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What is the Mojave Tribe?

The Mojave Tribe, indigenous to the vast Mojave Desert, is known for its rich cultural heritage and deep connection to the land. With a history steeped in tradition, resilience, and artistry, the Mojave people's legacy continues to influence the region. Discover how their enduring spirit shapes their identity and relationship with the desert. What will their story reveal to you?
Eleanor Newman
Eleanor Newman

The Mojave Tribe are American Indians who live in the Mohave Valley, an area where southeastern California, southern Nevada, and Western Arizona come together. The tribe hunted, farmed, and fought with neighboring tribes. Today, the Mojave live in a reservation in the area.

The Mojave tribe have a rich culture that revolves around the Colorado River. In peaceful times, the Mojave raised corn, squash, pumpkin, beans, and melon along the banks of the river. They fished and trapped animals who came to the river to drink. Mojave men went naked; warriors scouted the area for hundreds of miles, sometimes taking slaves. Women wore beaver pelts and practiced the arts of tattooing and face painting.

The Mojave Tribe resides in areas of California, Nevada, and Arizona, which are located in the American West.
The Mojave Tribe resides in areas of California, Nevada, and Arizona, which are located in the American West.

In 1602, the first Spanish explorers came across the Mojave tribe. Sustained contact with whites did not come until the "mountain men" arrived in the late 1820s. The men came to trap beaver for their pelts, and the Mojave initially welcomed them. The Mojave did not understand the trappers practices, however, including the way animal carcasses were disposed of after skinning, and violence broke out. To protect American interests, the US government established a fort nearby called Fort Mojave.

Las Vegas is in the Mojave Desert region.
Las Vegas is in the Mojave Desert region.

Public opinion was strongly against Indians. In 1865, the US government established a reservation in the southern part of the Mojave territory. Fearing US power, the Mojave tribe chief led his people to the poorer farmland in the Colorado Indian Reservation.

Some Mojave stayed in their ancestral lands, but were treated harshly. The government converted Fort Mojave into a boarding school and forced all children to attend. The school attempted to wear down traditional culture by forcing the Mojave to take Anglo names. Disobedient children were locked away, whipped, or starved. Lacking land to farm, their parents looked for work in cities, on railroads, and in mines.

In 1911, the government granted Fort Mojave Indians a reservation of their own. This land spanned the western side of the Colorado river as well as parts of Arizona, totaling 31,300 acres (13,395 hectares). The boarding school closed in the 1930s, and children attended school in nearby Needles, California.

According to the 2000 US Census, about 1,200 of the Mojave tribe live in the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation. The Mojave tribe runs a casino, a golf course, RV parks, and other attractions. They also lease their land to industrial farmers who grow corn, cotton, and soybeans where the Mojave used to farm.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who are the Mojave Tribe and where is their traditional territory located?

The Mojave Tribe, also known as the Mohave, are a Native American people who have traditionally inhabited the area around the Colorado River in what is now the Mojave Desert. This region spans across the southeastern part of California, southern Nevada, northwestern Arizona, and southwestern Utah. They are known for their riverine farming, hunting, and fishing practices, as well as their rich cultural traditions.

What is the significance of the Mojave Tribe's culture and traditions?

The Mojave Tribe's culture is deeply rooted in their connection to the Colorado River and the surrounding desert. They are known for their creation myths, oral traditions, and spiritual practices that are closely tied to the natural environment. The Mojave people also have a distinctive tradition of tattooing and are recognized for their artistic expressions through pottery, basketry, and songs that have been passed down through generations.

How does the Mojave Tribe govern themselves today?

Today, the Mojave Tribe governs themselves through the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, which is a federally recognized tribe. They have their own tribal council that oversees matters related to governance, economic development, education, and cultural preservation. The tribe operates under a constitution that was adopted in 1957, and they continue to maintain their sovereign status and work towards the betterment of their community.

What are some of the challenges the Mojave Tribe faces in the modern era?

Like many indigenous communities, the Mojave Tribe faces challenges such as maintaining their cultural heritage, dealing with water rights disputes, and economic development issues. The encroachment of urban areas and industries has also posed environmental concerns. Additionally, they work to combat social issues like poverty and health disparities within their community.

How can one learn more about the Mojave Tribe and support their community?

To learn more about the Mojave Tribe, one can visit cultural centers, museums, and participate in events that the tribe organizes. Supporting their community can be done by advocating for their rights, purchasing authentic Mojave crafts, and contributing to initiatives that benefit their economic and social welfare. Educational resources and updates about the tribe's activities can often be found on their official websites or through partnerships with educational institutions.

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    • The Mojave Tribe resides in areas of California, Nevada, and Arizona, which are located in the American West.
      By: simo_cris
      The Mojave Tribe resides in areas of California, Nevada, and Arizona, which are located in the American West.
    • Las Vegas is in the Mojave Desert region.
      By: Gainford Girl
      Las Vegas is in the Mojave Desert region.