Southwest Indians were a group of several tribes so named for their geographical locations of residence. The Southwest Indians occupied what is now Arizona, New Mexico, Southern Colorado, and the most northern part of Mexico. The main tribes of the Southwest Indians were the Apache, Hopi, Navajo, Pueblo, and Zuni. Though some tribes shared the same languages and customs, there was not one primary language or way of life. Many of the Southwest Indians became farmers.
The Apache, Navajo, and Pueblo were well known Southwest Indians. The Hopi were a tribe of Southwest Indians related to the Pueblo. The Hopi lived in Arizona and built villages atop mesas. Their dwellings are part of an ancient civilization and were skillfully constructed of stone and mud. The name Hopi translates to “peacable people”.
Southwest Indians were spiritual, but superstitious. The Kachina was one custom that combined both beliefs. Kachinas were small dolls that many Southwest Indians believed held ancestral spirits that were directly connected to the clouds that carried rain. During ceremonies, the Southwest Indians would ask the Kachinas to bring rain to grow good crops. Kachinas were kept secret from children until they turned 13 years of age.
The Southwest Indians were skilled craftsmen and each tribe contributed useful creations. The Apache were skilled at weaving yucca leaves and willow reeds into artful, but practical baskets. The Pueblo taught the Navajo women how to weave after the Navajo were introduced to spinning wool. This skill has been passed on through generations and is the source of the beautiful Navajo blankets with intricately woven patterns that are so familiar to Indian and non-Indian alike.
The Southwest Indians in modern-day society live primarily on reservations. Some of the tribes rely on gambling for income. The Navajo reservation remains the largest in the U.S. with approximately 16 million acres in Arizona. Many of the skills shared amongst the Southwest Indians continue to be used on the reservations today.
Joseph Paige © 2006