November is National Native American Heritage Month. There are various links listed in the references below.
I would like to focus on the Pima or “River People” and the Maricopa or “people who live toward the water”. The water referenced in their names is the Salt and Gila Rivers of Southwest Arizona, USA.
“Pima” means “River People,” and for over two thousand years the Pima has lived by the Gila River as successful and peaceful farmers. Before the time of Christ, they had organized an extensive network of irrigation canals to bring water to their crops. Excavations have identified over five hundred miles of canals built by the year 300 B.C.” page 39, Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley
“The Pima believe they are the descendants of the “Hohokam,” (those who have gone) an ancient civilization who lived in Arizona nearly two thousand years, dating as far back as 300BC. The Hohokam farmed the Salt River Valley and created elaborate canal irrigation systems throughout the valley area; that system, now modernized is still used today…The Pima and Maricopa tribes together, comprise the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.” http://www.srpmic-nsn.gov/history_culture/
In the Pima Past by Anne Moore Shaw:
“Sometime in the 1700’s the Maricopas fought with the other Colorado River tribes. They kept moving eastward until the middle of the nineteenth century, when they settled with the peaceful Pimas along the Gila. But the Yumas of the Colorado River region still bore a grudge against the Maricopas. They came to Pima land to attack their old enemies in 1857. Unfortunately for them, they had not counted on the valor of the Maricopas’new allies. The Pimas and Maricopas thoroughly vanquished the Yumas, leaving almost no survivors.
“After the battle, a group of Maricopas came to Pima Chief Antonio Azul and requested a small piece of land on which to build their homes. The chief went into consultation with his counselors and sub-chiefs. It was agreed that the Maricopas could live two miles west on the Sacaton Agency. But they had to promise to help the Pimas in the wars with the Apaches and other enemy tribes. Since then the Pimas and the Maricopas have been loyal allies, friends and neighbors. They still live side by side.” http://www.srpmic-nsn.gov/history_culture/pimapast.asp
“The symbol of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Community is the Man in Maze, an apt design for an Indian Community caught in the web of a burgeoning metropolitan pressures. The legend, which is taught to all Pima-Maricopa children, depicts the experiences which occur during the journey through the maze of life. While negative events happen, children are told that, ultimately, each person can discover a physical, mental, social and spiritual balance.
“At the center of the maze are one’s dreams and goals. When one reaches the center, the legend describes that each person is met by the Sun God who blesses and greets us and passes us on to the next world.”
The Pima helped the US Calvary in the late 1800s. Over the decades many of them have served with honors in the US Military.
One such individual was Corporal Ira Haynes, US Marine Corps, who with fellow marines and a navy chap helped raised the US Flag over Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945. President Roosevelt called these men “immortal heroes”.
The Native Americans deserve our respect and thanks a thousand times over. To remember them and their heritage is our privilege and their natural right as the First Peoples of this continent.
River People, US Indian Bureau film, Pima Indians of AZ, CA (1948)
G. D. Williams © 2015
THE RIVER PEOPLE
The word Pima is a corruption of pimate, meaning, “I
don’t understand,” which was probably this people’s response to the
questions of the Spanish soldiers who explored the Southwest in the 16th
century. Even into the 20th century the Pima hunted and fished, raised
corn, beans, squash and cotton. Many Anglo settlers passing through the
Gila River watershed remarked on the generosity of the Pima and on the
beauty of their children. One American soldier, saved from starvation by
the tribe in 1846, wrote, “They are a noble race.”
But one terrible day in 1928, the river that had sustained the Pima
for generations beyond memory suddenly stopped flowing through their
land, its water diverted upstream by the Coolidge Dam. The Pimas’ days of
hunting and farming were largely over, and their days of dependency and
disease were about to begin. Instead of tilling their fields, they lined
up for government handouts of bread, cheese and bologna.
PIMA CULTURE AND HISTORY
Please note that Pimas and other American Indians are living people with a present and a future as well as a past. Pima history is interesting and important, but the Pima Indians are still here today, too, and we try to feature modern writers as well as traditional folklore, contemporary art as well as museum pieces, and issues and struggles of today as well as the tragedies of yesterday.
Native American Heritage Month
The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans.
First Nations Development Institute
We believe that when armed with the appropriate resources, Native Peoples hold the capacity and ingenuity to ensure the sustainable, economic, spiritual and cultural well-being of their communities.
National Congress of American Indians
The month is a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. Heritage Month is also an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes, to raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges.
On Dec. 14, 1915, Red Fox James, a Blackfeet Indian, presented at the White House endorsements from 24 state governments for a day to honor Indians. But the federal government didn’t take action until 1983, when President Ronald Reagan proclaimed May 13 as American Indian Day. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed a joint congressional resolution designating November as National American Indian Heritage Month. It is now called National Native American Heritage Month
Our work supports Indian self-determination because it helps to ensure that the tribes have a strong voice in shaping the federal policies that directly impact their ability to govern themselves and to provide for the safety, education and economic security of their citizens. We provide services directly, or through contracts, grants or compacts, to 565 federally recognized tribes with a combined service population of approximately 1.9 million American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Native American Poems and Prayers
Native American Poetry and Culture
Joy Harjo writes, “The literature of the aboriginal people of North America defines America. It is not exotic. The concerns are particular, yet often universal.” The poets and poems gathered here showcase the universal and the particular approaches Native American authors have taken to writing about diverse, indigenous cultures.
Flags of Our Fathers James Bradley with Ron Powers
Bantam Book / May 2000