pima:
water, water and water. Should non-Indian settlement above the villages occur without protecting Pima water, there would be trouble. In 1868, the crisis erupted when settlers in Florence intentionally diverted and wasted river water to deprive the Pima of the water needed to irrigate their crops. By 1872, settlers in the upper Gila Valley added to the users above the villages.
These events upstream of the Pima were sanctioned by liberal federal policies.
Following the requirements of federal law, settlers were forced to apply water to their land or risk losing it and any improvements they made. As settlers gained political hegemony, they constructed the Florence Canal, which further deprived the Pima of their rights to Gila River water. Increasingly, what water reached the reservation came in short ephemeral floods that, due to environmental changes in the river system, altered the
the Pima to abandon most of their traditional irrigation system. To irrigate Pima fields now required a costly conveyance system that headed further upstream. Continued diversions resulted in the Pima share of the river declining to less than 30% of the total flow.
As non-Indians gained control of the land and water resources they lobbied federal officials to enact a national reclamation policy. The organization of the National Irrigation Association led to a national lobbying effort advocating federal subsidies to reclaim the remaining arable lands of the West. To support its cause and provide a strong moral argument for federal involvement, the National Irrigation Association used the Pima as its national poster child, blanketing the country with scores of media reports extolling Pima agricultural virtues and lamenting the current Pima crisis. The message was clear: the only solution to the reclamation needs of the West was federal legislation.
Congress responded with the National Reclamation Act of 1902. But there was little benefit to the Pima who were not invited to participate in the act. Iron triangles consisting of non-Indian water users, federal agencies and Congressional committees, directed, controlled and manipulated federal water policy. This select membership intentionally disregarded Indian water needs and rights. The Pima were further disenfranchised and, with continuing crop failures, they planted less. Smaller fields resulted in reduced yields, which further lowered expectations. In the end, the Pima scaled down their expectations and standard of living, and found themselves enduring
To provide for their families, Pima men cut tens of thousands of cords of firewood from the once vast mesquite bosques that grew across the reservation. Between 1899 and 1905 the Pima cut an average of 11,000 cords of firewood to sell off the reservation. At the same time they grew less than half (23,982 bushels) the grain needed (50,000 bushels) to subsist. Facing desperate conditions and severe deprivation, the Pima petitioned the American people and each member of the U.S. Congress in an effort to restore their rights to the waters of the Gila River.
Protection of their water was the one area over which the Pima lacked control. For this, they were reliant on the U.S. Government. The protection of their water and the maintenance of their hydraulic-based economy were of great importance to the Pima for self-evident reasons. Less apparent and often overlooked was the importance to the United States. Beyond their role of protecting travelers and providing them with food and forage crops—enabling the United States to control and root settlement in the West—the Pima served the United States well. Congress established and the Indian Service implemented a policy of encouraging all American Indians to become yeoman Jeffersonian farmers, with the Pima a dynamic example of what tribes could do. Many tribes made, or attempted to make, this cultural and economic adaptation. Yet, the success of American Indian hydraulic-based economies rarely matched the rhetoric of policy-makers. Water or lack thereof was clearly the deciding factor in the success of the Pima economy. By failing to protect Pima water and involvement in the national
Indians and lost the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to the policies defined by Congress.
Moreover, federal policy was inconsistent, failing entirely to protect the cornerstone of Indian policy—the water upon which agriculture depended. While some tribes struggled in adapting to market forces, the Pima did not, readily adapting only to be systematically squeezed out of the market by economic liberalism that benefited nonIndian settlers. In all of this, the United States failed to grasp the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to tribal nations that the government was sincere in its efforts to assist in their transition to an agrarian economy, a position best explained by the national adoption of the Social Darwinian “survival of the fittest” social construct. To tribal nations willing to adopt an agrarian economy the Pima might well have served as the model upon which they could look to find success.
The United States had ample opportunity to correct its policy shortcomings. The Pima repeatedly sought federal protection of their water and, at the same time, demonstrated their loyalty to the federal government. Already industrious cultivators, the Pima sought inclusion in the national economy. Yet, rather than protect their legal rights to the water supporting the Pima economy, the United States instead attempted to relocate and pacify the Indians, turning friendship into cynicism and distrust. Not willing to make the necessary moral and legal adjustments incumbent upon the United States Government, federal officials instead watched as Pima agricultural production declined to subsistence levels and below, eventually resulting in widespread starvation and famine on
Ironically, Pima hospitality, economic success and friendliness stimulated the very settlement above the reservation that led to the collapse of their economy. Explorer and emigrant trails served as the commercial corridors through which missionaries, trappers, miners, soldiers and settlers entered and eventually settled near the Pima villages. These highways encouraged commercialization of the Pima economy but they also brought settlement above the villages that competed with the Pima for the limited water in the Gila River. Following the dictates of liberal land and resource laws, these settlers repaid Pima kindness by appropriating the land and water for their own benefit.
The Pima initially requested federal support for their water rights in 1871 and the owners of the Florence Canal Company prepared for such litigation in 1886, although in neither instance did the U.S. Government attempt to protect Pima water. In 1904, the Indian Service again rejected federal action, believing the estimated cost of protecting Pima water rights unworthy of the expense. Not until 1913 did the Indian Service initiate an adjudication survey, belatedly recognizing that if federal action were not taken Pima rights to water might be permanently lost.
The adjudication survey proved to be a compelling argument that demonstrated Pima agriculture and the Pima economy had been destroyed. Compared to land once irrigated by the Pima, fields cultivated in 1914 were 21% smaller and used considerably less water. With land severalty predicated on the premise that the Pima had an equal chance to participate in the national and local economy, the survey illustrated startling results. While 6% of Arizona fields were sown to grain, more than 82% of Pima fields
water was available the Pima grew a disproportionate share of food crops—grain in particular—relative to state proportional calculations. Furthermore, water deprivation resulted in significantly smaller agricultural fields, with mean field sizes more than 40% smaller than the older and traditionally farmed Pima fields. While the adjudication survey aided in the passage of the Florence-Casa Grande Project in 1916, it did little to restore water to the Pima. Upstream users continued to draw their water out of the river above the villages before it reached the Indian fields below.
Economic liberalism had several significant effects on the Pima. Initially, it fostered an economic boon among the Pima (1846-1868) that resulted in greater material prosperity, expansion of the Pima economy and an increase in acreage under irrigation.
New ditches were extended above the villages and away from the Gila River, resulting in an era of unprecedented economic growth among the Pima. This era represents the golden age of Pima agriculture and the Pima economy. But as settlement above the reservation rooted and expanded after 1864, a second stage of economic liberalism resulted in water deprivation (1869-1891). During this era the Pima share of the river water declined year-by-year until it resulted in widespread famine throughout the villages. The final stage of economic liberalism culminated in the complete economic privation of the Pima (1891-1921). Within this timeframe the Pima faced starvation, near complete water deprivation and extreme poverty. Moreover, geomorphologic changes in the Gila River rendered the traditional Pima irrigation system completely unworkable.
Despite deprivation, the Pima retained reserved rights to the water necessary to make their reservation a homeland. In this respect a metaphorical Damoclean Sword was raised above the heads of the settlers who used water that legally belonged to the Pima.
Enfranchised and politically involved, these irrigators continued to use the water to the detriment of the Pima. It was this use—premised on economic liberalism—that destroyed the Pima economy. If not for liberal federal policies, the Pima would have equaled and perhaps even exceeded their neighbors in agricultural output and remained part of the national economy. While the goal of yeoman Jeffersonian farmers in Indian Country made for good policy, for the Pima it was simply rhetoric and resulted in economic devastation.