A’AGA March 4, 2016

March 4, 2016

Billy Allen


I haven’t seen The Revenant, but I hear it’s a “you gotta see it!” movie. If it is as good as Jeremiah Johnson, maybe the Gila River TV station will show it. “Whaaat?” you might be wondering. Well, a lot of mountain men visited our traditional homelands. Today we see dusty riverbeds, but in the not so distant past our rivers ran steady. The rivers served as highways guiding travelers like cell phones do now. In 1868, a Phoenix resident wrote, “the river here is quite large…and has lots of fish, with plenty of ducks, geese, beaver and other game,…”


In the early 1800’s, beaver felt hats were the fashion, so trappers made their way to streams and lakes, north and east of our jeved – violating Mexican law. Back then, Arizona and New Mexico were part of Mexico. James Baird, who had Mexican citizenship, trapped along the Mogollon Mountains and near the headwaters of the Gila from 1824 to 1826. In October of 1826, a trapping party spent some time in a “Cocomaricopa” village, near here. These trappers left when they learned the comandante of Tucson had been alerted. In a bag left behind, Mexican officials found passports for Bill Williams and others. Mexican officials gave our people a paper ordering any foreigners on our land to report to Tucson. On the last day of 1826, three Americans did report to Cuk Son, the first recorded visit by U. S. citizens.


In 1827, Antoine Leroux was with a company which fought with the Maricopa. Kit Carson trapped along the Salt to the mouth of the Verde in 1829. A couple of years later, Ewing Young led a party down the Gila and fought the Apache near the San Carlos River. Young led survivors downstream and in two days arrived at our villages. Here they replenished their supplies and resumed their trip downriver.


James Ohio Pattie told of his travels in his book Personal Narratives, published in 1831. Pattie’s knowledge of geography was lacking, details – along with some of the truth – are missing. In the fall of 1826, Pattie tells of trapping on the Gila and renaming the San Pedro River as “Beaver” because it was so productive.


They continued down the Gila for 10 days. On the return trip, he wrote of fighting with the Apaches and losing horses. The next year Peg-leg Smith and William Wolfskill led a trapping party down the Gila to just short of where it meets the Salt. Then thirty “Apaches” confronted them and invited them to the village, but the trappers refused. A running battle was fought upstream as the trappers retreated upstream.


In early 1827, Miguel Robidoux led a party down the Gila and arrived at a village on the south bank. The natives were friendly; had irrigated fields of wheat, corn and cotton; and most spoke Spanish. They had arrived at the hi:k of the earth. Three days later they arrive at “the Papawar village”, one mile upstream on the Salt River. At first, armed painted warriors rush out. Hostilities are avoided and the trappers are asked to spend the night in the village. Late that night an attack was launched against the trappers. Pattie, Robidoux and one other man escaped.


John P. Wilson’s Peoples of the Middle Gila has cleared up some of Pattie’s faulty memories by using other trapper’s recollections. One trapper, George Yount, reasoned the “the Papawar” were Akimel O’otham and Piipash. The village may have been Hueso Parado or Bone Standing village, which the Spaniards visited in 1825. It would have been located west of “M” mountain where the Gila’s clear water and marshes were more inviting to beaver. I just find it amazingly hard to imagine such a vibrant Gila River running by “M” mountain. So much has changed on our ancestral homelands. We are not going anywhere and continue to wait and watch for the next fashion to come down the interstate.


I think it is a good time to go and watch a movie.