A’AGA: Something to be told or talked about

Submitted by Billy Allen


A word of warning, fellow GRICsters. This read has lots of twists and turns, kind of like Keli Akimel which names our community.  My cohort of elders, ń vem hihimdam, are approaching our three-quarter century mark. Sadly, we’ve never seen our akimel as a flourishing living entity. Keli akimel or the old river was part of daily life for the Huhugam, as their pottery featured water creatures, storks, fish, etc. Early historical descriptions told of tall cottonwoods and mesquite along both banks of the akimel almost its entire length. Some said it looked like a “green snake.” Occasional flood waters quickly flow by and dry up. Ñ vem hihimdam can recall the flood which shut down I-10. The water eroded access to the bridge—but the bridge stood O’otham strong.


In the early 1800s when Milga:n/American trappers and explorers came to los rios or the rivers, O’otham and Piipaash saw them  as potential customers. Trading tanned deer skins, cotton blankets, pottery, and baskets had our path branch off with a different way of living, selling what we made. Under Spanish rule, the trapping of beavers from los rios by foreigners was forbidden, but when México gained independence in 1821, trade with the United States was opened and México wasn’t a strict enforcer of the trapping (pronunciamento.)


There was big money in using beaver pelts to make high-end, stylish hats. They were kind of like the Air Jordans of the day back then. Between 1824 and 1825, James Baird, a naturalized Mexicano citizen, spent two lonely years trapping beavers near the mouth of the Gila. Returning in 1826, Baird was shocked to find about 100 Milga:n trappers up and down the Gila.  (Until the Gadsden Purchase in 1854, land south of the keli akimel was Méxican territorio.)


In December of 1826, sixteen Americans spent four days trading with the “Cocomaricopas and ‘Gilenos” on the Gila. The Maricopas had wanted to kill the trappers, but were told “no.”  A messenger was sent to Tucson/Chuk Son, to inform the Mexican authorities of the trespassers. By the time the military Mexicano arrived, the trappers were long gone. Later O’otham headmen rode to Chuk Son to ask what to do when trappers showed up again. Capitán Manuel de León gave the headmen a paper, to show to trappers, which said all trappers had to report to Cuk-Son. At the end of December, three trappers with passports did report to S-Cuk Son! As late as 1901, one of the oldest O’otham remembered a Milga:n trapper called Ka:v Vonam/Beaver hat. 


Twenty years later, the Mormon Battalion or LDS were searching for greener pastures and volunteered to join the Union Army to blaze a wagon trail to California. Under the command of Lt. Col. Phillip St. George Cook, the trail took them through southern Arizona. When the battalion was to enter Schuk-Shon, where the militar Mexicano were stationed, the battalion prepared for battle. There was no battle. An American flag was raised in Chuk Son on December 16, 1846. Two days later, the battalion resumed their trek. They followed el Río Santa Cruz seven miles north until the river disappeared in the sand. A key water hole which was supposed to replenish the battalion and animals, turned up dry. The battalion pushed on despite being low on water.


The wagon train began to stretch out as the trip soon became a survival march. On the evening of the 19th, the leaders camped to wait for any and all stragglers. A small white marker just north of  Casa Grande marks the location.  O’otham and Piipaash offered the battalion a chance to recuperate in Sacaton. Once rested, the expedition resumed following the “green snake” towards California. (Irony: LDS settlers upstream from us in the Safford area began diverting  Gila River water and erasing the river as part of our daily life).


Twenty years later, in December of 1863, Antonio Azul, interpreter Francisco or Duque, and Irataba headman of the Mojave were in San Francisco. Accompanied by agent/trader Ammi White, they met with General George Wright on government business.  To return home, they boarded a “big canoe” for Los Angeles. On board was Charles Poston, newly appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs, headed to Cuk Son to meet with the new territorial government. Traveling with Poston was Special Agent J. Ross Browne.


Once docked, it was an overland stage ride to Fort Yuma. The day after Christmas, Poston met with Quechan/Yuma leaders Pasqual, Vincente, Tebarro, and Juan. As the calendar page turned to 1864, then it was a stagecoach ride to O’otham jeved. Upon arriving at White’s House/Casa Blanca, the people were overjoyed to see Azul — they thought he had died. Antonio told them of the “fiery horses that pulled the public with lightning speed along iron roads, and the big canoe that paddled over the briny deep by means of a great kettle of hot water that was always kept boiling down in the hole.” During his stay, J. Ross Browne wrote of what he saw, “...as far back as the records extend, they lived, as they do to this day, by cultivating the earth…having a fixed residence and permanent abodes…the Pimos have always manifested a friendly disposition toward the whites, and seem much devoted to the peaceful pursuits of agriculture and stock-raising.” The ‘green snake’ made such a description possible.


O’otham and Piipaash were in the middle of all the traveling within ali shon or Arizona. The trails along ‘the green snake,’ were almost as busy as I-10 today, hopefully it didn’t have as many wheel-wrecking potholes.

My mother remembered her first home on the south bank of the akimel in District 5. The home was sheltered by tall tamarisk trees, which were also a new thing on our land since they are not a native tree.  My mother wistfully remembered the akimel flowing once-in-a-while.The “green snake” was a treasured memory for her.


Historical incidents taken from; Peoples of the Middle Gila by John P. Wilson; First U.S. flag over Tucson Unfurled by Mormon soldier, The Arizona Daily Star, Oct 17, 2015; California Saints: A 150-Year Legacy in the Golden State,  Richard O. Cowan and William E. Homer, Brigham Young University, 1996; Discrete Monument Honors Mormon Battalion near Casa Grande, Arizona Oddities; and A tour through Arizona : from Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, San Francisco, California to Casa Grande, Arizona in October and November of 1864 by J. Ross Browne, 1864.


Part of Poston and Browne going to Tucson but no John N. Goodwin. He had met with Colonel James Henry Carleton, now a brigadier general, in Santa Fe. General Carleton persuaded Goodwin to locate the territorial capital near Prescott, near the gold discoveries.  It was also the location of Fort Whipple.


Three months later (March?), Poston met Judge Joseph Allyn (Letters from a Pioneer Judge) and Bishop Lamay at Casa Blanca or Ammi White’s house.  Poston was on his way to the Hopi villages.


December 2, 1852 The first steamer on the Colorado River reached Yuma. The “Uncle Sam” was brought up to the mouth of the river in sections and then assembled in Yuma.  Indians reaction?


 Dec. 30, 1853 With the Gadsden Purchase, the US agreed to buy 45,000 acres of land from Mexico for $10 million.


December 17, 1864 Town of Caliville was settled on the Colorado by Mormon as a landing site for steamers.


October 15, 1870  Phoenix citizens met and selected an official town site. Lots were sold by December 23.


December 28, 1872  Massacre of about 100 Yavapai, many of whom were women and children. Gravestone at Ft.

McDowell Cemetery.


December 22, 1902 Parts of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation were returned to public domain by executive order.


December 30, 1916  Republican Thomas E. Campbell and Democrat George W. P. Hunt both took the oath of office for governor of Arizona. It was a very close election and Hunt refused to give up the office. Campbell had to open a temporary office in his homeIn territorial house of representatives in 1892 and 1894, sponsored a $5,000 reward for Apache Kid.


Hunt was sworn in as Arizona’s first state governor on February 14, 1912, no election.


Hunt won reelection in 1914, defeating Ralph H. Cameron,

Election of 1916, was too close to call. Initial results showed Thomas E. Campbell  won by 30 votes. Hunt challenged the results and refused to leave office. January 27, 1917, the Arizona Supreme Court naming Campbell the governor forced Hunt to surrender his office. Hunt maintained the fight and on December 22, 1917, was declared the winner of the 1916 election.


Hunt returned to office for his third term on December 25, 1917.


Did not run in 1918 and left office in January 1919.


In early 1920, Hunt was believed to be planning a run for the U. S. Senate. To counter this possible threat, Henry F. Ashurst, asked President Wilson to appoint Hunt to a diplomatic position that would take him away from Arizona. The story continues with Wilson placing his finger on a globe and asking “Would this be far enough?”[20] Hunt was confirmed as the U.S. Minister to Siam on May 18, 1920.


Beginning in 1923, Hunt served as Governor of Arizona for six consecutive years, winning closely contested reelection contests in both 1924 and 1926.


Rosalie was born in 1927.


Hunt was defeated in his 1928 reelection bid.


His 1930 campaign was successful, and Hunt returned for a seventh term. His wife died April 18, 1931, their marriage lasting 27 years.


Hunt failed to gain his party’s nomination in 1932, losing to Benjamin Baker Moeur.


 Hunt  made another unsuccessful run in 1934.


 Hunt died of heart failure at home on December 24. 1934.[3]He was interred in a white pyramid set atop a hill in Phoenix’s Papago Park   All is Wikipedia. 7 time governor.


When  did Joe and Daisy leave?

 George W. P. Hunt and His Arizona by John S. Goff. CAC Lib.


December 9, 1924 Hopi asked women to wear dresses not knickers when they visited their reservation.

First homecoming was on December 4, 1926      

             Tempe State Teachers College 0
Phoenix Indians  0

December 23, 1944 25 German POW’s escape from Phoenix camp. All are captured. Papago scouts?, Linda’s article.

December 1892-March 17, 1964. Birth and death of George Webb. Hattie’s were May 22, 1892 and March 28, 1972.

December 1972. first public protest of Orem Dam held at Fort McDowell:   https://www.fmyn.org/about-fmyn/history/

http://www.fmyn.org/wp-content/uploads/2015-ODVD-Parade-     Application-v2.pdf  (Why we celebrate, 2nd page)