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Field Division of Education
Material Culture of the Pima, Papago, and Western Apache
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Pima-Papago war bows are made of mulberry wood obtained in the Pinal and Superstition mountain, often reinforced with bands of sinew wrapped about the weak points. The curve was usually gracefully compound. The string was two-strand sinew. The arrow release was primary. (Russell, 1908, 95; plates 7, b, 13, a.)

Arrows are ordinarily made from the straight stem of the arrowweed. They are supposed to be cut the length from the tip of the forefinger to the nipple of the breast of the maker. War arrows have three feathers. All arrows and bows are sometimes stained with the blood of a jackrabbit and war arrows may be dyed with cochineal insects taken from the opuntia cacti. Only war arrows have stone heads, fastened on with sinew which is carried about 2 cms. down the shaft. Most of the arrow heads are found in the ruins but a few are made. They are quite small, from 1-1/2 to 2 cms. in length, usually without tangs. The quiver is of wildcat skin. (Russell, 1908, 96; 110; plates 13, c, d.)

An important old weapon was the war club of "potato masher" style, the handle end having a sharp point, the head being an inverted truncated cone, flat across the end. Pima use is not described but it may have been brought down with a smashing blow or rammed upward into the face of the enemy (Maricopa and Mohave methods). In battle a portion of the men fought with this club and a shield alone. Another weapon was a short sharpened stick serving as a lance, but this is considered to be a recent borrowing from the Yuma. (Russell, 1908, 96; Spier, 1933, 135-6; 171.)

Round rawhide shields were carried by those who fought with clubs. They are about 49 cms. in diameter (only one old specimen is known) with a cottonwood handle in the center and a loop of rawhide by which they could be slung around the neck. The front was painted in various designs. (Russell, 1908, 120-122.)

The Pimas apparently did most of their fighting with the Apache, although they occasionally aided the neighboring Maricopa against their Yuma, Mohave, and Yavapai enemies. The Apache constantly harrassed the Pima villages, necessitating an almost continual guard. In the most dangerous seasons sentinels were posted day and night. At the height of the Apache wars with the Pima in the middle and early 19th century, small parties would prowl around the villages every three or four days, stealing livestock and killing stragglers, while once a month or oftener a larger party would attack the villages. As a general thing part of the Pima war party was armed only with shield and club. Those with bows and arrows fought on horseback after the Pimas acquired sufficient animals. Various magical recitatives were performed in advance and during a planned war party or raid into Apache territory.

Warriors killed on such raids were usually burned rather than given the customary burial and in any case the bow and arrows of the warrior were broken and left where he had been killed.

On their return to the village, anyone who had killed an enemy went into seclusion for 16 days, observing various tabus, after which purification rites were performed. A victory dance was celebrated. The scalp was also purified and eventually made into a sort of fetish, wrapped in eagle down, tied with cotton string, and placed in a long medicine basket. The Papago also placed in the basket, a mud effigy, made by an old medicine man. The scalps were believed to warn off enemies, cause rain, etc.

The Pima and Papago both appeared to fight only the Apache on their own initiative. As stated, the Pima helped their Maricopa neighbors, but the Maricopa were the ones attacked or who took the initiative. The Pima played an important part in the last attack on the Maricopa by the Yuma and Mohave in 1857 in which only one Yuma survived. (Russell, 1908, 200-206; Densmore, 1929, 193-195; Parsons, 461.)

Hunting weapons differ. Bows are of osage orange or even willow. Hunting arrows are two feathered instead of three and do not have stone points. (Russell, 1908, 95-96.)

Slings were used by young men and boys as a weapon. They were of leather, a leather piece for holding the stone, and two leather strings. (Russell, 1908, 120.)

Apache ware weapons were the bow and arrow, spear, and war club. There appears no distinction between war and hunting arrows, except war arrows were poisoned by being thrust into a decomposed deer liver which had been bitten by a rattlesnake and mixed with crushed tarantulas and scorpions. The effectiveness was probably magical, although tetanus may have resulted from wounds by such arrows. Bows were from four to five feet in length, backed with sinew to produce the so-called Turkish bow. The arrows were a reed-like shaft with a hardwood fore-shaft to which was attached a point of flint, obsidian, or chalcedony, using sinew and mesquite gum. The arrow point was usually notched to receive the sinew wrapping. (Hoffman, 1896, 284, method of attachment.) The making of Apache arrowpoints was unusual in that two men worked together, one holding the point and the awl or punch, the other striking the blow by which the flake was detached.

The club of the Apache was quite different from that of the Pima-Papago, being an oval stone encased in rawhide with a handle attached. The spear was a long wooden shaft to which was attached an iron point with skin of a cow tail (this of course, is post-Spanish.) (Dorsey, 1903, 186; Hoffman, 1896, 284; Fowke, 1896, 140.)

The Apache had a variety of ceremonies connected with war which have not been described in detail. On his first four war parties a Chiricahua young man must not scratch himself except with a special stick and must drink water only through a tube. (Bourke, 1892, 490; 494.)

The Apache, particularly after the introduction of horses, became parasitical nomadic raiders who lived largely by warfare. They raided far into Mexico, and also attacked Pima, Papago, Hopi, Zuni, and Navaho, the latter dating raids back in the early 18th century (Mindeleff, 1891, 35; 86.) That Hopi tradition goes back no further suggests again a late date for the Apaches in Arizona.

Museum Display

Part of a case should be devoted to a display of weapons, although little interest can attach to them without pictures of use. The contrast between hunting and war arrows can be shown in the Pima-Papago collections. The contrast between Apache bows and clubs and Pima-Papago bows and clubs is of interest. Unhafted arrow points and hafted arrows side by side will indicate technique. Possibly a small map showing the alignment of tribes in southern and western Arizona may be of interest in connection with weapons and warfare. The Pima, Papago, Maricopa (and their absorbed tribes, Halchidoma, Kveltchadom), Cocopa, and Kohuana were universally friendly and equally hostile toward the Yuma, Mohave, Yavapai, and western Apache. So far as I know there are no pictures of war scenes in this region. Spier, 1933, gives some vivid verbal descriptions of pitched battles between Yuma and Maricopa which might be used to reconstruct a scene.

Clothing and Ornament

Pima-Papago men wore a breechclout and, in cold weather, a cotton blanket or a deerskin shirt (no details known). When abroad on the trails the men wore red dyed moccasins of deerskin. The rabbit skin blanket is reported, apparently made as elsewhere. The cotton blanket was worn to come down to the knees, and might be converted by the men into what appeared to be a baggy pair of trousers by running a cord between the legs attached to a girdle about the waist. The women wore a sort of kilt hanging to below the knee and made of the shredded inner bark of the willow. It is attached to the girdle cord. Women also wrapped the cotton blanket around the waist, tucking in the end or wearing a belt or cord to support it. About the house both sexes wore sandals of raw hide fastened in an unusual manner. A thong passed between the first and second and the fourth and fifth toes, passing through a hole in the sole. The other direction the ends crossed over the instep and passed through holes in the heel plate at the side of the heel, thence doubling behind the heel two or three times. The heel plate was a strip of rawhide passing under the sole of the sandal and coming up through slits on each side of the heel. (Russell, 1908, 122, 157-8; plates 37, a, b, 36, b.)

Methods of adornment were concerned with the hair, tatooing, painting feathers and beads. Men wore the hair long. At twenty they began to braid it into skeins cut off square at the bottom. They were normally wound about the head and confined with a woven band or cord. The front hair was cut off squarely across the forehead. The ear locks were sometimes braided with ornaments of shell, bone, and, later, tin and scarlet cloth. Eyelashes and eyebrows were not touched but the scanty beard was plucked with tweezers.

Children's hair was "cut" with a coal whenever it reached the shoulders, the portion cut off being mixed with clay and plastered on the head a few hours to stimulate growth. Children must never touch their own hair after it was cut off.

Women banged their hair as did the men, over the forehead, but left the rest grow long and hang free, carefully combing it twice a day and bathing it about once a week, first plastering it the night before with mud and mesquite gum (which dyed it black).

Finger nails were bitten off and often invoveniently long.

Hairbrushes were made of the roots of Sacaton grass, or, modernly, fibers of Agave lechuguea or Yucca baccata, a bundle being bent over in the middle and bound with cord for some distance.

The face and often the body was painted. Ochers and other minerals were kept in bags of deerskin or cloth and mixed with grease before applying. Russell (1908) illustrates some of the face designs.

Tattooing was done with a needle made by wrapping two to four thorns from the prickly pear together with native cotton and sinew. Charcoal, powdered in water, was the coloring matter, burned from either willow or mesquite. Both men and women did the work, but women operators were thought more successful. The needles were dipped in the charcoal mixture and the face washed with it. Men were tattoed along the margin of the lower eyelid and in a horizontal line across the temples. Across the forehead passed a band made of wavy transverse lines or short vertical zig-zags. Occasionally a band was placed about the wrist.

Women had the line on the lower eyelid and two vertical lines on each side of the chin from the lip to the lower edge of the jaw, united at the top with a band across the lower lip which included the outer third of the muccus membrane.

Both sexes, but especially men, wore strands of beads suspended from ear lobes and necks. Beads and gorgets were disks cut from sea shells, stone, bone, (carved and decorated), small deer bones, and turquoise. Similar ornaments were worn by women on both wrists, and by men on the right wrist, the left having a protector against the bow sting made of soft coyote skin or rawhide. Persons of bravery pierced the nasal septum and wore a skewer of polished bone through it or suspended a turquoise or shell from it.

Men wore the soft breast feathers of the eagle, turkey, or other large birds in their hair. A special war headdress was made of eagle, hawk, or owl feathers and one is noted which contained the hair of a slain Apache as well. Contestants in the relay races wore a special hooked skewer in their hair. Women twined into their hair coronets of sunflowers or cornhusks. (Russell, 1908, 116-117; 118; 158-163; Culin, 1907, 673 (two poor photographs) 674 (two sketches).

Apache men's dress formerly consisted of a loin cloth and buckskin moccasins with a hard sole and upcurving toe. The best type have long soft uppers reaching to the thighs. They are sparingly decorated with painted designs and bead work. Elaborate beaded moccasins were made entirely for trade in modern times. Women wore the same moccasins as men. Men also wore a buckskin passing over one shoulder and tied under the opposite arm.

Women wore a ceremonial dress of a short buckskin shirt, open at the sides and reaching to the hips, with V-shaped openings at the neck. Beaded designs on this were usually in red, white, and black about the yoke. Below this was one or two rows of tin pendants. Buckskin shirts worn were very heavy with a long fringe about the upper portion and the bottom.

Men and women wore necklaces of many-colored beads, some in simple multiple designs, other worked into a band with designs. Women wore earrings with pendant strings of beads and both sexes wore bead bracelets.

Men wore the hair loose or in two double-over rolls at the back of the head. Women let it hang loose, cut to the length of the shoulders and banged over the forehead, unless they were unmarried. Then it was worn in an hour-glass shaped roll in a double loop at the back of the head, fastening over it a peculiar figure eight shaped piece of leather, ornamented with brass buttons. This was removed and usually destroyed at marriage. Two or more eagle feathers were attached by buckskin thongs to the hair of the men. (Dorsey, 1903, 183-185; Reagan, 289-290; Hrdlicka, 1905, 489-490; Mallery, 1893, 755; Goddard, 1913, 140.)

Minor Manufactures

The Pima-Papago make leather tobacco pouches of buckskin ornamented with vividly colored symbols of the sun and provided with rattles, usually of tin cylinders, attached to buckskin strings passing through holes in the edge of the pouch. A buckskin cord is attached to the top for suspension.

Tobacco smoking formerly was largely ritualistic in its significance. Cane cigarettes were originally made as offerings at various shrines. There was no tabu on boys smoking at an early age but it was discouraged. The usual reply to a boy's request for tabacco was, "I will give you tobacco when you kill a coyote." Apache tobacco pouches are very similar. (Russell, 1908, 118-119.)

Stone pipes were occasionally used, although apparently always taken from the ruins, never made. They are of the tubular type and are employed by doctors in sucking or blowing the bodies of the sick to expel disease and for other ceremonial usage. (Russell, 1908, 112.)


The Pima-Papago had a large number of games, most of them being widely distributed among neighboring tribes. Best known is perhaps the kicking ball races which were frequently inter-tribal, covering courses many miles in length. A variant of this was like our modern relay race. Many gambling games were played, the most common being that widely known in the Southwest under the name of Quince (Spanish name). (Russell, 1908, 171-181; Culin, 1907, Dice game, 146-152; hand game, 295-296; hidden ball, 335; 353-356; arrow game, 389; hoop and pole, 489; ring and pin, 551-552; shinny, 631; ball race, 670-675; double ball, 659-660; shuttle cock, 717; quoits, 724; Spanish games, 794; running races, 806; pictures on pp. 671; 673; 674.) The Apache games recorded are less numerous, probably because the descriptive material is poorer. Hoop and pole games were most important, and like many Indian games, had a ceremonial significance. Women were not permitted to see them. (Goddard, 1913, 164-5; Culin, 1907, dice, 86-91; archery, 385; hoop and pole, 429; 449-457; cat's cradle, 762, fig. 1034; pictures, 86, 89; Dorsey, 1903, 187.)

Musical Instruments

These were extremely simple. The Pima-Papago used flageolets of cane, basket drums made by turning any basket upside down and pounding with the hands or striking with a stick, notched sticks placed on a basket as a resonator, and various rattles. Except for the gourd rattle, the disk, belt, cocoon, and other rattles seem to be of recent Yaqui origin. Rattles of the dew claws of the deer were formerly used. (Russell, 1908, 166-170; Densmore, 1929, 3, various plates; Bartlett, 2:223 shows deer hoof rattle.)

The Apache use a flageolet, a one string violin (not a musical bow) of European origin, and a water drum, made in Bourke's time of an iron kettle partially filled with water and with a piece of well-soaped cloth drawn tightly over the opening. Formerly a pot of clay and a deer skin was undoubtedly used. The stick is a withe bent into a circle at one end and struck against the drum head with a side to side motion. (Bourke, 1892, 462; Hrdlicka, 1905, 488; Dorsey, 1903, 190.)

Ceremonial and Religious Regalia

Certain objects of ceremonial and religious usage may be referred to here as they afford possible museum materials. For the Pima these include eagle feather aspergers (two feathers tied to a stick and used to sprinkle water or exercise sickness), effigy figures of leather, wood, or feathers, prayer sticks (arrowweed sticks with feathers attached), ceremonial wands, and wooden masks (these are probably of Yaqui manufacture). The Papago make objects in certain ceremonies which are miniatures of all objects they desire in abundance and which depend on water for their existence. They use a bull-roarer made of two pieces of saguaro wood tied with a connecting string, the smaller piece of wood serving as a handle, gourd ceremonial masks, and canvas clown masks. (Russell, 1908, 187; 107, 123; 116; 106-107; 108; Densmore, 1929, 139; Mason, 1920, 16-18.)

Pima ceremonialism is not well described, Russell doing little more than list the objects employed. Papago material is somewhat better. (For sources see Densmore, 1929, 82 et. seq; 137 et. seq; Brown, 1906; Gaillard, 1894, 295 et. seq; Mason, 1920; Davis; Parsons, 1928; Yarrow, 1881, 98-99; Grossman; Kissell, 169-172.) These references include religious concepts, curing and magic, and all types of ceremonies. Curtis should have some material but has not been consulted in the preparation of this paper.

The Apache use the bull-roarer also, decorated with anthropomorphic or kachina-like figures. They make considerable use of color symbolism and have rather more clearly defined deities than the Pima-Papago. Of prime importance are medicine bundles, medicine hats, and medicine cords. Tule pollen is used much as the Pueblos use corn meal and sand altars are reported but not described. (The principal sources on the Apaches are Bourke, 1892, 1891a; Reagan, 301 et. seq; Hrdlicka, 1905, 489; 193.)

Museum Display

With the exception of weapons (dealt with above), little can be done in the way of vivifying this material without inordinate effort. Clothing will be well taken care of by models made for other displays, unless it is desired to have a special set of models for this purpose alone. Face paint designs and the use of various ornamental objects, may be shown. In the main the ceremonial paraphernalia is not spectacular in itself and unless it can be shown in use in a model of some phase of the ceremonies, it cannot be livened up to any extent. With some research it might be possible to reconstruct a curing scene or puberty dance. However, much of the ceremonial material is not illustrated or is inadequately illustrated, so many difficulties would intervene.

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