Battles and other bad stuff

Take I-10 south from Phoenix; go past Tempe, Chandler and Awatukee until you reach the Maricopa cutoff. Take Maricopa Road south past Firebird lake and race track until reach the Maricopa Plains area. A very few short miles of good four-lane highway will bring you to the Gila River and Pima Butte. You are now on the bloodiest ground in Arizona history.

When people think of war-like Indians (not that I blame them, given the provocations...) words like Apache, Comanche and Sioux float through onesr head. The fact is that most tribes engaged in warfare, some more than others; some by choice, other by necessity. The latter is certainly true for the Pimas. By necessity, for their safety and economic welfare the Pimas came to be very good warrriors, holding their own against their traditional Yuman enimies, as well as occassional unwelcome visits from Arizona's friendliest indians (not!), the apaches. Because of geography, by occupying the main travel routes across Southern Arizona, the Pimas had little choice but to become a respectful military force.

The fact is that early European journals and even Pima lore and "taking sticks" are witnesses to the constant wars between certain tribes and friendly relationships with others. The Pimas and the Papagos were often allies and recorded violence between them is rare. The Pimas and the Maricopas are a special case almost unique in American history; two tribes co-existing in the same area. Now with other groups thing weren't always so peaceful. There are written accounts recorded on Pima "talking sticks" that simply say: Encountered Apache, killed him. Not much United Nations dialogue there.

As the first Europeans entered the Old Maricopa area, in about 1698, they found the Pimas to be friendly, industrious and helpful. In the Jesuit journals of Kino, Sedemeyr and others, as well as in the works of the Franciscans (Garces...) and the military writings of Font and Anza, the Pimas are constantly cited for their friendlyness. The same is true for the Americans travelling overland during the Gold Rusg. After passing San Xavier and Tucson, the limits of the traditional raiding territory of the Apaches, the pioneers would breathe a collective sigh of relief to be among the Pimas.

Actually the peaceful life of the Pimas was won by fighting when necessary and by vigilance. Lookouts were posted on the rocky buttes around the Maricopa plains. There is a trail up the mountain at Monetzuma head where young warriors were posted to wath the western approaches to the Pima and Maricopa villages along the Gila and Santa Cruz. On almost any day, the vision is fantastic (or at least it was before the brown clouds of Phoenix came in the 20th century.

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