A’AGA Something to be told

July 1, 2016


Billy Allen


A couple of generations past, in this s-toñ or hot season, akimel farmers would have liked the rain to come and drop the temperature but preferred the dark purple clouds to be hooked by the tall mountains in the east. Then the akimel would soon be swollen and flow into canals leading to prepared fields with debris rich su:dag. The second growing season would have begun and end with the first frost. When some of our forefathers moved to different villages, they remained loyal to their mother or home fields. It was told one O’otham farmer would run to his Casa Blanca fields before sunrise, irrigate, and then run back to Blackwater in the evening. To be called s-vagima or hard-working was a compliment as well as a way of life for O’otham and Piipaash. Hopefully July will live up to its O’otham moniker, Jukiabig or “rainy”. Today the s-toñ or heat limits outdoor activities but it was not always like this. The southwest was a bee hive of activity even as the heat lay upon the jeved or land.


When a Spanish expedition was looking for an overland trail to California, it came through our jeved. The leader, Juan Bautista de Anza, labeled the Casa Grande as the Palace of Montezuma. A fellow traveler, Padre Francisco Garcés asked the locals who built the structure and was told the Hopi were responsible for the Casa Grande. In spite of knowing the Hopi resisted Spanish influence, Padre Garcés wanted to go to their villages and preach the gospel. Padre Garcés marched into Oraibi in July 1776. The Hopi were not very courteous; the padre doesn’t get to deliver his message and will leave the way he came. In early September, he will pass through our jeved on his way back to San Xavier.


Early explorers noted the akimel ran underground when it was s-toñ. Where the water re-emerged in the riverbed settlements arose. Sacate was such a village; close to where the Arizona Eastern Railroad would eventually cross the Gila River. The railroad first arrived at Maricopa Junction/Maricopa in 1879 and plans were made to extend a branch to Tempe, Phoenix and Prescott. Since this railroad would cross our jeved, permission had to be given and the O’otham/Piipaash refused. Arizona’s congressional delegate had Congress pass a right-of-way bill. The railroad delivered sacks of silver coins to buy land from the Natives. At a railroad camp, 12 Sacate “landowners” were paid $700 dollars for the value of their land and crops. Later the Maricopa Railroad Station store would purchase wheat raised by Native farmers at the going rate of 80 cents per 100 pounds. The railroad would reach Phoenix on July 4, 1887. Today the southern portion of the Maricopa to I-10 highway is still elevated because of the periodic flooding of the Akimel.


Nat Love was born a slave who drifted west when the Civil War ended. He arrived in Deadwood, South Dakota in 1876. He entered the July 4th rodeo competition and won the roping, saddle and bronc riding contests. This earned him a new moniker; “Deadwood Dick”. Mr. Love found work rounding up cattle along the Gila for the Gallinger Ranch, he had a talent for reading cattle brands. While rounding up cattle along the akimel, our warriors attacked and captured the cowboy. His life was spared because warriors respected his ability to fight. While being nursed back to health, he stole a pony and escaped into West Texas. According to the Documenting the American South website, there may be some stretching of the truth in Love’s book, “Life and Adventures of Nat Love,” published in 1907. This in spite of Mr. Love’s claim his book is for “those who prefer facts to fiction.” But it is good reading.


Time to look outside and see if it’s going to rain.


Information was taken from “Peoples of the Middle Gila” by John P. Wilson and “Cultures of Conquest” by Edward Spicer.