Southwest Indian Relief Council
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A Program of PWNA

 Arizona: Papago

Map: Arizona, Papago
The Papago are known as the "Desert People." They live primarily on the Tohono O’odham Reservation, the San Xavier Reservation, and the Gila Bend Reservation. Ranching is still a large part of the economy of these reservations. Copper mining on the Tohono O’Odham reservation also provides substantial income to the reservation.

Into the early 1800s the Papago were desert farmers who lived a peaceful, nomadic life. There were no dependable streams on their land, so the Papago were constantly moving to find water for their fields.

In the 1820s the Spanish moved up from central Mexico and encroached upon the Papago lands. The Papago resisted, but were forced to surrender within a few years.

The Papago were among the last Indian people to be in constant contact with the Spanish. The Spanish missionaries eventually converted the Papago to Catholicism and used them as slave labor. The Papago acquired ranching skills from the Spanish and became accomplished cattlemen.

In 1848 the United States purchased Arizona and an International Boundary was placed across the Papago lands. Throughout much of the latter 1800s, most of the Papago moved to the U.S. side of their lands to escape persecution and local hostility in Mexico.

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