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Pascua Yaqui one of several tribes that have influenced Tucson culture

A display in one of the government buildings in downtown Tucson
A display in one of the government buildings in downtown Tucson
Pascua Yaqui tribe

Tucson has a richness in culture that is the result of a convergence of many peoples. But how did this happen? What influences are evident that we now consider Tucsonan?

Colorful flags of the people
Colorful flags of the people
Kim Kloes

The native people that were here millenia before our time were growing crops, building dwellings, irrigating fields, creating art, and conducting extensive trade with others.

One of the tribes we can thank for the richness of the culture is a tribe known as today as the Pascua Yaqui.

The Yaqui people call themselves Hiaki. They believe they are descended from the Surem, magical people who inhabit huya ania, a natural world where all live in harmony.

In 1533, the Spaniards arrived in the homeland which is located in present day southern Sonora, Mexico. The Hiakis defeated the Spanish forces at least three times. Finally, a peace was established.

Mexican independence in 1821 did not mean such for the Hiakis. They were constantly faced with conflict. Thousands of people were killed. Three of their military leaders, Juan Banderas, Caje’eme and Tataviecti did not survive this period.

In the early 1900s, thousands of Hiakis were deported to Mexico where they worked as slave laborers on plantations. They sought refuge in Arizona where they were known and had been a place of trade during severe droughts in Mexico.

You can see evidence of their art in the various museums around Tucson. The photos taken for this article are from pieces that are housed in government buildings in downtown Tucson.