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The Tohono O’odham Indian Lands is in Southern Arizona and extends into the northern portion of Mexico. The reservation lies in Maricopa, Pinal and Pima Counties. The tribe is separated into four Indian lands, which is about the same size as the state of Connecticut. The tribe has 18,061 members.
Before settlers came to this area, the Papago Indians were a peaceful culture. They did not believe in violence; although if provoked they would attack. The Papago could become fierce warriors and many times proved victorious in battle.
A tradition that made the Papago different from many other Indian tribes was their ceremony after the killing of another. Whenever a member of the Papago tribe killed another human being, he had to go through a sixteen-day purification ritual. This had to be completed before the tribe would welcome him back.
The primary portion of Tohono O’odham Indian Land covers 2,773,050 acres and was established in December 1882. This piece of land is stretches 90 miles across southern Arizona and into the northern part of Mexico. The San Xavier Indian Lands with 71,000 acres was created in July 1874. This section of the Indian Land is located near Tucson. The two other pieces, Gila Bend Indian Lands with 10,000 acres and Florence Village with 20 acres were established later. Gila Bend is to the north of the main section of the Tohono O’odham Indian Lands and Florence Village is just west of the town of Florence.
In 1986, the tribe officially changed their name from Papago to Tohono O’odham. The tribe had never considered themselves Papago meaning, “bean people.” They had always used the name Tohono O’odham meaning “desert people.” During the name change, they also adopted a new constitution. The constitution created three branches of government, which mimics the United States government organization.
Today, the Tohono O’odham Indians are involved in agriculture, retail-tourism and cattle raising. The Indian Land welcomes economic growth and has developed an industrial park to encourage business. The tribal headquarters is located in the town of Sells.
The Tohono O’odham Indian tribe is known for their pottery and basketry.
The National Historic Landmark of the Mission San Xavier del Bac is one of the most beautiful missions in the Southwest. The Tohono O’odham Indians have used it continuously for more than two centuries. The mission is known to many, as the “White Dove of the Desert.”
Kitt Peak Observatory has 18 telescopes in operation, including one of the largest optical telescopes in North America. There is a paved road to the summit, where visitors can also enjoy a picnic. The National Science Foundation owns the observatory and includes a Visitor Center and museum.
The land is home to the Desert Diamond Casino.
Annual Tohono O’odham All-Indian Rodeo and Fair October