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Field Division of Education
Material Culture of the Pima, Papago, and Western Apache
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The Pima and Papago are clearly demarked, although friendly and allied peoples. An early group, the Sobaipuris, are sometimes classified as Papago (Hodge, 1895, 231), but Bolton's classification of them as Pimas is more likely to be correct. (Bolton, 1919). The Sobaipuris have disappeared, merging at an early date with Pima and Papago under the joint impact of the missions and Apache raids. The present location of the Pima and Papago is much what it was at the time of the first missions, although villages have shifted location somewhat.

The Pimas and Sobaipuris occupied originally the valley of the San Pedro from about the location of modern Tombstone to the Gila river, the valley of the Santa Cruz to Red Rock, and the Gila valley from Casa Grande to Gila Crossing. This appears as the situation about 1700. In 1775 the situation on the Gila was about the same, but the Sobaipuris are recorded by Hodge as leaving their homes in 1762. In 1850 the Pima lived on the Gila about Sacaton and on the Santa Cruz in the vicinity of Tucson and Red Rock with a division south or southeast of San Xavier mission which were called Dog Pima and spoke a slightly different dialect. The Papago seem to have always occupied more or less their modern locations with a division known as the Sand Papago living a non-agriculutural (?) life in the northeastern corner of Sonora and in contact with the Cocona.

There exists no map of modern Pima and Papago settlements in accessible sources. The agencies or the Bureau of Indian Affairs should have such maps, however. Russell (1908, 20-23) gives lists of modern Pima towns but no map. Kissell gives a list of towns visited but this is admittedly not complete. Hodge (1910, 2;253) gives a list of Pima and Papago villages.

The Apache are said by some not to have been in southern Arizona in the 16th century. (Hodge, 1895, 230.) This argument is based largely on the failure of the accounts of the Coronado expedition to mention them. Later Spanish nomenclatures are confused and make different bands hard to identify. The Yavapai were sometimes classed as Apache as late as the end of the 19th century.

About 1850 there was clear identification of Chiricahua, San Carlos, White Mountain, and Tonto Apache, although some of these were made up of several independent bands. Spier indicates the location of White Mountain, San Carlos, and Tonto bands according to Maricopa informants for about that date. Other Apache were known to live to the south of them but were not identified.

The modern identifications of the Apache bands are as follows:

Chiricahua, headwaters of the Gila River. Four almost independent bands, each with a chief.

San Carlos, San Carlos River, Gila River near the mouth of the San Carlos, Arivaipa Creek, and the region west of Globe.

White Mountain or Coyotero, on the White River, a tributary of the Salt River.

Tonto, Tonto Basin at the head of Tonto Creek. All these divisions have had varied designations and the bands comprising them have also had different names applied to them. There were no permanent villages and only these general ranges may be indicated for them.

The modern location of the western Apache is on the White Mountain and San Carlos reservations. (1)

Museum Displays

Recommended is a general regional tribal map to show early tribal locations and village sites. This may be fairly adequately compiled from Bolton, 1919b; Goddard, 1913; 14; and Spier, 1933, Fig. 1, page 5. Unless the Bureau of Indian Affairs can supply a map showing modern village sites, a map of the reservations will have to suffice. There is no point in showing village sites for the modern Apache as they had no permanent village sites aboriginally.


There are no reliable figures except possibly those in the 1910 or later census. The best estimate is probably that of Dixon (1915) based on the 1910 census. Powell (1891; 56) estimates the western Apache as 3,041. Gaillard (1894; 293) estimates the Papago in the United States at between two and five thousand with an equal number in Sonora. He quotes the 1890 census as 5,113, but obviously does not think the figures reliable. Hodge, (1910, 1:66, 2:253) gives 2,058 at White Mountain reservation, 2,275 at San Carlos of mixed bands in 1903, and quotes Garces estimate of the Gila Pima at 2500. Hodge gives the Pimas in 1906 as 3,936 but this probably includes the Maricopa on the Gila reservation.

Museum Display

If reliable modern figures can be secured, they might possibly be appended to the map of tribal distributions. While not an important point, the question is apt to be asked by visitors.


The Pima anciently lived along water courses such as the San Pedro, Santa Cruz, Aravaipa, and Gila. The typical environment is the stream bottom with thick mesquite groves and flat, irrigable lands. The Papago lived in a more desert environment, depending upon more or less permanent springs and water holes for the location of their regular residences and upon the scanty rainfall for quick growing crops in favorable locations. Their habitat is generally more upland in character, marked by large cactus forests and the mescal producing mountains.

The Apache were roving in disposition. Their habitat is higher and more mountainous, ranging up into pine forests where they usually spent the winter, the abundant wood supply off-setting the colder climate. Their range is not desert in the sense of that of the Pima and particularly the Papago.

Museum Display

There need be little habitat or environmental display inside the museum unless it be pictures or an outside ethno-botanical garden. Tumacacori is in typical Pima environment with typical Papago country on either side of the valley. Visitors can hardly avoid seeing this environment, although its relation to human occupation may have to be pointed out to them. Apache environment may require more illustration. Pictures can be secured from the Bureau of American Ethnology and other sources. Several good Papago pictures are shown by Densmore (1929, Plates 2a, 2b, 3, and 5. See also Dorsey, 1903; Goddard, 1913. For good plates of typical vegetation see Russell, 1908, plates 1, 7-12, 21, 41.) Most of the necessary pictures can no doubt be secured locally, however.

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Last Modified: Mon, Dec 24 2001 10:00:00 am PDT