If you’ve traveled on the 101 Freeway in Scottsdale, you’ll notice a drastic change in scenery; from densely populated areas to arid, open land. The change starts at the intersection of the 101 and 202 and extends northward on the 101, a small distance past the Via de Ventura exit. This corridor is the western boundary of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community is the home of two native American cultures, the Pima (“Akimel Au-Authm” – river people) and the Maricopa (“Xalychidom Piipaash” – people who live toward the water). A land parcel was designated for the people in 1879 during the administration of President Hayes when settlers were migrating west across the Mississippi and trying to lay claim to native American land.
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The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRPMIC) extends east on the north side of the 202, hugging the Mesa border; touches the Fort McDowell Indian Reservation border (home of the Yavapai), Fountain Hills and Scottsdale at its northern most boundaries.
Today there are nearly 54,000 acres designated for the Salt River community. Approximately 9,500 native American residents call the area home. 90% of the land is open space, either reserved for agriculture, recreation, natural resource or vacant land.
The western boundary, straddling both sides of the 101, is designated for commercial use. You’ll find shopping centers, Talking Stick Resort, Casino Arizona and Salt River Fields as well as office complexes along this tract of land today. The main residential and civic center of the community is north of Osborne Road, south of Jackrabbit Road and east of Country Club Drive.
The SRP-MIC is self-governed. They have their own president, vice president and council of elders as well as a host of municipal services for residents. In 1940, the community created a general plan (updated in 2006) that serves as their guiding principles in governance and planning:
- Identify land parcel use
- Provide basis for decision-making
- Involve the local community in planning and decisions
- Inform people inside SRP-MIC and adjacent communities of the ground-rules
Their primary goal is “planning for generations of sustainability” and includes:
- General guidance for future growth
- Comprehensive in scope – address environmental, social and economic impact on community long term
- Address long-range future of communities
- Build Green – Leadership in energy efficiency and design
The Pima and Maricopa people have a rich culture and ancient roots in Arizona going back long before people of European descent discovered the Americas.
The Maricopa tribe lived along the Colorado River. Illness and droughts in the mid 1800’s caused their numbers to dwindle. As a result of their struggle in managing the land, and with increasing pressures from colonial Americans and the Yavapai people, the Maricopa migrated and settled alongside the Pima people on the Salt River.
The Pima are said to be ancestors of “Hohokam”. We found “Hohokam” has been interpreted a few ways (those who are missing, those who are gone, or simply, as descendant’s). Either way, the Hohokam’s are said to have inhabited Arizona as far back as 300 B.C.
They farmed the Salt River area creating an extensive canal and irrigation system, parts of which have been renovated and are still in use today. The Hohokams disappeared around 1450 A.D. It’s speculated that either plague, or drought and famine was the cause.
The Pima were strong runners, basket weavers and farmers growing corn, squash and beans and when drought came, cotton became a staple crop. They are known for their basket weaving techniques – so intricate that liquid will not run through them. The Maricopa are known for their pottery, textiles, basket weaving and farming. The wares of both tribes are made from natural materials and artifacts can be viewed at Hoo-hoogam Ki Museum.
Together the Pima and Maricopa people protected their families, and as much of the land of the Salt River area as possible from the settlers, Yavapai and other migrating tribes.
The proclamation that initiated the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, and other native american communities and reservations in the United States, was made by President Hayes in 1878. Future presidential and legislative action following Hayes’ proclamation assured land rights and boundaries to native americans as well as self-governance. At the time of his proclamation more than 50 parcels of land were designated across the United States. Many are still in existence today.
Both the Maricopa and the Pima served as scouts in the U.S. Cavalry and continue to serve our country in various forms of the Armed Forces.
The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community owns and operates several businesses including Salt River Materials Group, Saddleback Communications, Casino Arizona and Talking Stick Resort. The Pima and Maricopa people are known for their business acumen and a plethora of community programs aimed at education and health of residents.
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