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The Sobaipuri were one of many indigenous groups occupying Sonora and what is now Arizona at the time Europeans first entered the American Southwest. They were a Piman or O'odham group who occupied southern Arizona and northern Sonora (the Pimería Alta) in the 15th-19th centuries. They were a subgroup of the O'odham or Pima, surviving members of which include the residents of San Xavier del Bac which is now part of the Tohono O'odham Nation and the Akimel O'odham.

Sonora State of Mexico

Sonora, officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Sonora, is one of 31 states that, with Mexico City, comprise the 32 federal entities of United Mexican States. It is divided into 72 municipalities; the capital city is Hermosillo. Sonora is bordered by the states of Chihuahua to the east, Baja California to the northwest and Sinaloa to the south. To the north, it shares the U.S.–Mexico border with the states of Arizona and New Mexico, and on the west has a significant share of the coastline of the Gulf of California.

Arizona state of the United States of America

Arizona is a state in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the Western and the Mountain states. It is the sixth largest and the 14th most populous of the 50 states. Its capital and largest city is Phoenix. Arizona, one of the Four Corners states, is bordered by New Mexico to the east, Utah to the north, Nevada and California to the west, and Mexico to the south, as well as the southwestern corner of Colorado. Arizona's border with Mexico is 389 miles (626 km) long, on the northern border of the Mexican states of Sonora and Baja California.

Pimería Alta

The Pimería Alta was an area of the 18th century Sonora y Sinaloa Province in the Viceroyalty of New Spain, that encompassed parts of what are today southern Arizona in the United States and northern Sonora in Mexico.


Debate sometimes still arises as to whether the Sobaipuri and other O'odham groups are related to the prehistoric Hohokam who occupied a portion of the same geographic area and were present until about the 15th century. This question is sometimes phrased as the "Hohokam-Pima" or "Salado-Pima continuum", a phraseology that questions whether there is a connection between the prehistoric Hohokam and the first historic groups cited in the area. A key piece of the puzzle has recently been found when it was discovered that there was Sobaipuri (O'odham) present in the late prehistoric period (Seymour 2007a, 2011a, 2011b, 2014). Chronometric dates from multiple sites on the San Pedro and Santa Cruz rivers have produced evidence of Sobaipuri occupation in the 14th century (Seymour 2007, 2008, 2011a, 2011b; and some even earlier, perhaps as early as the 13th century. The position is no longer defensible that no one was present after 1400 CE [ clarification needed ] and that there was a substantial population decline in the prehistoric period (Seymour 2007c,d, 2011a, 2011b). Traditional stories help confirm the idea that there was likely a clash between the newly arriving O'odham, including the Sobaipuri-O'odham and the extant groups including the Hohokam and Western Puebloan groups. The issue of a continuum is implausible because archaeological and oral histories demonstrate [ examples needed ] that the local residents intermixed with and became O'odham.[ citation needed ]

Hohokam ethnic group

The Hohokam were an ancient Native American culture centered in the present US state of Arizona. The Hohokam are one of the four major cultures of the American Southwest and northern Mexico in Southwestern archaeology. Considered part of the Oasisamerica tradition, the Hohokam established significant trading centers such as at Snaketown, and are considered to be the builders of the original canal system around the Phoenix metropolitan area, which the Mormon pioneers rebuilt when they settled the Lehi area of Mesa near Red Mountain. Variant spellings in current, official usage include Hobokam, Huhugam, and Huhukam.

Archaeology and history

The Sobaipuri were present when the first Europeans visited the area in the middle 16th century, thereby playing an important role in European contact and later the European colonization of Arizona. Marcos de Niza probably encountered this group along the San Pedro River in southeastern Arizona in 1539, although when Francisco Vázquez de Coronado followed less than a year later his party of explorers seems to have turned before reaching the Sobaipuri settlements (Seymour 2009a, 2011a). When Father Eusebio Kino first arrived in the area in 1691 he was greeted by leaders of this group. Headmen from San Cayetano del Tumacacori and perhaps other villages had come to Saric, Mexico from the north to ask that Kino visit them. Kino traveled north along the Santa Cruz River to San Cayetano de Tumacacori (later moved to the modern location of Tumacácori National Historical Park and renamed), where he found three native-made structures that had been constructed specially for him: a house, a kitchen, and one for saying mass (Bolton 1948). This visit to this first of the Spanish missions in the Sonoran Desert north of the current international border made this native Sobaipuri settlement the first mission in southern Arizona, or the first Jesuit mission in Arizona, but, contrary to popular notions, not the first mission in Arizona. This original native Sobaipuri settlement of San Cayetano del Tumacacori has been located archaeologically on the east side of the river (as shown on Kino's historic maps), providing evidence of a densely packed, well-planned, long-occupied village (Seymour 2007a, 2011a).

San Pedro River (Arizona) river in the United States of America

The San Pedro River is a northward-flowing stream originating about 10 miles (16 km) south of the international border south of Sierra Vista, Arizona, in Cananea Municipality, Sonora, Mexico. The river starts at the confluence of other streams just east of Sauceda, Cananea. Within Arizona, the river flows 140 miles (230 km) north through Cochise County, Pima County, Graham County, and Pinal County to its confluence with the Gila River, at Winkelman, Arizona. It is the last major, free-flowing undammed river in the American Southwest, it is of major ecological importance as it hosts two-thirds of the avian diversity in the United States, including 100 species of breeding birds and 300 species of migrating birds.

Francisco Vázquez de Coronado Spanish explorer of the American southwest

Francisco Vázquez de Coronado y Luján was a Spanish conquistador and explorer who led a large expedition from Mexico to present-day Kansas through parts of the southwestern United States between 1540 and 1542. Vázquez de Coronado had hoped to reach the Cities of Cíbola, often referred to now as the mythical Seven Cities of Gold, which is a term not invented until American gold-rush days in the 1800s. His expedition marked the first European sightings of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River, among other landmarks. His name is often Anglicized as "Vasquez de Coronado".

Eusebio Kino Italian Jesuit missionary

Eusebio Francisco Kino was a Jesuit, missionary, geographer, explorer, cartographer and astronomer born in the Territory of the Bishopric of Trent, then part of the Holy Roman Empire. For the last 24 years of his life he worked in the region then known as the Pimería Alta, modern-day Sonora in Mexico and southern Arizona in the United States. He explored the region and worked with the indigenous Native American population, including primarily the Tohono O'Odham, Sobaipuri and other Upper Piman groups. He proved that the Baja California Peninsula is not an island by leading an overland expedition there. By the time of his death he had established 24 missions and visitas.

Kino then stopped by Guevavi (later referred to as Mission Los Santos Ángeles de Guevavi), which is located to the south along the Santa Cruz River. Here he later (1701) established a church which he ordered whitewashed. The location of this native settlement and this formal church has been identified (Seymour 1993, 1997, 2008b, 2011a). This native settlement later became the head mission for this region.

Mission Los Santos Ángeles de Guevavi

Mission Los Santos Ángeles de Guevavi was founded by Jesuit missionary Fathers Kino and Salvatierra in 1691 as La Misión de San Gabriel de Guevavi, a district headquarters in what is now Arizona, near Tumacácori. Subsequent missionaries called it San Rafael and San Miguel, resulting in the common historical name of Los Santos Ángeles de Guevavi.

The Sobaipuris were initially friendly with their neighbors, including the Apache, Jocome, and Jano (Seymour 2007b, 2008a). They traded with one another and they were cited sometimes raiding together. They even intermarried, probably creating the unique character of the Sobaipuri. Later they sided with the Europeans which stressed their relationship with the unconverted tribes, because Sobaipuris then went into battle against the others.

Archaeological research

The Sobaipuri are one of the most-studied protohistoric (or late prehistoric and early historic) groups in southern Arizona, although this is not saying much as the protohistoric (late prehistoric and early historic) are less studied than most other time periods, especially in this area. The accompanying list of references shows the upsurge of research in this group by archaeologists in the past 30 years.

Prior to this most of the research was conducted by historians. The first archaeological work was initiated by Charles C. Di Peso (1953, 1956) of the Amerind Foundation who established a program designed to understand the transition from prehistory to history. Although most of his conclusions about sites visited by Father Eusebio Kino have been discredited, Di Peso is recognized as a true scholar and he did define the first archaeological Sobaipuri site, making key contributions to the field, some of which are only recently being recognized. The other sites he thought might be Sobaipuri turned out to be late prehistoric sites representing Puebloan and other culture groups or the remnants of a later Spanish fort Santa Cruz de Terrenate.

Charles Corradino Di Peso was an American archaeologist. He is known for his research in Northern Mexico and the American Southwest.

Archaeologist Deni Seymour has studied the Sobaipuri for 30 years, revisiting some of the issues raised by Di Peso. On the San Pedro, Santa Cruz, and tributary drainages of Sonoita creek, Babocomari, and Aravaipi Seymour has documented more than 80 archaeological sites occupied by the Sobaipuri (Seymour 1989, 1990, 1993a). She has mapped portions of their extensive irrigation systems and noted how their agriculture-based villages drifted along the river margins as groups grew and splintered through time (Seymour 1990, 1993, 1997, 2003, 2011a, 2011b, 2013). Excavations on several Sobaipuri sites have led her to revise conclusions that have arisen from use of the documentary record alone.

In the early 1980s, archaeologist Bruce Masse (1981) excavated Sobaipuri sites on the lower (northern) San Pedro River, revising many of Di Peso's original perspectives and summarizing the state of knowledge about this group to that date.

Only a few residential sites have been found away from the rivers. Archaeologist Bruce Huckell (1994) documented three archaeological sites in the shadow of the Santa Rita Mountains north of Sonoita, Arizona. These sites were probably used seasonally for hunting and gathering or possibly as refuge sites to escape Spanish, or possibly Apache, domination.

The Apache are a group of culturally related Native American tribes in the Southwestern United States, which include the Chiricahua, Jicarilla, Lipan, Mescalero, Salinero, Plains and Western Apache. Distant cousins of the Apache are the Navajo, with which they share the Southern Athabaskan languages. There are Apache communities in Oklahoma, Texas, and reservations in Arizona and New Mexico. Apache people have moved throughout the United States and elsewhere, including urban centers. The Apache Nations are politically autonomous, speak several different languages and have distinct cultures.

See also

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