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Maricopa Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Maricopa Indian tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our Maricopa language and culture pages for in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Maricopa pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.




   Maricopa Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Maricopa"? What does it mean?
Maricopa is pronounced "mare-ee-coh-pah," and it is a shortened form of the Spanish name for the tribe, Cocomaricopa. No one is really sure where that name came from or what it meant. It may have been a place name. In their own language, the tribe calls themselves Pi-Posh or Pee-Posh, which means "the people."

Where do the Maricopas live?
The Maricopa are natives of southwestern Arizona.

How is the Maricopa Indian nation organized?
The Maricopas share two reservations with their allies the Pima tribe. A reservation is land that belongs to an Indian tribe and is under their control. Each Pima-Maricopa community has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. However, the Maricopas are also US citizens and must obey American law.

In the past, each Maricopa village was ruled by its own chief, who was similar to a mayor. Village chiefs were chosen in religious ceremonies based on the visions they had. Today, the two Maricopa tribes are led by tribal councils elected by all the Pima and Maricopa people.

What language do the Maricopa Indians speak?
Almost all Maricopa people speak English today, but some of them, especially elders also speak their native Maricopa language. Maricopa is a complex language with many long words. If you'd like to know an easy Maricopa word, "ya hoch" (sounds a little like yah hoach) means "good morning" in Maricopa. You can also read a Maricopa picture glossary here.

Today Maricopa is an endangered language because most children aren't learning it anymore. However, some Maricopa people are working to keep their language alive.

What was Maricopa culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here is the homepage of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. On their site you can find information about the Maricopa people in the past and today.

How do Maricopa Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Maricopa children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play in their daily lives, just like colonial children. But they did have dolls, toys, and games to play. Maricopa people were known as excellent swimmers and runners, and Maricopa kids liked to swim in the rivers and compete at footraces. A Maricopa mother traditionally carried a young child in a cradleboard on her back. Here is a website with pictures of Native American cradle boards.

What were men and women's roles in the Maricopa tribe?
Maricopa husbands and wives worked together to farm their fields. Men planted the crops, and women harvested them. Maricopa women did most of the cooking and child care, and men sometimes went to war to protect their families. Both genders took part in storytelling, music and artwork, and traditional medicine.

What were Maricopa homes like in the past?
Maricopa people lived in earth houses, which are made of a wooden frame thatched with grass and packed with clay into a domed shape. The thick earthen walls kept this kind of house cool in the heat and warm in the cold, making it good shelter in the desert.

Maricopa people do not live in these old-fashioned dwellings today, any more than other Americans live in log cabins. Maricopa families live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What were Maricopa clothes like? Did the Maricopas wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Originally, Maricopa people didn't wear much clothing-- men wore only loincloths and women wore knee-length skirts. Shirts were not necessary in Maricopa culture, but the Maricopas sometimes wore rabbit-skin robes at night when the weather became cooler. After Europeans arrived, the Maricopas began to adapt some Mexican fashions such as cotton blouses. Unlike most Native American tribes, the Maricopas never wore moccasins. They either went barefoot or wore sandals. Here are some photos and links about Indian apparel in general.

The Maricopas did not wear war bonnets like the Plains Indians. Maricopa men twisted their long hair into hair rolls, which looked a little like dreadlocks. Sometimes they would wind them up around their heads, or wrap a turban around them. Maricopa women wore their hair long and straight with bangs in front. The Maricopas painted their faces and bodies for special occasions, and also wore tribal tattoos on their chins and faces.

Today, Maricopa people wear modern clothes like jeans instead of loincloths... and they only wear traditional regalia for special occasions like a dance.

What was Maricopa transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
No--the Maricopa Indians weren't coastal people, and rarely traveled by river. Occasionally they used rafts, but more often, they just walked. There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe. Once Europeans brought horses to America, the Maricopas could travel more quickly than before.

What was Maricopa food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Maricopas were farming people. They planted crops of corn and beans. Maricopa men also hunted rabbits and small game and fished in the rivers, while women gathered nuts, fruits, and herbs. Favorite Maricopa recipes included baked beans, hominy, and soups. Here is a website with more information about Indian food.

What were Maricopa weapons and tools like in the past?
Maricopa hunters used bows and arrows, and fishermen used nets. In war, Maricopa men fired their bows or fought with clubs and leather shields. Here is a website with pictures and information about Indian weapon styles.

What other Native Americans did the Maricopa tribe interact with?
The Maricopas traded regularly with other tribes of the Southwest, particularly the Pima and Papago tribes. They especially liked to trade their pottery for Pima baskets The Mojaves were frequent trading partners, but also frequent enemies, who sometimes raided Maricopa villages.

What are Maricopa arts and crafts like?
Maricopa artists are famous for their fine pottery and weavings. These art forms are still flourishing today. Here is a good site about Maricopa pottery traditions.

What kinds of stories do the Maricopas tell?
There are lots of traditional Maricopa legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Maricopa Indian culture. Here is a Maricopa story about the creation of the world. Here's a website where you can read more about Maricopa mythology.

What about Maricopa religion?
Sorry, but we cannot help you with religious information. Religions are too complicated and culturally sensitive to describe appropriately in only a few simple sentences, and we strongly want to avoid misleading anybody. You can visit this site to learn more about the Maricopa religion or this site about Native American religions in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
There are not many books for kids specifically about the Maricopa tribe. You may enjoy And It Is Still That Way, a book of legends from various Arizona Indian tribes including the Maricopa tribe. If you want to know more about Maricopa culture and history, you can try to find a copy of The Pima-Maricopa Indians of North America, or you could read The Mojave of California and Arizona, which is a good book for kids about the related Mojave tribe. .You can also browse through our reading list of recommended Indian books in general.

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2013.

Thanks for your interest in the Maricopa Indian people and their language!

Learn More About The Maricopas

Maricopa Indian Tribe
An overview of the Maricopa people, their language and history.

Maricopa Language Resources
Maricopa language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Maricopa Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Maricopa tribe past and present.

Maricopa Words
Maricopa Indian vocabulary lists.



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