Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

Aboriginally the O'odham occupied about forty thousand square miles of the Sonoran Desert in the present states of Sonora, Mexico and Arizona in the United States. The present day (late twentieth century) population is believed to be the remnant and consolidation of that territory's earlier occupant whom the Spaniards called the "Upper Pimas." The O'odham speak several closely related dialects of the Uto-Aztecan language family. Traditionally, subsistence was based on gathering, hunting, and agriculture with the primary crops being beans, maize, and squash. Each village was autonomous but joined with other villages of the regional band for war and ceremonies.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


North America --Southwest and Basin



United States

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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF World Cultures collection and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.

The NU79 O'odham collection covers the Spanish period from 1687 to 1821; the Mexican period from 1821 to 1848, the American period from 1848 to approximately 1981, and interspersed, on occasion, with bits of information on the prehistory of the general region. Although many historians and anthropologists have treated the Pima and Papago as two separate peoples, by the early twenty-first century, the cultural similarity between the two, has led us to combine them in this collection under the new designation O'odham (NU79).

Cultural history and general ethnography are the major topics in many of the documents in this collection, notably: Underhill (1946, 1939, 1935, nos. 1-3); Fontana (1983, no, 19); Ezell (1983, no. 20); Bahr (1983, no. 22); and the history of Christianity among the Pima-Papago in Bahr (1988, no. 25). Other ethnographic topics discussed in this collection are: the life history of a Papago woman in Underhill (1936, no. 3); regional geography in Castetter (1942, no. 5) and Fontana (1983, no. 18); cultural adaptation in Fontana (1983, no. 18), Hackenberg (1983, no. 21), and Castetter (1935, no. 17). Personality development and child-rearing practices are major topics of discussion in Joseph (1949, no. 4). Finally, shamanism, theories of disease, and curing are all described in Bahr, (1983, [1974], nos. 23, 26), while food and diet in comparison to disease factors, form a significant topic of discussion in Fazzino (2008, no. 27).

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

John Beierle

A'ata –a special exorcism for "sending away" evil,– Use MAGICAL AND MENTAL THERAPY ( 755) and/or MAGIC ( 789)

Charcos –a pond or source of water– Use WATER SUPPLY ( 312)

Dúajida –the ceremony associated with the diagnosis of a disease by a shaman– Use MAGICAL AND MENTAL THERAPY ( 755)

Géwkdag –the substantial or quasisubstantial thing that enters the patient's body and creates the symptoms of a sickness– Use THEORY OF DISEASE ( 753) and/or ETHNOPSYCHOLOGY ( 828)

Governor Use COMMUNITY HEADS ( 622)

Indian Health Service Use PUBLIC HEALTH AND SANITATION ( 744)

Ka:cim mumkideg –"staying sickness"– Use THEORY OF DISEASE ( 753) with MORBIDITY ( 164)

Keeper –the village ceremonial leader– Use PRIESTHOOD ( 793)

Kobanal –the village chief– Use COMMUNITY HEADS ( 622)

Leg –an assistant to the Keeper who carries messages to people at a distance– Use DISSEMINATION OF NEWS AND INFORMATION ( 203) with LOCAL OFFICIALS ( 624)

Mákai –the shaman– Use SHAMANS AND PSYCHOTHERAPISTS ( 756)

Tribal council Use PARLIAMENT ( 646)

Village unit Use COMMUNITY STRUCTURE ( 621)

Way –the "strength" of an object– Use ETHNOPSYCHOLOGY ( 828)

Wiikita –the prayerstick festival– Use ORGANIZED CEREMONIAL ( 796)

Wúsota –ritual curing– Use MAGICAL AND MENTAL THERAPY ( 755)

Wustana –the act of blowing on a patient in the curing process– Use

Indexing Notes by

John Beierle

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