The Akimel O'odham or Pima are a group of American Indians living in an area consisting of what is now central and southern Arizona (USA) and Sonora (Mexico). The name means "river people". They are closely related to the Tohono O'odham (meaning "desert people", formerly known as Papago), the Hia C-ed O'odham, and the Sobaipuri, a now extinct group. The name "Pima" apparently comes from a phrase that means "I don't know", used repeatedly in their initial meeting with Europeans.

History prior to 1539

The Akimel O'Odham (anthropologically known as the Pima) are a subgroup of the O'odham. O'odham includes the Tohono O'Odham, and the Hia C-ed O'odham. These groups are culturally related. They are thought to be culturally descended from the group archaeologically known as the Hohokam. The term Hohokam is a derivative of the O'odham word "Huhugam" (pronounced hoo-hoo-gahm which is literally translated as "those who have gone before" but meaning "the ancestors."

The Akimel O'odham lived along the Gila River, Salt River, Yaqui River, and Sonora River in ranchería style villages. The villages were set up as a loose group of houses with familial groups sharing a central ramada and kitchen area with brush round houses surrounding. The O'odham are matrilocal, and familial groups tended to consist of extended families. The Akimel O'odham also lived in temporary field houses seasonally, to tend their crops.

The O'odham language is spoken by all O'odham groups. There are certain dialectal differences, but all O'odham groups can understand one another despite the differences. There are also some lexicographical differences as well, especially in reference to newer technologies and innovations.

The economy of the Akimel O'odham was primarily dependent on subsistence, and consisted of farming, hunting, and gathering, although there was extensive trading as well. Farming was dependent on an extensive irrigation system that was constructed in prehistoric times and remained in use for hundreds of years. Over time canal systems were built and rebuilt according to the needs of the communities. The Akimel O'odham were experts in the area of textilery and produced intricate baskets and woven cloth. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, their primary military rival were the Apache, who raided their villages at times due to competition for resources, although they also established friendly relations with the Apache. Although the Akimel O'odham did have conflicts with other groups they are thought to have been primarily a peaceable people, who were most well known for their aid to other groups in emergencies. They did, however, participate in a war cult and had a well developed battle strategy.

It was once claimed that they built the ruined pueblos in their country, including the Casa Grande, but later historians found that they were built by a previous tribe related to the Hopi. [CathEncy|wstitle=Pima Indians]

History after 1539

The first reported contact with Europeans was in 1539 with the Spanish missionary Marcos de Niza. Later missionary visitors were Father Eusebio Kino and Father Francisco Garcés. The Spanish civil authorities moved into the land and established forts, ranches, and mines. The treatment by the Spanish led to unsuccessful rebellions between 1695 and 1751. European farmers came to the Gila River in the mid 19th century, eventually limiting the Akimel O'odham to a reservation consisting of a small fraction of the more than 3.5 million acres (14,000 km²) of land they consistently and continuously used previously. Because this land was dramatically less land than could support the population, several groups migrated north to settle along the Salt River, which later became the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.

Akimel O'odham and the Salt River

The Akimel O'odham (River People) have lived on the banks of the Gila River since long before European contact.

Their way of life ("himdagĭ", sometimes rendered in English as Him-dak) was and is centered around the river, which is considered holy. The term Him-dag should be clarified, as it does not have a direct translation into the English language, and is not limited to reverence of the river. It encompasses a great deal because O'odham him-dag intertwines religion, morals, values, philosophy, and general world view which are all interconnected. Their world view/religious beliefs are centered around the natural world, and this is pervasive throughout their culture.

In present day times the Gila River is dry, due to diversion by non native farmers upstream during historic times. This has been a cause of great upset among all of the O'odham. The upstream diversion in combination with periods of drought, led to lengthy periods of famine which was a devastating change from the documented prosperity the people had experienced until non-native settlers engaged in more aggressive farming in areas that were traditionally used by the Akimel O'odham and Apache in Eastern Arizona. This abuse of water rights was the impetus for a nearly century long legal battle between the Gila River Indian Community and the United States Government, which was settled in favor of the Akimel O'Odham and signed into law by George W. Bush in December 2005. As a side note, at times during the monsoon season the river runs, albeit at low levels. In the weeks after December 29, 2004, when an unexpected winter rainstorm flooded areas much further upstream (in Northern Arizona), water was released through dams on the river at rates higher than at any time since the filling of Tempe Town Lake in 1998, and was a cause for minor celebration in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. The diversion of the water and the introduction of non-native diet had devastating effects on the health of the people as well. They are allies with the Papago and Maricopa.

Modern life

Currently, the majority of the population is based in the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC), although in historic times a large number of Akimel O'Odham migrated north to occupy the banks of the Salt River and formed the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Both tribes are confederations of two distinct cultures that include the Maricopa.

Today the GRIC is a sovereign tribe residing on over 550,000 acres (2,200 km²) of land in central Arizona. The community is divided into seven districts (similar to states) with individual subgovernments "council". It is self-governed by an elected Governor Mr.Bill Rhodes, Lieutenant Governor MS.Jennifer Allison Ray, and 18 member tribal council. The council is elected by district with the number of electees determined by district population. There are over 16,000 enrolled members overall.

Today the Gila River Indian Community is involved in various economic development enterprises that include three casinos, golf courses, a luxury resort, a western themed amusement park, various industrial parks, landfills, and construction supply. The GRIC is also involved in agriculture and runs its own farms and other agricultural projects.

The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community is smaller in size and is governed by an elected President and tribal council as well. They are also invested in tribal gaming, industrial projects, landfills, and construction supply.

As was previously mentioned during the discussion of the diversion of the Gila River, the Akimel O'odham and the Onk Akimel O'odham have various environmentally based health issues that can be traced directly back to that point in time when the traditional economy was devastated. They have the highest prevalence of type 2 diabetes on Earth, much more than is observed in other U.S. populations. While they do not have a greater risk than other tribes, the Pima people have been the subject of intensive study of diabetes, in part because they form a homogeneous group."The Human Genome Project and Diabetes: Genetics of Type II Diabetes." New Mexico State University. 1997. 1 June 2006. http://darwin.nmsu.edu/~molbio/diabetes/disease.html] The general increased diabetes prevalence among Native Americans has been hypothesized as the result of the interaction of genetic predisposition (the thrifty phenotype or thrifty genotype as suggested by anthropologist Robert Ferrell in 1984) and a sudden shift in diet from traditional agricultural goods towards processed foods in the past century. For comparison, genetically similar Pimas in Mexico have virtually no type 2 diabetes.

Pimas of note

* Ira Hayes (1923–1955), Marine Paratrooper and Iwo Jima flagraiser

ee also

* O'odham language
* Man in the Maze


Further reading

* Waldman, Carl. "Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes". New York: Checkmark, 1999. ISBN 0-8160-3964-X
* Smithsonian. "Handbook of North American Indians. v. 10 Southwest." Smithsonian Institute, Washington, 1983.
* J. William Lloyd, [http://www.sacred-texts.com/nam/sw/ain/index.htm Aw-aw-tam "Indian Nights: The Myths and Legends of the Pimas"] , 1911, from "Sacred Texts On-Line"

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