Published on May 18, 2012 by Amy
The Cocopah or Cocopa are Native American people who live in Baja California and Sonora, Mexico, and in Arizona in the United States. The Cocopah language belongs to the Delta–California branch of the Yuman family. In Spanish, the Cocopah are termed Cucapá. Their self-designation is Xawiƚƚ kwñchawaay or “Those Who Live on the River.” As of the 2000 United States Census, the Cocopah Tribe of Arizona’s population was 891.
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The term Patayan is used by archaeologists to describe the prehistoric Native American cultures that inhabited parts of modern day Arizona, California and Baja California, including areas near the Colorado River Valley, the nearby uplands, and north to the vicinity of the Grand Canyon. The makers of this prehistoric culture may have been ancestral to the Cocopah and other Yuman-speaking groups in the region. The Patayan peoples practiced floodplain agriculture where possible, but they relied heavily on hunting and gathering.
The first significant contact of the Cocopah with Europeans probably occurred in 1540, when the Spanish explorer Hernando de Alarcón sailed into the Colorado River delta. The Cocopah were specifically mentioned by name by the expedition of Juan de Oñate in 1605.
Cocopah peoples in the United States are enrolled in the Cocopah Indian Tribe. As of the 2000 United States Census, the Cocopah Tribe of Arizona numbered at 891 peoples. There is a casino and bingo hall on the reservation. Another Yuman group, the Quechan, lives in the adjacent Fort Yuma Indian Reservation. The Cocopah sometimes wear traditional grass skirts.