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Summary Article: Mojave from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Member of an American Indian people who live on the lower Colorado River in Arizona and California. Their language belongs to the Yuman family. The Mojave were farmers living in scattered houses on the fertile Colorado flood plain. They believed in a supreme creator and placed great importance on dreams and visions. Although fiercely aggressive towards other Indian peoples, they were not involved in any major wars against the US government. They now live on the Colorado River and Fort Mojave reservations, part of their ancestral homeland, where many lease their farmlands. At the end of the 20th century they numbered about 1,500 (1990).

The Mojave formed three regional groups: the Matha lyathum (northern), the Hutto-pah (central), and the Kavi lyathum (southern). Mojave society was divided into patrilineal clans (descent traced through the male line), and governed by a hereditary chief and leaders from the three regional groups. Maize (corn), pumpkins, melons, and beans were grown where the river flooded in the spring. The seeds were planted without ritual, but if the river failed to flood the Mojave would call on a rainmaker to bring down the rains. They hunted and fished, and gathered mesquite beans and pine nuts to supplement their diet. Surplus crops were traded on the Pacific Coast for shells. Their houses were built with distinctive four-pitched roofs. Artworks included pottery decorated with geometric patterns, and facial tattooing.

Like the Plains Indians, honour and prestige were achieved through bravery and daring deeds during warfare, which was often stylized. Their main enemies were other Yuman tribes, and they would travel long distances on foot in order to attack them. After a battle, captives and scalps were taken. The dead were cremated and their names never spoken again.

In the 19th century the Mojave harassed expeditions and settlers using the Colorado River route to the West, but they were eventually subdued by the US Army in 1859 and confined to reservations. They have retained a strong sense of identity.

© RM, 2016. All rights reserved.

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