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58 Kino’s Historical Memoirs, 1:171-172, 197; Carl Hayden, “A History of the Pima Indians and the San Carlos Irrigation Project,” Senate Document 11, 89th Congress, 1st Session (Washington, DC: GPO, 1965), pp. 8, 10; Sedelmayr, pp. 23-24; Anza’s California Expeditions: Opening a Land Route to California, 2:303; Anza’s California Expeditions: The San Francisco Colony 3:13; On the Trail of a Spanish Pioneer, pp. 108-109.
47 Year-around crops, intensive cultivation and trade supported Pima affluence in well-built villages. Sutaquison, the principle Pima village and seat of government, occupied “a pleasant, abundantly tree-covered country fourteen miles long and irrigated by aqueducts.” The Pima employed all the agricultural “advantages offered them by the Gila River” and hosted annual trade fairs with residents of Tucson, Tubac and other villages along the Santa Cruz River between the 1820s and 1840s. 59 The agricultural skill and a natural enmity with the Apache made the Pima geopolitically important to Spain. If Spain were to maintain its California settlements— then connected to New Spain via maritime communication lines—they had to be tethered to the towns of Sonora and New Mexico. A desired land route to California put the Pima villages in the middle of Spain’s route to the west. If Russian, English and French influences were to be contained, the Gila River had to be under the tacit—if not outright—control of Spain. This could only be accomplished through Pima fidelity to the Crown.
The Pima were not passive as Spain made its inroads into the Pimeria Alta. They clearly perceived Spain as an ally against their traditional enemy the Apache. From Spain the Pima could acquire new technology such as horses, metal tools, guns and new crops that might give them an edge in expanding their own sphere of influence. An alliance would ensure preferential treatment and a continual supply of new ideas and technologies. In this respect, Spain served as both a social resource and a military ally. A reciprocal relationship would aid Spain in establishing political hegemony over other
colonial nations and allow the Pima to exercise a level of economic supremacy over related tribes in the region.
In the process of extending and protecting its northern frontier, Spain encouraged the Pima to concentrate their villages along the middle Gila River. Pima rancherias were thinly dispersed along the river and although permanent, they moved periodically. A moist eighteenth century encouraged the Pima to increase their production of crops and extend their politically autonomous villages along the middle Gila.60 While agricultural lands were more compact along the river and adjacent to the villages, the Pima utilized the lowlands of the Gila, Salt and Santa Cruz rivers. West of El Picacho, Pima (ethnically Koahadk) villages engaged in ak chin, or floodwater farming.
The Sobaipuris farmed the San Pedro River Valley and bartered corn for “hatchets, cloth, sackcloth, blankets, chomite, knives, etc.,” from colonists in New Mexico. Cultural adaptations encouraged by the introduction of wheat and the horse, and continued Apache raids fostered the concentration of villages throughout the eighteenth century.61 While the Pima population slowly increased over the latter part of the eighteenth century, it benefited from the depopulation of other Piman tribes to the south and their settlement along the Gila.62 The Sobaipuris villages, for instances, had “broken up” due to Apache harassment and when Jesuit missions in Arizona faced a crisis of survival due to Indian depredations, the Catholic Church sought to strengthen its missions in the Santa 60 Manje, p. 196.
61 Bolton, Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, 1542-1706 (New York: Scribner’s Son, 1916), p. 453.
62 Kino’s Historical Memoir, 1:186, 206; Ezell, p. 17. The introduction of European diseases such as smallpox and measles, which spread in advance of contact, diminished the Pima population, although there are scant references to illness among the Gila River Pima. Manje, p. 273, notes that the Pimeria Alta in general had diminished in Indian population due to disease but does not give any evidence of epidemics among the Gila Pima. There were an estimated twenty-two hundred to three thousand Pima at the turn of the seventeenth century.
49 Cruz Valley by using military force to consolidate the remaining Sobaipuris villages with those of the San Xavier Papago and other Piman villages on the Santa Cruz River north of Tucson. Within two years, the San Pedro Valley was abandoned. The villages along the Santa Cruz River north of Tucson eventually faced a similar fate, adding to the Pima population.63 Pima agriculture handsomely rewarded the villages with an ample supply of food, but also attracted Apache raids, precipitating the concentration of most Pima villages in the area of Sutaquison.64 Here a fertile floodplain four miles wide and continually restored by the flooding of the Gila River enabled the Pima to farm the river terraces.
While centered in Sutaquison, the villages—made up of related families—were concentrated in three large rancherias some thirty miles in length with political authority in the hands of village leaders. Increasingly, tribal leaders were provided Spanish canes of office to exercise increased authority.65 Apache raids increased in frequency as horses allowed them to quickly raid the agrarian and sedentary Pima. In April of 1780, they dealt the Pima one of their most disastrous assaults. Disguised as Spanish soldiers, the Apache descended on a party of Pima, killing or capturing one hundred twenty. To better protect themselves from such attacks, the Pima moved their villages to open country away from the river. As raids intensified, other villages withdrew to the south bank of the Gila to higher and more strategic environs. Smaller villages and rancherias pulled closer together to create a 63 Russell, pp. 186-187; Rea, p. 49; Rim of Christendom, p. 247; James E. Officer, Hispanic Arizona, 1536-1856 (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1987), p. 40.
64 Ruth Underhill, “Pima Government,” U.S. Indian Service, 1936, pp. 1-7, in University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research, mss. 289 BC, Box 18, Folder 13.
65 Paul H. Ezell with Bernard L. Fontana, “Plants without Water: The Pima-Maricopa Experience,” Journal of the Southwest (36:4, Winter 1994), p. 324.
50 “metropolis form of settlement.” Villages were now surrounded by irrigation canals and agricultural fields.66 Apache raids encouraged concentration of the villages, although ecologic and economic adaptations to wheat and increased trade supported it. As Pima agriculture intensified, production increased. Rising production enlarged trade networks and modified settlement patterns. By the nineteenth century the Gila River was used by the Pima to sustain a thriving agriculture-intensive economy.
While the stated goal of its intercourse with the Pima was “the progress of our holy Faith and the spiritual benefits” of Christianity, the driving force of Spain’s activity was economics. Since Marcos de Niza’s tales of the cities of gold, Spain hungered for the mineral wealth of the frontier. Nomadic and militarily powerful, the Apaches controlled the exploration and development of these mountain resources. To accomplish its objective of mineral exploitation, Spain needed an ally to extend its frontier; the Pima, desirous of maintaining its preferential treatment from Spain, also needed an ally. Such an alliance for Spain might extend the rim of Christendom and open up more of the wealth of the northern and northeastern mountains. The concurrence of the Pima “as a means … of securing the conversion of the other tribes” was viewed as essential since the Pima administered the gateway to the north.67 Conversion of the Pima to Christianity would extend the Spanish frontier to the Gila River, giving Spain “an advantage over (other) European nations” in maintaining its claims to the interior west. Kino saw Spanish influence over the Pima and Hopi as a means of opening “communications with New France” as it made its own “apostolic journeys from east to west.” Sedelmayr, aware of growing French influence in the Mississippi River Valley, eyed the Gila and Colorado River frontiers as one means of stemming French hegemony in the Mountain west.68 67 Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, p. 451; Sedelmayr, p. 27. North of the Gila River were the Hualapai, Havasupai, Southern Paiutes, Yavapai and Hopi. To the south the Tohono O’odham controlled their lands and to the east the Apache controlled most of southeastern Arizona as well as parts of New Mexico and Sonora. Manje, p. 2; Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, p. 453;
Sedelmayr, pp. 32, 34-35. The Jesuits moved north from Mexico into the Santa Cruz and San Pedro River valleys and it was they who desired to continue north to the Hopi villages. The Franciscan priests in New Mexico, while driven from the field in 1680, returned in 1692 and desired to move west to the Hopi villages, which remained closed to Spanish incursions.
68 Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, p. 454; Sedelmayr, pp. 34-35.
52 Bringing the Pima villages under the influence of the Church would also aid Spain in its immediate objective of establishing a presidio on the upper Gila River.
Combined with presidios in Terrenate (on the San Pedro River), Janos (Chihuahua), El Paso (on the Rio Grande) and in New Mexico, Spain assumed the Apache would have little choice but to confine their attacks on “the heathen [tribes] of the north,” rather than on the Spanish and Indian settlements to the south. This in turn would open up new “districts, ranches, haciendas, and mines of good quality” to Spanish settlement. Should the country be settled, Sedelmayr opined, “God would reward the royal largess for all disbursement with this additional allurement of mines of gold and silver.”69 During the final years of Spanish administration, there was limited commerce between Spain and the Pima. Diego Bringas, traveling north from Sonora to resolve internal disputes among the Franciscan priests laboring in the Pimeria, visited the Pima villages in 1796-1797 seeking—unsuccessfully—to persuade the Crown to authorize missions on the Gila. Reminding the Crown that providence had placed the Pima “at the doors of a large gentile population so that, blessed by religion and the rule of His Majesty, they might give to those barbarous peoples proofs which are unmistakable that they, too, may share in this happiness [Christianity] by following their example,” Bringas boasted a road from Tucson to the villages could easily be constructed to tie the missions with those to the south. “If you wish to consider [crops] which can be grown there,” the Franciscan explained, “every species of grain, tree and legume would do well because of the mild climate and even temperature.” Pima fidelity and the Gila River provided Spain
with the ingredients to establish missions; monarchial authorization alone could provide the necessary means.70 A deepening political crisis on the Spanish home front and on its colonial northern frontier interrupted both the ecclesiastical and economic objectives of the Crown. In the closing decades of the eighteenth century disputes over the limited water supplies in the Santa Cruz Valley north of Tucson surfaced. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, political dissension between the church and military (which was blamed for inciting Apache raids) added to the growing crisis and ended all prospects for establishing a mission in the Pima villages. Political infighting and Napoleonic events in Europe turned the Crown’s attention to more pressing matters. The drive for Mexican independence mounted and by 1821 was complete.71 Mexican independence had little impact on the Pima. While Spain never conferred citizenship on the Indians, the Mexican constitution did, no longer recognizing colonial social distinctions. This meant the legal status of “Indian” was no longer recognized. Distant from the center of Mexican administration—both in Federal District of Mexico City and in the provincial capital of Hermosillo—the social experiment had no impact on the Pima. The arrival of Americans, however, did. While Americans were prohibited from entering the country under Spanish rule, Mexican law was relaxed and hundreds of American mountain men descended on the Gila River and its tributaries. The 70 Bringas, p. 90.
71 While a treaty between the Pima along the Santa Cruz River and the Spaniards allotted the former three-fourths and the latter onefourth of the available water from a spring northwest of Tucson, it was apparently not enforced. See Officer, p. 348 note 57. The actual treaty document has never been located. Some priests in the Pimeria Alta grew increasingly cynical of the military. In 1799, the priest at Hermosillo accused the military of inciting Apache uprisings to “increase the dependency of the settlers and sedentary Indians” on the military and to deny the opportunity of “carrying the gospel” to the Pima. Ibid, p. 74. Alexander Von Humboldt, Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, translated by John Black (New York: AMS Press, reprinted 1966 from the original 1811 London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown edition), pp. 206-207.