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Pima (pēˈmə), Native North American tribe of S Arizona. They speak the Pima language of the Uto-Aztecan branch of the Aztec-Tanoan linguistic family (see Native American languages). There are two divisions, the Lower Pima and the Upper Pima. Before the mission period, the Pima and the Tohono O'Odham, who spoke variations of the same language, called themselves the People—River People (Akimel O'Odham, the Pima) and Desert People (Tohono O'Odham). Archaeological evidence shows their probable ancestors to have been the Hohokam, who built a network of irrigation canals for farming. Many of the ruined pueblos in the Pima territory have been attributed to an ancient Pueblo tribe. Tradition further states that increased population caused the Pima to spread over a larger territory, but invading hostile tribes (probably Apache) forced them to consolidate. Thus in 1697, when visited by Father Eusebio Kino, the Pima were living on the Gila River in S central Arizona.

Although the Pima were warlike toward the Apache, they were friendly to the Spanish and later to the pioneers from the E United States; the Pima villages were a stopping place for pioneers who took the southern route to California. The Pima were sedentary farmers of the Southwest area; they farmed corn, squash, beans, cotton, and wheat (introduced by the Spanish). They lived in dome-shaped huts built of poles and covered with mud and brush. Women performed much of the labor, including basket making; their baskets are noted for their beauty. The Pima were expert with the bow and arrow and had war clubs and rawhide shields. The Pima numbered some 2,500 in 1775, but their population was increased when the Maricopa joined them in the early 19th cent. The Pima now live, together with the Maricopa, on the Gila River and Salt River reservations and, with the Tohono O'Odham, on the Ak-Chin reservation, all in Arizona. They earn their income from agriculture, crafts, and leasing land for mineral development. In 1990 there were over 15,000 Pima in the United States.


See P. H. Ezell, The Hispanic Acculturation of the Gila River Pimas (1961).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an American Indian tribe that in the 16th century lived along the Gila River and in the foothills of the Sierra Madre, in what is now the state of Arizona. The Pima language is related to the Sonoran group of the Uto-Aztecan language family. The basis of the Pima economy from ancient times was land cultivation; the Pima practiced irrigation and grew maize, beans, squash, and cotton. From the Europeans they adopted stock raising and the plow, which they used to cultivate.

In social relations, the Pima stood on the threshold of a class society; the basic social units were the large patriarchal family and the community of neighbors. Irrigation work was directed by a community council headed by an elder and a chief. In the late 16th century, Pima lands were declared Spanish possessions, and in 1848 the Pima became wards of the US government. They were deprived of their best lands and irrigation canals, and their thriving economy came to an end. The modern Pima (approximately 7,000 persons in the 1960’s) live on the Gila River and Salt River Indian reservations in Arizona. They work as hired hands.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Members of the Pima, or Akimel O'odham, community, despite their experiment with a pre-1934 constitutional government, not to mention their conversion to Christianity and sending their children to school, have not generated writers and activists as did their tribal peers in other parts of the United States such as Oklahoma, the Upper Plains, and the Northeast.
In southern Arizona the Akimel O'odham (formerly Pima) and the Tohono O'odham (formerly Papago) reach the ripened fruit of the tall saguaro cactus with a long hook fabricated from a saguaro rib, and their name for this tool is the same as that for the Big Dipper.
The Yavapai, Hualapai, Havasupai, Akimel O'odham, Pee-Pee, Southern Paiute bands, Chemehuevi, Quechan, Mohave, and Cocopa also adopted the basic style.