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Early Papago Pottery


Juanita Ahil

Lena Albert

Concion Ange

Elilah Angea

Fernando Angea

Gladys Angea

James Angea

Juanita Angea Antone

Joe & Felistia Angea

Renee Angea

Rupert Angea

Anita Antone

Ellanistine Antone

Gus Antone

Laura Antone

Molly Antone

Rosa Antone

Alicia Bustamante

Mary Sue Carmen

Elilah Chico

Dolores Chico

Rafaela Domingo

Juanita Enos

Listiana Francisco

Sally Garcia

Sally Havier

Avalina Ignacio

Placita Ignacio

Juanita Jones

Elena Jose

Laura Kermen

Helen Kermen

Laura Lewis

Brian Listo

Elnora Lopez

Francisca Lopez

Annie Manuel

Billy Manuel

Delia Manuel

E. Manuel

Felicita Manuel

J.H. Manuel


Victoria Marqueta

Susie Miguel

Savilla Miguel

Chona Montana

Frances Montana

Ruben Naranjo

Pearl Norris

Lucy Pablo

Velena Pablo

Susie Pedro

Carmen Ramon

Lolita Ramon

Agnes Segundo

Molly Smith

Rosaria Smith

Lucy Stevens

Ciana Thomas

Rita Valenzuela

Elena Ventura

Haiwan Wepogida






















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































 Papago / Tohono O'Odham


In 1986 the Papago Reservation was changed to the Tohono O'Odham Reservation. It is believed that the prehistoric ancestors of these people were the Hohokam. These people have suffered many hardships and have remained strong through Spanish conquerors, Jesuits, Franciscans, Apaches, Mexican-American war, a international border dividing their land, European settlers, reservations, drought and agricultural challenges, and much more.

When the Spaniards arrived in the early 17th century, they found people that occupied the land that spoke the same language with regional dialects. These people were the O'Odham (meaning "people"). The Spaniards began calling these people Pima after the area in which they lived, the Pimeria. The northern region called the Pimeria Alta - the land of the Upper Pima. Historian Herbert Bolton pointed out that pim is an O'odham word meaning negation, and later Bernard Fontana noted the pimahaitu is the O'odham word meaning nothing. So in O'odham, the term Pima is disrespectful. Today, the use of "Pima" is only used when discussing the Pima Akimel O'odham living near the Gila River near Phoenix. The linguistic group term "Piman", should also be replaced with the proper terminology, O'odham. Even though the Spaniards used their term Pima as a label for all the inhabitants of the Pimeria Alta, they did differentiate a few subpopulations. One group, occupying the non-riverine Sonoran Desert, was called Papago. Papago is from the O'odham words papahvi o-otam or ba-bawi o-otam, which translates as tepary bean people. The tepary bean being a major staple in the diet of the O'odham. In 1986, the then called "Papago" by outsiders, officially adopted their own name, a name they had always used when referring to themselves: Tohono O'odham. Tohono O'Odham means desert people.


Around 1687, the Jesuit father Eusebio Kino began exploring the region and in the process converting the O'Odham to Christianity. The O'odham rebelled against the intruders in 1695 and 1751. Raiding and shamanistic curses among other tactics did not stop the Jesuit priests attempts to control Pimeria Alta. It wasn't until 1767, when King Carlos III expelled all Jesuits from Spanish lands, and thus the O'odham were free from the Jesuits. New intruders, the Franciscans, came to develop the Catholic Christian faith and along with them came the building of missions. The War of Mexican Independence in 1821 removed the Spanish from the land and Pimeria Alta was left to O'odham. All was not quiet long as Apache raiders kept any large communities from developing. In 1848, just following the Mexican-American War and through the Gadsden Treaty and Purchase, the United States took over the land occupied by the O'odham. With the acquisition of the new land, the Homestead Act of 1862 and the Chaffee mining laws of 1866 brought more intruders into the land of the O'odham. To protect and isolate the Tohono O'odham, a small reservation around village and mission of San Xavier del Bac was formed in 1874. Realizing this area was too small for the O'odham, a second piece of land near Gila Bend was formed in 1882.  In 1887, The Dawes Severalty Act strove to divide and privatize commonly held tribal lands, breaking up large tribal controlled lands to private property.

A Papago Home in 1907. Photograph by Edward S. Curtis

The Tohono O'odham led a semisedentary lifestyle at this time. The Sonoran Desert living can be harsh, with periods without water and food. These people adapted by moving individuals, families, extended families, and even villages to different locations and environments in search for food, farming, water, or the seasons.

The two small parcels of land were not enough space and a third piece of land was granted on January 14, 1916 by Woodrow Wilson. This became known as the Papago Reservation. However, some very unhappy Tucsonans, namely those with their hands in the mining industry cried out stating that the ore-laden lands were being given away. Wilson signed an executive order in February 1917, which split the 1916 land allotment for the O'odham in half (475,000 acres). With the establishment of the new reservation, tribal headquarters and governing agencies were moved to Sells. In the 1930's many unfinished land disputes were finalized as part of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal Agenda.  In 1934, 1937, and 1939, the United States government finally declared contiguous reservation border lines that still exist today. In 1934, the Indian Reorganization Act and the reversal of the Dawes Act protected the continuation of common holdings and independent tribal governance.


Today, the Tohono O'Odham Nation is faced with many issues. A community college in Sells, running casinos, an elder center, and the activities of the Tohono O'odham Community Action, to name a few.

As with any culture, it is important to pass on what it known. The O'Odham have strong leaders and teachers to continue their traditions and culture. A well known Tohono O'odham poet, storyteller and educator who worked to preserve the tribe's culture and language, Danny Lopez, passed away on October 21st, 2008. He was 71. Mr. Lopez taught the Himdag - the Desert People's Lifeways - to tribal members for more than 30 years. As he tried to pass on Tohono O'odham language and culture to teenagers and children, Mr. Lopez said he found himself competing with television and modern music. "If we're not rooted in our culture, we're going to see more (people) getting involved with alcohol and gangs," he said in an interview in 2000. Danny Lopez would be found at Saturday morning storytelling and poetry program for children 4 to 8 at the University of Arizona Poetry Center. He also edited a collection of fiction and poetry by Tucson-area American Indian elders, "Dancing with the wind," published in 2005 by the nonprofit ArtsReach. It is important to remember people like Danny Lopez. He will never be forgotten.


Papago Olla Race. "At Rodeo time, throughout the Southwest, Indians from the various reservations come many miles to exhibit their wares and participate in the games, ceremonial dances and tests of skill which are usually part of Rodeo Week's entertainment." Postcard from the 1940's


Legend of I'itoi

Many different translations are found for I'itoi. One starts before human time, a figure somtimes called First Born miraculously appeared. First Born finished creating the earth, sun, moon, and sky. When the sky and earth met, I'itoi (pronounced e-e-toy) came into being. I'itoi created people out of clay, gave them evening skies, and told them not to leave their land.  I'itoi, often called Elder Brother, has always lived in a cave near the summit of Waw Kiwalik (Baboquivari Peak). The maze is a map of I'itoi's cave.


Tohono O'Odham (Papago) Man in the Maze design used in basketry & pottery

Another story of I'itoi comes straight from the Tohono O'odham Nation and off of a card sold with baskets and pottery that contain the Man in the Maze, it goes like this: "I'itoi, Man in the Maze, The man at the top of the maze depicts birth. By following the white pattern, beginning at the top, the figure goes throught the maze encountering many turns and changes, as in life. As the journey continues, one acquires knowledge, strength, and understanding. Nearing the end of the maze, one retreats to a small corner of the pattern before reaching the dark center of death and eternal life. Here one repents, cleanses, and reflects back on all the wisdom gained. Finally, pura and in harmony with the world, death and eternal life are accepted.


Black-on-Red I'itoi Effigy Bowl, possibly made by the Montana-Antone Family, circa 1920's to 1940's.

The Montana-Antone family made effigies such as this one for four and possibly five generations

from the villages of Kaka, Hickiwan, and Kerwo (Gu Vo).




A Papago Potter, 1907. Photograph by Edward S. Curtis


A Papago Kitchen in 1907. Photograph by Edward S. Curtis

Hasen Harvest (Quhalika), 1907. Photograph by Edward S. Curtis

The two women following are carrying burden baskets called kiahas. Kiahas were used to transport a variety of items from pottery, to hay and firewood. Hasen (ha:san) or Saguaro Cacti produce a wonderful fruit that is used to make wine, however the cacti in the photograph are not flowering nor bearing any fuit, it is the wrong season. The Saguaro also produced materials for building structures and in the making of tools. Photographed above are women fro the village of

Quhalika ( aslso known as Kohatk, and Kwahadks).

The Kohatks were inhabitants of the Norhwestern quarter of the Papago Indian Reservation and are related to the Akimel O'odham. The potters of Kohatk Village are noted for making high quality Black-on-red vessels, noted by Russell (1908:124).  It is believed that many finely made black-on-red vessels are incorrectly labeled as Maricopa. In the publication "Papago Indian Pottery" by Bernard Fontana, et.al., it is noted that "the best Papago Black-on-Red is still made in the Kohatk region, especially by Susie Miguel, and as one moves south on the reservation away from this center, black-on-red continues to be made, but in deteriorating quality" (Fontana, 1962;109).  It is not surprising that the famous Maricopa potter, Ida Redbird, was taught pottery making skills by her mother, a member of the Kohatk village (Fontana, 1960:107). This all is very confusing, but what it comes down to is that the Tohono O'odham, Akimel O'odham, and the Kohatks are very closely related but t due to occupation and subsistence patterns have seperate names. Is their a way to tell the early black-on-red pottery apart? See Tohono O'odham Surface Treatment.


The Tohono O'odham are famous for this vessel form: Friendship Bowls


San Xavier Mission Papago Polychrome






This page last revised: 07/30/2011

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