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The Tohono O'odham Nation

  • In O'odham language, "Tohono O'odham" means "Desert People."
  • The Tohono O'odham American Indians live on approximately 3 million acres southwest of Tucson, Arizona. There are three primary parts to the reservation. The total size is larger than the state of Delaware. Tohono O'odham also live in northern Sonora, Mexico.
  • The Tohono O'odham belong to their own nation, separate from the United States. They have their own flag, government, and police.
  • There are about 20,000 members of the Tohono O'odham Nation.
  • The Desert People didn't have a written language until the 1970's. They have always passed on their stories, traditions, cultural, and spiritual beliefs by the spoken word.
  • About 10,000 members of the nation speak their first language. Their language revival is growing, and many children and adults are now learning to speak Tohono O'odham.
  • The Man in the Maze, above, is one of the symbols of the Tohono O'odham. The figure seeks a deeper meaning of life. The center of the circle stands for that deeper meaning. The journey through life is often puzzling and difficult, but the People must struggle and work hard to reach that deeper meaning. This symbol is often used on baskets and jewelry.
  • In 1986, the Tribal Council reclaimed Tohono O'odham as their official name. For more information about the Tohono O'odham, you may have to search under "Papago," the name given to the Desert People by the Spanish.
  • Many O'odham practice the saguaro fruit harvest and more and more people around the reservation are participating in rainmaking ceremonies. These pages provide information and images of the Ha:san Bak, saguaro harvest. To learn more about the saguaro cactus in general, visit Sabino Canyon: The Web of Life: Saguaro Cactus.
  • References used for the information found on this page:
    Tohono O'odham: History of the Desert People and Tohono O'odham: Lives of the Desert People both written by the Papago Tribe and
    Ocean Power: Poems from the Desert by Ofelia Zepeda (1995), University of Arizona Press.
  • The Heard Museum's Web site has excellent information on the Tohono O'odham, past and present.
  • Another resource on the Desert People is: The Tohono O'odham by Jacqueline Greene (1998), Franklin Watts.

    written by Judi Moreillon

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