Tohono O'odham (a.k.a. Pápago)
The Tohono O'odham (sometimes known as Pápago) trace their ancestry to the Hohokam or "those who came before." The name Pápago comes from the Piman work Papahvi-o-otam which may mean "bean people." The Tohono O'odham had two locations for their villages which they referred to as the Fields and the Well. The Fields were located along the river and were inhabited during the growing season. The Well sites were located in the mountains where they hunted deer and gathered wild foods. Sometimes when crops were poor, the Tohono O'odham had to range over great distances to feed their families.
The dwellings of the Tohono O'odham were made of saplings bent over and covered with brush and earth forming sturdy, dome-shaped structures which resemble upside down bird nests. These structures were used for sleeping and food storage. Cooking and other activities took place outside.
The traditional saguaro harvest takes place each year sometime in June. The Tohono O'odham use a cross-shaped picking stick made from ribs of dead saguaro to pluck the ripe fruit from the cactus. The fruit usually splits when it hits the ground, revealing its scarlet pulp mixed with black seeds. If the fruit doesn't split the pickers use the stem as a knife to cut around the fruit and split it open. The fruit is cooked immediately over an open fire in ollas. The strained cherry red juice is used for syrup and wine used in ceremonies to encourage the summer rains. The cooked pulp is made into jam and some is dried on racks to make a concoction similar to fruit leather. The black seeds are roasted and then ground for flour.
Each village had a headman called "The Keeper of the Smoke," but the business of the village was discussed by a council of elders who only took action after they reached unanimous agreement. War and hunting expeditions were under the direction of leaders selected for their personal abilities and knowledge of rituals. The Tohono O'odham had little time for war so they would take only a small band of warriors, usually ten or twelve to enemy country. They would attack at dawn so the enemy would not know they were coming.
When the food gathering for the winter was over, the Tohono O'odham would relax by playing kickball and running races. Basketmakers utilized materials from the desert. The white designs were created using sotol and yucca. The black designs were from the inner bark of yucca roots. The inner coil of the basket was bear grass. The same materials are used by today's Tohono O'odham basketmakers who produce more baskets than any other tribe.