This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

Understanding the alliance of the Pima, Maricopa, and Papago Indians with the Phoenix pioneers


If you're like me, and grew up learning about cowboys and Indians by watching movies on Sunday afternoons, I guess I can't blame you for seeing things from a racist point of view. That is, dividing groups of people based on physical characteristics, such as the color of their skin. But I'm a culturalist, not a racist, and if you take that point of view, many confusing things about the relationship of the Phoenix pioneers to the Indians come into focus.

By the way, since I have to call them something, I am calling the people of what is usually called "white ancestry" pioneers. Actually, a lot of them weren't white, and since race is a nonsense concept anyway, I'll just call them pioneers. I have to call them something. This would be right after the Civil War, 1866 or so. And as for the names of the Indian Tribes, well, it's the same thing. The tribes called themselves the people. All tribes are the people. Only outsiders give them names. And if you're looking at skin color, or anything like that, you will completely miss the point of the alliance. It was an alliance of culture.

Now step waaaaayyyy back to what is the invention of civilization to humans. That's the establishment of farming, the settling of community. It has happened all over the world, at various times. For historical reference, think of ancient civilizations, and how they had to defend themselves. The Romans had Barbarians at the Gates, the Chinese had the Mongols. Now think of the Pima Indians.

The Pimas, the Maricopas, and the Papagos were civilized. That is, they farmed, they didn't hunt and gather, and they didn't raid. They defended. And if you know your Arizona history, you know that there were some pretty fierce Indian tribes that did raid!

Now, waitaminute here - I'm not saying that these people were tamed. They weren't animals, they were people. And they were farming in Arizona long before it was invaded by Spain, then Mexico, then the United States. So if your stereotypical view is of Indian people as wild until they were forced to be civilized, you do a great injustice to these people.

Set aside stereotypes, strip away skin color. Look at culture. The civilized tribes had no more interest in being raided than the pioneers of Phoenix. So theirs was an alliance. So much so that when the United States built its Indian School in 1891 it selected Phoenix, Arizona. Originally the school was exclusively for Pima people, and within a few years it expanded to include many tribes from Arizona and California, among other states. What was taught there was not the ways of the white man, what was taught was civilization, which the Pima had known for hundreds of years.


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