Two Maricopa Men (Sitting) And Mojave Man In Full Aboriginal Dress

Pima Agency

Reports of Special Agent Stephen Whited on the Indians of the Gila River; Salt River and Papago reservations; Pima agency, Maricopa Pima, and Phial Counties, Arizona, from August to November, 1890.

Names of Indian tribes or parts of tribes occupying said reservations: (a) On the Gila Bend reservation, Papaho; on the Gila, River reservation, Marikopa and Pima; on the Salt River reservation, Marikopa and. Pima; on the Papago reservation, Papaho.

The unallotted areas of these, reservations are as follows: Gila Bend reservation, 22,391. acres, or 35 square miles; Gila, River, 357,120 acres, or 558 square miles; Salt River, 46,720 acres, or 73 square miles; Papago, 70,080 acres, or 109.5 square miles. These reservations have been partially surveyed and some portions subdivided. They were established; altered, or changed as follows: Gila River, by act of Congress approved February 28, 1859 (11 U. S. Stats., p, 401); executive orders August 31, 1876, January 10, 1879, June 14, 1879, May 5,1882, and November 15, 1883; Salt River, by executive order June 14, 1879; Papago, by executive order July 1, 1874, and act of Congress approved August 5, 1882 (22 U. S. Slats,, p. 299); Gila Bend reservation created by executive order December 12, 1832.

Indian population June 1, 1800: Gila River, 3,823; Salt River, 956 (Pimas, 641; Maricopas, 315); Papagos, 5,163; total; 9,942.

This agency comprises the Gila, River reservation, occupied by the Pimas; the Salt River reservation, inhabited by Pimas and Maricopas; the Papago reservation, and the Papagos off the reservation.

Pima Indians

Pima Women, Wearing Pima Shirts
Pima Agency, Arizona 1800
Pima Women, Wearing Pima Shirts

The Pima Indians were occupying the valley of the Gila when the white man first saw them in.1539, and they have remained there, a peaceable and friendly people. For many years this valley was a place-of refuge for white men, for the Pimas protected and fed them from their scanty fare. These Indians have been self-supporting. That little is given them by the government except farming implements. Their chief productions are wheat, barley, beans, and melons. The typical Pima, house is shaped somewhat like an inverted kettle. It is about 20 feet in diameter, has no windows, and only one low door. The civilized and educated Pima is not contented with this kind of house; hence he makes his house of adobes, with windows, doors, tables, beds, and cupboards. About 50 adobe houses are now built each year.

Papago Indians

The Papagos inhabited the southern third portion of Arizona and the northern part of Sonora, Mexico, when the Europeans first met them in 1539-1540. They usually have a little better houses than the Pimas. Their teachers have generally been Catholics, but they are not making equal progress with the Pimas, excepting those who are in the government schools.

Maricopa Indians

The Maricopas came from the Yuma tribe, who live on the Colorado River in California. They at one time assisted the Pimas in fighting the Apaches in the Gila valley, living at that time about 8 miles below the Sacaton agency, but because of the lack of water for irrigating purposes they left the old reservation about 15 years ago and went to the Salt River reservation, on the south bank of the Salt river, near Phenix, where they now are. They number only 315. They are a good-for-nothing sort of people, lazy, and fault-finding.

The Maricopas are decreasing in number.-C. W. Crouse, United States Indian agent.

The agency buildings at Sacaton are of adobe; one two-story, used as a dwelling, valued at $4,000; another of one story, containing the agent’s and the physician’s offices, valued at $500; one used as a storeroom, 1,500; one as a blacksmith’s shop, value, $800; sundry others used for storage, value, $300; Total value,. $7,100. The dwelling is in fair condition, and the others specified are in good condition.

Gila River And Salt River Reservations

Two Maricopa Men (Sitting) And Mojave Man In Full Aboriginal Dress
Salt River Reservation, Pima Agency, Arizona, 1890
Two Maricopa Men (Sitting) And Mojave Man In Full Aboriginal Dress

The Pima tribe of Indians are on two reservations in Arizona, the larger commencing at the junction of the Gila and Salt rivers and running east on both sides of the Gila river about 52 miles, with an average breadth of 10.66 miles, containing 558 square miles or 357,120 acres. Along with the Plums at Salt River, are 315 Maricopas, and they will be considered as one people in writing about them. The southern limit of this reservation is. latitude 330 mirth. The Salt River reservation lies about 12 miles east of the city of Phenix, and is mostly on the north side of the Salt River, extending easterly about 15 miles, and contains 73 square miles, or 46,720 acres.

About one-eighth of the Gila River reservation is mountainous, the remainder an arid waste. During the rainy season, however, sufficient grass is produced on the greater part of the reservation for pasturage for a limited number of animals. In the year 1890 about 6,000 acres of land were cultivated, yielding good; crops of wheat and barley wherever the water supply was sufficient.

The Salt River reservation is similar to the Gila River country, except that a larger proportion, of the surface- is mountainous. During the dry season the bed of the Gila is often dry in places. The imperfection of any irrigating system yet devised by the Indians tends to reduce the agricultural product of the reservation from year to year. Below this agency 21 farms, which produced more than 400,000 pounds of wheat in 1889; have produced but a few pounds in 1890, on account of the scarcity of water when the crops were, growing.

The altitude of the agency and this portion of the reservation is about 1,100 feet. The highest temperature for 1890 was 1070, and the lowest 280. No record of the rainfall was kept, but it is believed that the quantity is very nearly the same as that recorded at Phenix, 40 miles distant, which was about 8 inches.

The Gila river has a rapid current, with a fall of from 7 to 15 feet per mile, but in many localities the banks are 10 feet in height, necessitating the erection of large stone dams in order to carry the water high enough to reach some of the best land.

Pimas on Reservations and Maricopas on Salt River Reservation

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Products Raised And Stock Owned By Pima And Maricopa Indians In The Year 1889-1890

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Timber Supply on the Gila and Salt River Reservations

The principal timber is the mesquite, a low, scrubby tree, more or less scattered over both reservations, but growing more plentifully in the vicinity of the rivers. The Wood., when dried, furnishes nearly all the fuel used by the officials and Indians.

Cottonwood grows along the rivers and irrigating ditches, and though of interior value for fuel, yet, on account of its rapid growth and its value as a shade for irrigating ditches, protecting the water from the direct rays of the sun and thus preventing too rapid evaporation, it is an important factor in the timber supply.

Willows are plentiful near the water courses, and are utilized by the Indians in covering their huts and in fencing for corrals. The cat’s-claw, a thorny shrub, is extensively used by the Indians in building their rude brush fences, and it thus serves an admirable purpose.

Mineral Resources

Though the mining industry is carried on to quite an extent in various parts of the territory, producing quantities of gold, silver, and copper, it is not positively known that any deposits of these metals exist within the limits of the several reservations. A few adventurers; claim that if the Indian title to the land could be extinguished enterprising miners would soon develop paying quantities Of the precious metals, but such statements need verification.

Customs And Religion

Should one of the tribe die, it was formerly the practice to burn the tent, hunt and kill all the animals owned by the deceased, and destroy all his property; but such practices have been abandoned within the past 15 years. Their mode of burial now is to dig a grave 5 or 6 feet; in depth, then dig a vault at one side large enough to receive the body, fill the grave, and cover it with poles or brush, probably to prevent the violation of sepulture by the coyotes. Several such Indian burying grounds may now be seen on the Gila River reservation.

Viewed from a religious standpoint, a steady advance has been made within the past 18 years, though the progress has been slow. The Presbyterian Church has erected a small adobe chapel at this agency, in which. Sunday school mid other services are held every week and are well attended. In addition, a small adobe chapel has been erected and partially completed at Blackwater village, about 12 miles east of the agency, but within the limits of the reservation, with a church membership of 22, about equally divided between the sexes. The Pimas have 2 church buildings, valued at $2,000.


Pima Huts showing Home Life and Utensils
Pima Agency Arizona 1800
Pima Huts showing Home Life and Utensils

The material and economic progress made, by the Pima and Maricopa tribes within the past 15 years is quite noticeable. Formerly all carcasses of horses and mules which fell on the great road stretching along the south bank of the Gila River, through what is now the Pima reservation, were quickly appropriated by the Indians and used as food. Their dwellings were then miserable huts, built of brush and weeds – now there are nearly 100 adobe houses, and a large number of their huts are built of willows and sticks, well plastered on the sides and roof with adobe, those among them who can do so are building houses in the Mexican style. According to account made July 1, 1890, out of 580 dwellings of all kinds 80 were adobe houses.

The agent is encouraging improvements by issuing a new wagon to each Indian who builds a house, imposing the condition that the wagon shall be properly cared for and housed. On the fulfillment of certain other conditions he issues a plow or harrow, thus encouraging improved methods of farming. The Indians quite readily avail themselves of these opportunities, and since September 1, 1889, there have been issued 22 wagons, 12 sets of harness, 30 plows, 200 shovels, 200 hoes, 50 iron rakes, 100 axes, 100 sickles, and 40 swamp hooks. The Pimas are self-supporting, receiving no rations or annuities and no gifts from the government except farming tools, and their desire for these implements shows the progress that is being made in agriculture among them.

In dress, great progress has been made in adopting that of the whites, Probably one-half of the men wear shirts, pants, shoes, and hats; one-third go barefoot – rarely one may be seen at his cabin without covering to the legs. Some of the children wear very little clothing. The women wear no shoes in warm weather. A scanty skirt, with blouse waist, suffices for their covering, except that they wear a shawl, or a cheap substitute for one, drawn around their shoulders without folds and falling to the knees. No covering for the head is worn except when the shawl is drawn over it. Red is the prevailing color of the dress; the brighter it is the more desirable it will be. The hair is parted in the middle and combed back, and is usually worn long by both sexes, but the men have been encouraged to cut their hair short and wear hats, and efforts in this direction are meeting with some success.

Morals of the Pimas and Maricopas

Drunkenness, prostitution, theft, and gambling may be classed as the prevailing vices of these Indians. According to the best authority attainable drunkenness is on the increase among the Pimas. The cause of this increase may be traced to contact with the whites, who sell them intoxicants. They manufacture a cheap fermented liquor from corn or cactus fruit and indulge in drinking at their dances; but drinking does not appear to be more common with them than among the whites, and, indeed, one has but to stand by any of the many open bars of the territory to become convinced that drinking prevails extensively among the superior race. Cases of prostitution are too common, but do not seem to be increasing. Instances of brawls and quarrels are not frequent unless some of the parties are drunk. Fifty Indian boys attending school will pursue boisterous games day after day and never engage in a quarrel or a light. The Pimas as a tribe are peaceful, and claim that they never warred with the whites, but were obliged to take up the hatchet against their ancient enemies, the Apaches, in order to preserve their existence, and having quieted them; they returned to their peaceful avocations.


The tribe is more or less tainted with venereal diseases. The Indians are scattered over the reservation, and the agency physician attends to but a small portion of those who are sick. No reliable statistics of diseases and deaths have ever been collected, and it is impossible to determine with any great degree of accuracy the proportion of deaths resulting from the several diseases or accidents. The agency physician reports the diseases as scrofula, consumption, conjunctivitis, and syphilis. Rheumatism prevails to some extent, but owing to the mildness of the climate it is not as prevalent as among tribes farther north. Scrofulous swellings on the neck and scrofulous ulcers are often seen. One old resident thinks that from 10 to 20 per cent of the deaths are due to consumption. The physician claims that a large majority of the cases of scrofula and conjunctivitis can be traced to a syphilitic taint.

The Indians can not be relied upon to administer medicines furnished and prescribed by the physician. A large majority of them lack faith in prescribed remedies. They prefer the singing and howling of the medicine man.

Domestic Relations

The Pimas are monogamists as well as the Maricopas, that is to say, they have but one wife at a time; at least no case of plurality of wives has come to light; but the marriage tie is not very binding, and an Indian may marry a wife and tire of her, then marry another, and so on. The deserted wife has the privilege of marrying again, provided she can find an opportunity, and if she has children the husband must take her with all the “encumbrances” and care for them. The present agent insists that the marriage ceremony shall be performed by the minister, and such marriages are considered more binding by the Indians than those by the tribal custom.


A school has been maintained on this reservation for 10 years; but a few years ago the building was burned, and from that date until September, 1890, only about 20 scholars were taught by 1 teacher. It was a boarding school, supported wholly by the government. The mission church is now used as a schoolroom, the scholars boarding in the agent’s dwelling. The report of the school for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1890, is as follows:

Report of the Pima Boarding School, Located at Sacaton, for the Year Ending June 30, 1890.

Number of teachers (Indian, male)1
Number of other school employees (white, female)2
Number who have attended at one time23
Whole number who have attended during year28
Number between 6 and 18 years of age28
Average age of pupils (years)13
Number of months school has been maintained7.5
Average attendance during school term21
Largest average attendance during any month (December)22
Salaries of teachers and employees1,141.30
All other expenses744.77
Total expense of school paid. by government1,886.07

Industries taught sewing, cooking, knitting, and laundry work.

In the summer of 1890 new buildings were erected at a cost of $9,000, sufficient to accommodate 100 scholars, and a corps of 3 teachers commenced their work. The school was attended with success from the start, and in a short time the buildings were filled to overflowing and numbers of applicants were turned away for want of room.

Personal Appearance

The copper color of the Apaches is not noticeable among the Pimas, the Maricopas, or the Papagos. These latter are of a dark, swarthy complexion, resembling Mexicans, and might be mistaken for them except for the beard; indeed, some of these, Indians have beards. The features of the Indian, however, differ, greatly from the Mexican.

Appearance Of The Country

The “desert” is interspersed with short detached ranges of mountains, sometimes single mountains, or buttes, rising from a few hundred to 1,000 feet above the general level, rough and rocky, and usually of igneous origin. There is no vegetation on them with the exception of a few shrubs and several species of cactus, the giant variety predominating, which sometimes grows to the height of 35 feet and from 10 to 15 inches in diameter. Bunches of sagebrush chaparral are interspersed on the desert at intervals of a few feet. Near the river, the shrubby mesquite grows low and branching. Along the banks of the river and the margins of the irrigating ditches cottonwood and willows flourish. The farms of the Indians are usually enclosed with brush fences, built by setting small posts in the ground a few feet apart and filling the spaces with the thorny shrub known as cat’s-claw and with the limbs of the mesquite. In passing over the usually traveled roads but few grain fields can be seen, and accounts of the amount of wheat and barley grown would seem almost incredible. Great unsightly weeds are often permitted to grow by the side of the ditches, and even to cover the fields after the crop of grain is harvested.


To learn the capabilities of the irrigated land one has but to visit that section lying on the south side of the Salt river adjoining the Salt River reservation, settled by a colony of Mormons in 1878 or 1879, now one of the most flourishing settlements in the territory. The settlers cut from three to four crops of alfalfa every year, which makes the forage crop and hay of the country. They have flourishing vineyards and peach orchards, raise figs and pomegranates, and are experimenting with oranges. Their dwellings, built of adobe or brick, look neat and comfortable, and the whole settlement wears an air of thrift and plenty. The beautiful town of Tempe, situated near the southwest corner of the reservation, seems a little Eden. Thriving farms, orchards, and gardens surround the city of Phenix.

Department of the Interior. Report on Indians Taxed and Indians not Taxed in the United States, Except Alaska at the Eleventh Census: 1890. Washington DC: Government Printing Office. 1894.

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