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Tohono O'odham Nation's Symbol On historical accounts, Tohono O'odham, which means “Desert People”, is a group of Native American people who inhabited land areas in the Sonoran Desert of northwestern Mexico and southeastern Arizona. In 1853, by the virtue of the Treaty of La Mesilla, the vast O’odham land was divided between the United States of America and Mexico. The US honors the land rights held by Mexican citizens that are O’odham members. The O’odham people were granted the same constitutional rights as any United States citizen.

In recent years, their settlement land decreased rapidly because of development and border issues especially that they are not granted dual citizenship by the US government. This resulted to artificial division of O’odham society to 4 federally recognized tribes namely Tohono O’odham Nation, the Ak-Chin Indian Community, the Gila River Indian Community and the Salt River.


 [ Photo by: Cody R. Chavez ]

Tohono O'odham Nation's reservation photo Following the ancestral heritage of Tohono O’odham, the people are one with their environment and natural resources. They take pride in using the weather science and meteorological principles in their water storage system, agricultural and ceremonial cycles. They continue to be the master dwellers of the desert that make full use of their environment to raise crops, create sophisticated irrigation systems, build community facilities and leisure centers, and preserve pottery and exquisite jewelry making. Part of their heritage and culture which they continue to live up to the present are raising tapestry crops, wild plants such as saguaro fruit (the largest cactus plant in the world), cholla buds among others and hunting for meat from their plentiful wildlife such as javelin, rabbit and deer. Wildlife hunting is only for what they need and own consumption and not for any other commercial purposes.

The language and cultural roots of Tohono O'odham are from their Sobaipuri ancestors and until now their native dialect is spoken in the community. The early music and dance activities of O’odham are not the typical grand ritual ceremony that calls for attention. The songs are simple and accompanied only by hardwood rasps and drumming on overturned baskets. The harsh grating sounds are performed in the desert floor and dancing features skipping and shuffling on bare foot. The dust raised while dancing on dry dirt is believed to assist in forming rain clouds. Contemporary and livelier dance rituals such as Waila Festival are being celebrated every year in Tucson community since 1989 to showcase the musical and artistic talent of Tohono O’odham Nation.



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Sells, AZ 85634

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