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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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40 acknowledging their kinship with the Papago, recognized the river gave them a level of affluence not enjoyed by their relatives or any other tribe in the region. They understood that Akimel O’otham not only meant “River People” but also implied they were “the resource-rich elite.”44 Lacking the resources of their kin, the Papago annually trekked to the Pima villages to work in the harvest and trade Spanish goods and items lacking among the Pima—such as salt—for agricultural goods. While many Pima and Papago families were related through the economic reciprocity of the tribes, the Pima exerted a level of economic authority over their southern relatives through trade.45 Beginning in the late seventeenth century and continuing into the nineteenth, the Pima exhibited a pattern of continual ecologic and economic adaptation to their environment. Combined with an affinity for improving their standard of living, the Pima demonstrated propitious agricultural production. An agriculture-based economy ensured a dependable food supply, manifesting itself in a confident, affable outlook. Such was the entrepreneurial spirit of the Pima that they maintained a thriving trade with Indian, Spanish, Mexican and, later, American communities. Astute traders and possessing an extensive and fertile tract of land along the middle Gila River, the Pima adapted to new means of economic activity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and in the process became a materially “wealthy” people.46 44 Amadeo M. Rea, At the Desert’s Green Edge: An Ethnobotany of the Gila River Pima (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1997), p. 9. Rea notes the Pima applied the term “Tohono” to a collection of “dialectical groups living without permanent water resources.” This included the Papago, although most pitied by the Pima were the Sand Papago (Hia Ced), whose desert and coastal foraging was both seasonal and difficult.

45 Lloyd Allison, The White Man’s Friend (Tucson: University of Arizona Special Collections, 1974), pp. 9-15. See also George Webb, A Pima Remembers (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1959), pp. 64-67. Paul H. Ezell, “The Hispanic Acculturation of the Gila River Pimas,” in American Anthropologist, Memoir 90 (The American Anthropological Association, 63:5, part 2, October 1961), p. 22.

46 Nathaniel Michler, “From the 111th Meridian of Longitude to the Pacific Ocean,” in William H. Emory, “Report on the United States and Mexican Boundary Survey,” vol. 1, part 1, House Executive Document 135, 34th Congress, 1st Session (Washington, DC: A.

O. P. Nicholson, Printer, 1857), p. 117. For a description of Pima trade see Russell, pp. 93-94.

41 When Kino first visited the Pima villages, he was quick to point out the extent and quality of cultivated and natural Pima food stores. The Pima grew a variety of food crops and enjoyed a supply of fish from the river. Kino observed the Maricopa (Kaveltcadom), then living downstream of the Pima below the Gila bend, fishing with “nets and other tackle” and providing him with “so much and so very good fish” that he issued it as rations to the troops accompanying him “just as beef is given where it is plentiful.” The Pima likewise engaged in fishing as a source of food.47 The Pima’s propitious environment is made evident by the historical record. The Spanish and Mexicans reported no instances of famine in the middle Gila River Valley.

While there was episodic drought and the river periodically went subterranean along the middle Pima villages during the hot summer months, crops—cultivated or natural—never completely failed along the river. Other Piman groups to the south—including one living north of Tucson on the Santa Cruz River—occasionally experienced famine and, at such times, depended on their Gila River relatives for food. Juan Bautista de Anza Jr. noted in 1774 that many of the Piman people near Tucson moved north to join the Gila River Pima “on account of the great drought and the still greater famine which is experienced in it.”48 Agriculture dominated the Pima economy and corn, tepary beans, cotton and a variety of squashes served as staple food and fiber crops. Grown in sixty days, smalleared Pima corn required minimal amounts of water beyond its pre-planting irrigation 47 Kino’s Historical Memoir, 1:195-197; Anza’s California Expeditions: Opening a Land Route to California, 2:389; John Russell

Bartlett, Personal Narrative of Explorations and Incidents in Texas, New Mexico, California, Sonora, and Chihuahua (New York:

Appleton, 1854) 2:241-242, wrote the Salt River was the preferred fishing location due to its perennial nature, whereas the Gila was known to sink “underground in hot weather” west of La Encarnacion del Sutaquison. The Gila was long characterized as a shallow, narrow stream. Beyond its confluence with the Salt it increased in volume.

48 Anza’s California Expeditions: Opening a Land Route to California, 2:124.

42 and could be planted, cultivated and harvested three times a year. Its yield—while not extravagant—was ten to twelve bushels per acre.49 By 1680, Pima corn was traded as far as the New Mexican settlements near Santa Fe.

While engaged in trade, the Pima did not grow food as a commercial crop, instead growing sufficient crops for subsistence, limited trading purposes and seed for the following season’s crop. Their incorporation of Spanish wheat altered this pattern and served as the basis for Pima prosperity in the latter eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Planted in the fall and harvested in late spring when winter stores were at their lowest, wheat was a complementary crop planted off-season from the traditional crops of corn, beans and squash. Since it could be stored long periods, wheat provided the people with a balanced food supply and insured a stable economy. While it did not immediately modify their economy, within decades it would join corn as a principle Pima crop. By 1744, Jesuit priest Jacobo Sedelmayr specifically observed the cultivation of wheat at Sutaquison, the largest Pima village.50 Wheat modified the Pima economy in a variety of ways, including expansion of the Pima irrigation system. Kino, observing abandoned Hohokam canals at Casa Grande and chronicling Pima agricultural production, never specifically mentioned irrigation farming on the Gila River in any of his journals. While not mentioned, this does not mean the Pima were ignorant of irrigation canals or did not use them. As descendants of the Hohokam, it is highly likely they were engaged in some level of irrigated agriculture.





–  –  –

Captain Juan Mateo Manje, accompanying Kino to the villages in 1699, noted irrigation canals in use among the Sobaipuris along the San Pedro River just weeks before arriving among the Gila River Pima. Manje opined if Spain were to establish missions near the Gila River, irrigation farming was possible, suggesting irrigation canals could be (or perhaps already were) extended away from the river. While the Pima utilized irrigation prior to the introduction of wheat, there may have been little need or economic incentive for them to irrigate away from the river since the fields planted in the floodplains and on the islands within the Gila sufficiently provided for their needs.51 By the 1740s, the Pima were growing a surplus of cultivated foods. So extensive were these crops that their relatives the Papago began assisting them with the harvest in return for a share of the crop. While there was a limited supply of food crops to trade, grain was bartered in Tucson in time of famine on the upper reaches of the Santa Cruz River. Pima wheat was cultivated and irrigated “on either bank of the river and on the islands.” The Pima grew large quantities of crops by means of “trenches which, the country being level, are easily carried from the Gila.” By the mid seventeenth century Pima lands were “fruitful and suitable for wheat, Indian corn, etc.” Such was their cotton production that their Sonoran neighbors coveted their excess.52 Adaptation to wheat shifted the economic focus of the Pima. Once bartering simple manufactured goods, such as cotton blankets, woven baskets and pottery, by the latter eighteenth century the Pima were exporting limited agricultural commodities and

–  –  –

moving towards a quasi-commercial economy. While they made their own woven and cotton blankets, trade with Spanish settlements or Indian middlemen allowed access to both bayeta (flannel) and sayal (woolen) cloth. The integration of wheat into their economy enabled them to improve their standard of living and acquire new technology, such as metal tools. Having always used the river to their advantage, the Pima now combined their agricultural expertise and the Gila River with a new crop—wheat—to expand trade networks. Fray Juan Diaz noted the Pima were well dressed and gave as reason their superior agricultural production and trade networks with Spanish and Indian communities to the south.53 By the waning years of the eighteenth century, the Pima were well on the road to economic prosperity. Passing through Uturituc in the spring of 1774, Anza described “fields of wheat … so large that, standing in the middle of them, one cannot see the ends, because of their length. They are very wide, too, embracing the whole width of the valley on both sides [of the river].” Pima cornfields were “of similar proportions.” A day earlier, Anza traveled through the village of Sutaquison and described fields planted with “sixty to eighty fanegas of wheat, marvelously fine and about ready to harvest.” This particular field was “the smallest one they have.” Even Diaz admired how each village planted large fields of wheat, corn and other crops, despite the drought and famine plaguing other Piman tribes further south. 54

–  –  –

The Pima villages were not immune to the periodic drought that could grip the Sonoran Desert. Franciscan priest Pedro Font, traveling with Anza in the fall of 1775, observed the lack of rain affected the Pima as well. While they were not without food, Font noted that “only in the time of floods is [the river] useful for the grain fields and corn fields of the Indians.” Pima crops required “much water” to ensure a bountiful harvest. Garcés, traveling with Anza and Font, was more patronizing, noting that in spite of drought conditions, the Pima still “raise large crops of wheat, some of corn, cotton, calabashes, etc.” To raise such crops the Pima “constructed good irrigating canals, surrounding the fields in one circuit common (to all) and divided (are) those of different owners by particular circuits.”55 The Pima also modified their mode of agriculture in the latter eighteenth century.

Irrigation canals were extended to lands on the south bank of the river and log and brush dams—probably used for centuries to direct water—were increased in size and used to elevate the water and insure a sufficient head to reach fields farther from the river. The people of Uturituc, for instance, fastened together “many logs in the middle of the river” and then used brush to raise the water into long canals that watered individual fields.

Intensive agriculture meant fields were flooded before planting, with the entire flow of the river “drained off.” Tail waters were returned to the river to be used by the next 55 Anza’s California Expeditions: Font’s Complete Diary, 4:34, and 45. Elliot Coues, ed. On the Trail of a Spanish Pioneer; the diary and itinerary of Francisco Garcés in his travels through Sonora, Arizona, and California, 1775-1776 (New York: F.P. Harper, 1900) pp. 107-108. Anza’s California Expeditions: The San Francisco Colony, 3:19. This observation was made near Sutaquison. The river would have been low due to its seasonal fluctuations. Winter rains and spring snow runoff in the upper Gila watershed would increase the flow across the middle Gila. Late spring and early summer represent the driest months.

46 village downstream. Increased and widespread flood irrigation helped flush the salts out of the soil and keep the land productive.56 The Pima continued to adapt to their environment. In areas south of the Gila, and where the Gila flowed beneath the surface, they dug wells. Garcés noted a large well south of the Pima village of Pitac and thirty miles further south found several more at the Papago village of Pozos Salados. Pima farmers also constructed fences around their irrigated lands. Font described farms that were “fenced in with poles and laid off in divisions.” Garcés reported fence building as a communal event, noting individual Pima farmers had “their lands within divided” into rectangles about two hundred by three hundred feet for “convenience of irrigating.”57 In addition to enjoying the fruit of their agricultural endeavors, the Pima enjoyed the benefits of a thick riparian canopy along the river. Kino described “pleasant” and “very large cottonwood groves” lining both banks of the Gila River west of Casa Grande (Ruins). Sedelmayr wrote that “willow and cottonwood” lined the river. Even Font described the Gila as one “continuous cottonwood grove.” A lush riparian canopy that included a dense forest of mesquite in the flood plain attracted a variety of fish, fowl and fauna, all of which added to the quality of life among the Pima.58 56 Robert A. Hackenberg, “Pima and Papago Ecological Adaptations,” in Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 10, Alfonso Ortiz, ed. (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institute, 1983), p. 169-170. Anza’s California Expeditions: An Outpost of Empire, 1:263;

Anza’s California Expeditions: Font’s Complete Diary, 4:44; William H. Emory, “Notes of a Military Reconnaissance from Fort Leavenworth, in Missouri, to San Diego, in California, including Parts of the Arkansas, del Norte, and Gila Rivers made in 1846 House Executive Document 41, 30th Congress 1st Session (Washington, DC: Wendell Van Benthuysen, 1848), p. 85; Russell, p.

87.

57 Anza’s California Expeditions: Opening a Land Route to California, 2:390. Anza’s California Expeditions: Font’s Complete Diary, 4:43; Ezell, pp. 39, 104; House Executive Document 41, p. 83.



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