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Quechan Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Quechan Indian tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our Quechan 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 Quechan pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.

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   Quechan Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Quechan"? What does it mean?
Quechan is pronounced similar to "kuh-CHAHN." It comes from their name in their own language, kwatsaan, which means "those who descended" (referring to the Quechan creation story, in which they came down to earth from a sacred mountain.)

Are the Quechans and Yumas the same people?
Yes. Yuma is the name for the same tribe in the language of their Pima and Papago allies. Since this was the name the white settlers learned for them, the people became known as the Yuma tribe for a long time, and even used it themselves in official names such as the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation. Many older people still refer to themselves as Yuma Indians. Recently, however, many Quechan people prefer to return to their own name which comes from their own language.

Where do the Quechans live?
The Quechan are native people of southwestern Arizona and southeastern California, where most of them still live today.

How is the Quechan Indian nation organized?
The Quechans live on a reservation in Arizona. An Indian reservation is land that belongs to a tribe and is under their control. Each reservation has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. However, the Quechans are also US citizens and must obey American law.

In the past, each Quechan band had its own chief or headman. Quechan chiefs were looked to for leadership, but actual political decisions were made by a tribal council, and every member had to agree before the tribe could act (this is called consensus.) Most of the chief's job was mediating between other tribal members. Sometimes this could take a long time, but the Quechan people really value harmony, so this was an important system for them. Today, the Quechan tribe is led by a tribal council elected by the citizens, and the council members still work by consensus much of the time.

What language do the Quechan Indians speak?
Almost all Quechan people speak English today, but some of them, especially elders, also speak their native Quechan language. Quechan is a complex language with many long words. If you'd like to know a Quechan word that's not too hard to say, "kumathum" (sounds a little like koo-mah-thoom) is a friendly greeting in Quechan.

What was Quechan culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here is an article on Quechan history and culture. On this site you can find information about the Quechan people in the past and today.


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How do Quechan 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 Quechan 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. A Quechan mother traditionally carried a young child in a cradleboard on her back. Here is a website with cradle board pictures.

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

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

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

What were Quechan clothes like? Did the Quechans wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Originally, Quechan people didn't wear much clothing. Men usually went naked, or sometimes wore small breechcloths. Women wore knee-length skirts made of willow-bark strips. Shirts were not necessary in Quechan culture, but the Quechans sometimes wore rabbit-skin robes or ponchos at night when the weather became cooler. After Europeans arrived, the Quechans began to adapt some Mexican fashions such as cotton blouses and cloth bandanas. blanket shawls. Unlike most Native American tribes, the Quechans rarely wore moccasins. They either went barefoot or wore sandals. Here are some photos and links about Native clothing in general.

The Quechans did not wear feather headdresses like the Plains Indians. Some Quechan men twisted their hair into hair rolls like the Mojave, while others wore two braids or tied cloth headbands or turbans around their heads. Men and women both wore their hair long, and women also wore long bangs. The Quechans wore facial tattoos and also painted their faces and bodies for special occasions. They used different colors and patterns for war paint, religious ceremonies, and festive decoration. Some Quechan people also painted horizontal white stripes on their hair. Native beaded necklaces were popular among the Quechans, and many Quechan people still wear them today.

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

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

What was Quechan food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Quechans were farming people. They planted crops of corn, beans, and pumpkins. Quechan men also hunted rabbits and small game and fished in the rivers, while women gathered nuts, fruits, and herbs. Here is a website with more information about the food of Native Americans.

What were Quechan weapons and tools like in the past?
Quechan hunters used bows and arrows, and fishermen used nets and wooden fish traps. In war, Quechan men fired their bows or fought with clubs or spears. Some Quechan warriors used leather shields to protect themselves from enemy archers. Here is a website of Native Indian weapon pictures.

What other Native Americans did the Quechan tribe interact with?
The Quechans traded regularly with neighboring tribes, particularly the Mojave and Cocopa. They especially liked to trade corn and beans for shell beads from the Gulf of Mexico, which they used to make jewelry before glass beads arrived from Europe. The Quechans also fought wars with some of their neighbors. The Apache and Maricopa tribes were frequent enemies.

What are Quechan arts and crafts like?
Quechan artists are famous for their fine Indian baskets and pottery. Quechan women were especially known for making intricated beaded collars to wear around their necks. Here is a picture of a Quechan beaded collar.

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

What about Quechan 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 Quechan beliefs or this site about American Indian religions in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
You may enjoy And It Is Still That Way, a book of legends from various Arizona Indian tribes including the Quechan tribe. If you want to know more about Quechan culture and history, two good choices are Quechan Native Americans and The Quechan of California and Arizona. .You can also browse through our reading list of recommended Native American 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 2015.

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

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Learn More About The Quechans

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

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

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

Quechan Indian Words
Quechan Indian vocabulary lists.



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