Mohave Tribe

Mohave Indians (from hamok ‘three’, avi ‘mountain’). The most populous and war like of the Yuman tribes. Since known to history they appear to have lived on both sides of the Rio Colorado, though chiefly on the east  side, between the Needles (whence their name is derived) and the entrance to Black Canyon. Ives, in 1857, found only a few scattered families in Cottonwood Valley, the bulk of their number being below Hardyville. In recent times a body of Chemehuevi have held the river between them and their kinsmen the Yuma. The Mohave are strong, athletic, and well developed, their women attractive; in fact, Ives characterized them as fine a people physically as any he had ever seen. They are famed for the artistic painting of their bodies. Tattooing was universal, but confined to small areas on the skin. According to Kroeber 1 their art in recent times consists chiefly of crude painted decorations on their pottery.

Though a river tribe, the Mohave made no canoes, but when necessary had recourse to rafts, or balsas, made of bundles of reeds. They had no large settlements, their dwellings being scattered. These were four-sided and low, with four supporting posts at the center. The walls, which were only 2 or 3 feet high, and the almost flat roof were formed of brush covered with sand. Their granaries were upright cylindrical structures with flat roofs. The Mohave hunted but little, their chief reliance for food being on the cultivated products of the soil, as corn, pumpkins, melons, beans, and a small amount of wheat, to which they added mesquite beans, mescrew, piñon nuts, and fish to a limited extent. They did not practice irrigation, but relied on the inundation of the bottom lands to supply the needed moisture, hence when there was no over-flow their crops failed. Articles of skin and bone were very little used, materials such as the inner bark of the willow, vegetable fiber, etc., taking their place. Pottery was manufactured. Baskets were in common use, but were obtained from other tribes.
According to Kroeber, “there is no full gentile system, but something closely akin to it, which may be called either an incipient or a decadent clan system. Certam men, and all their ancestors and descendants in the male line, have only one name for all their female relatives: Thus, if the female name hereditary in my family be Maha, my father’s sister, my own sisters, my daughters (no matter how great their number), and my son’s daughters, will all be called Maha. There are about twenty such women’s names, or virtual gentes, among the Mohave. None of these names seems to have any signification. But according to the myths of the tribe, certain numbers of men originally had, or were given, such names as Sun, Moon, Tobacco, Fire, Cloud, Coyote, Deer, Wind, Beaver, Owl, and others, which correspond exactly to totemic clan names; then these men were instructed by Mastamho, the chief mythological being, to call all their daughters and female descendants in the male line by certain names, corresponding to these clan names. Thus the male ancestors of all the women who at present bear the name Hipa, are believed to have been originally named Coyote. It is also said that all those with one name formerly lived in one area, and were all considered related. This, however, is not the case now, nor does it seem to have been so within recent historic times.” Bourke 2 has recorded some of these names, called by him gentes, and the totemic name to which each corresponds, as follows: Hualga (Moon), O-cha (Rain-cloud), Ma-ha (Caterpillar), Nol-cha (Sun), Hipa (Coyote) Va-had-ha (Tobacco), shul-ya (Beaver), Kot-ta (Mescal or Tobacco), Ti-hil-ya (Mescal), Vi-ma-ga (a green plant, not identified), Ku-mad-ha (Ocatilla or Iron Cactus) ,Ma-li-ka (unknown), Mus (Mesquite), Ma-si-pa (Coyote).

The tribal organization was loose, though, as a whole, the Mohave remained quite distinct from other tribes. The chieftainship was hereditary in the male line. Their dead were cremated. The population of the tribe in 1775-76 was conservatively estimated by Garcés 3 at 3,000, and by Leroux, about 1834 4 to be 4,000; but the latter is probably an overestimate. Their number in 1905 was officially given as 1,589, of whom 508 were under the Colorado River school superintendent, 856 under the Ft Mohave school superintendent, 50 under the San Carlos agency, and about 175 at Camp McDowell, on the Rio Verde. Those at the latter two points, however, are apparently Yavapai, commonly known as Apache Mohave.

No treaty was made with the Mohave respecting their original territory, the United States assuming title thereto. By act of Mar. 3, 1865, supplemented by Executive orders of Nov. 22, 1873, Nov. 16, 1874, and May 15, 1876, the present Colorado River Reservation, Arizona, occupied by Mohave, Chemehuevi, and Kawia, was established.

Pasion, San Pedro, and Santa Isabel have been mentioned as rancherias of the Mohave.Citations:

  1. Kroeber, Am. Anthrop., IV, 284, 1902[]
  2. Bourke, Jour. Am. Folklore, ii, 181, 1889[]
  3. Garcés, Diary, 443, 1900[]
  4. Whipple, Pac. R. R. Rep., III,1856,[]

Mohave, Yuman,

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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