California: Mohave

Map: Arizona, Mohave
The Mohave people lived along the lower Colorado River in present-day Arizona and California. They are recognized as great runners.

The Mohave resisted Spanish and American settlers until 1859 when they lost a battle to U.S. forces. Eventually, the Mohave were combined with the Chemehuevi, Hopi, and Navajo Indians and relocated to the Colorado River Reservation in West Central Arizona.

Mohave means "three mountains" and refers specifically to the "needles" of rock that rise above the Colorado River. There were about 3,000 Mohave Indians in the late 1600s.

The Mohave farmed the lower Colorado River basin for 800 years. Their major crops included corn, melons, pumpkins, beans, and various roots. They did not irrigate their crops and their plantings often failed.

The Mohave lived in scattered groups of homes made of brush placed between upright mesquite logs. They traveled the Colorado River on rafts made of reeds.

The Mohave had much in common with the Chemehuevi and Quechan cultures and had a language similar to the Havasupai, Yavapai, and Hualapai.

The Mohave had extensive knowledge of springs and food sources over a wide area, so trading was a way of life. Although not particularly skilled craftsmen, they often were the middlemen in trades between neighboring tribes.

The Mohave were probably the most populous and the most hostile of the Yuman-speaking tribes. War was a way of life for them, and young men achieved prestige and honor on the battlefield. Mohave men were very strong and athletic.

Each band within the Mohave tribe was made up of several extended families. Bands cooperated for the good of the tribe and considered themselves a single nation that acted together against enemies.

Men who earned the respect of the tribe or their band became leaders. No one held a position of inherent authority over others.

Other native peoples coveted the Mohave's territory along the Colorado River. The area was particularly desirable for Central Arizona tribes that were being pushed off their land by settlers, so the Mohave had considerable problems with the Pima, Maricopa, Cocopah, and Papago tribes.