Pascua Yaqui Indian Tribe of Arizona

Published on October 26, 2010 by John

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Pascua Yaqui Tribe

Pascua Yaqui Tribe

The Pascua Yaqui Tribe is a tribe of Native Americans, acknowledged by the United States government on September 18, 1978. Most U.S. members of the tribe live in southern Arizona. Descended from the ancient Uto-Azteca people of Mexico, the ancestors of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe first settled in the United States near Nogales and south Tucson. In the late 19th century the Tribe began to expand into settlements north of Tucson in an area they named Pascua Village, and in Guadalupe, near Tempe.

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In 552 AD, Yaquis were living in family groups along the Yaqui River (Yoem Vatwe) north to the Gila River, where they gathered wild desert foods, hunted game and cultivated corn, beans, and squash. Yaquis traded native foods, furs, shells, salt, and other goods with many indigenous groups of central North America. Among these groups are the Shoshone, the Comanche, the Pueblos, the Pimas, the Aztecs, and the Toltec. Yaquis roamed extensively in pre-Columbian times and sometimes settled among other native groups like the Zunis.


In 1964, Congressman Morris K. Udall introduced a bill in Congress for the transfer to the Tribe of 202 acres (0.82 km2) southwest of Tucson. The bill was approved in August 1964 and the Pascua Yaqui Association, a nonprofit Arizona corporation, was formed to receive the deed for the land from the federal government. On September 18, 1978, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona became federally recognized: the Pascua Yaqui were not formally recognized by the federal government until 1978, when they achieved status as a created tribe, a designation that was finally converted to that of a historical tribe in 1994. In 1988 the Tribe’s first constitution was approved. The Pascua Yaqui Indian Reservation is located in Pima County, in the southwestern part of the Tucson metropolitan area, amidst the suburban communities of Drexel Heights and Valencia West, and adjacent to the eastern section of the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation, known as the San Xavier Indian Reservation. It has a land area of 4.832 km² (1.8657 sq mi, or 1,194 acres), and a 2000 census resident population of 3,315 persons, over 90 percent of whom are Native Americans. The community is governed by a chairman, a vice chairman and nine tribal council members. Police protection is provided by the Tribal Police Department, and fire protection is provided by six full-time firefighters and four reserves. Also they became divided by U.S. government.


Though now based in Christian teachings, dominantly Catholicism, the culture of the Pascua Yaqui has remained rich in native Indian elements. The Tribe has accepted political integration into American society, but has retained their former religious and cultural way of life.

The Yaqui people have used oral traditions to pass their history from one generation to the next. This is the history of the Yaqui as told by Ernesto Quiroga Sandoval, Historian, Pascua Yaqui Tribe:

“The Creator made ocean animals and allowed some to emerge onto land. Some evolved into a short human form: the Surem. These are the early ancestors of the Yaquis. The Surem lived in a time out of mind and were a peace-loving, gentle people who had no need for government. Life in the Sonoran desert was a harmonious perfection for the Surem until God spoke through a little tree and prophesied about new horticultural techniques, Christianity, savage invaders, and disunity. The Surem became frightened about parts of this message and transformed into taller, defensive farming people called Yaquis (Hiakim) or Yo’emem (The People)”


The Tribal government is the largest employer on the reservation. In addition to a smoke shop and artisan shop, the Tribe operates the Casino of the Sun gaming facility, which includes slot machines, bingo, restaurants, games and employs more than 600 staff. Casino Del Sol, the Tribe’s second gaming property, opened October 2001 and has provided an additional 550+ jobs on the reservation and in the Tucson Community. When the expansion of Casino Del Sol opens, an additional 700 jobs will be provided to the community.


A tribal council is made up of eleven elected officials, dedicated to the well being and advancement of their tribe as a whole.

The Pascua Yaquis have a status similar to other Native American tribes of the United States. This status makes the Yaqui eligible for specific services due to trust responsibility that the United States offers Native American peoples who have suffered land loss.

A U.S. government assisted news letter, Yaqui Times, also helps in keeping the people of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe informed.

Blood quantum for membership in the Pascua Yaqui Tribe is at least one quarter Yaqui blood. The Pascua Yaqui legal system gives no allowance in quantum for other tribal blood (for instance, a person with one-eighth Yaqui blood, one-eighth Tohono O’odham blood, and one-eighth Maricopa blood can not be accepted for membership in any of these tribes and in general is not considered by Pascua Yaqui or United States law to be “Native American”).

Source: Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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