Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona, just for fun. Advertising-free, supported by my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

The importance of the Pima Indians to the history of Phoenix

If you're like me, you probably don't know much about the history of Indians in Arizona. You may have visited the Heard Museum, or gone to an Indian Casino, and maybe someone has tried to teach you the names that the tribes now prefer. And it all becomes a blur. And much of history gets lost that way, but really, in one way, it's better that way.

But since I have been taking the time to learn about Phoenix history, I have discovered something that absolutely amazes me - the importance of the Pima Indians. And if you want to learn more, please journey along with me. But please step with caution.

In the 1920 ad there, the Busy Drug Store, along with encouraging you to take your Kodak to them to have photos developed, has done a bit of editorializing. And to me, it's amazing to think that they are trying to remind people that what they may consider "savages" to have been an important ally of the pioneers of Phoenix (here using the offensive term "white man"). It had only been a generation or so and apparently people had already forgotten.

But really, the war was over. If you know your Arizona history, you know that the war between the Pimas and the Apaches had, as the ad says, been fought with a fury born of generations of hatred. So this reminder, decades later of that war seems in poor taste, to say the least. Apache and Pima children by the 1920s had been attending the same school, the Phoenix Indian School. Their parents may have remembered the war, but the children had forgotten it. And like I say, maybe it's just as well.

Real history is wildly complex. If you're interested in learning more about the the Indian wars in Arizona, I recommend James McClintock's Arizona, the Youngest State, which was written in 1916. He doesn't simplify any of this stuff, and goes into such gory detail that I had to skip over a lot of it, and it will be a long time before I am able to read that book again.

Trying to understand the history of Phoenix without the Pima Indians gives a strange distortion. The Pima people and the pioneers of Phoenix have always been allies, and are to this day.

Image from the Library of Congress http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020558/1920-10-10/ed-1/seq-21.pdf

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  1. You might be interested in a paper I wrote as a grad student (it's a little dry and academic but thoroughly researched):


    1. Hi Bill - wow, great stuff. Thank you for sharing that with me. I have posted the link on my Phoenix page, and am enjoying reading, and re-reading your work!

    2. Glad you like it. I got about halfway into a master's in history of the American West (specializing in Arizona and Phoenix) before having to give it up. I own phoenixhistory.com and phoenixhistory.org, which I plan on making a Wikipedia-style encyclopedia of Phoenix history. (It needs attention, mostly an upgrade of the software.)

    3. You really know your stuff - I look forwarding to reading more. And to think that people think I know about this! I don't know nuthin'!

  2. I spent an absurd amount of time poring over microfilm at the State Library. Good times!