The O'odham,[2] Upper Oʼodham, or Upper Pima (Spanish: Pima Alto or Piatos) are a group of Native American peoples including the Akimel O'odham, the Tohono Oʼodham, and the Hia C-eḍ Oʼodham. Their historical territory is in the Sonoran desert in southern and central Arizona and northern Sonora, and they are united by a common heritage language, the O'odham language. Today, many O'odham live in the Tohono O'odham Nation, the San Xavier Indian Reservation, the Gila River Indian Community, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, the Ak-Chin Indian Community or off-reservation in one of the cities or towns of Arizona.



Most archaeologists believe the Oʼodham to be descended from the Hohokam,[3] although some argue that one group invaded the other's territory.[1]: 22 

As of the late 1600s, Oʼodham rancherías in the Santa Cruz River Valley included:[1]: 27 



The O'odham language, variously called O'odham ñeʼokĭ, O'odham ñiʼokĭ or Oʼotham ñiok, is spoken by all O'odham groups. There are certain dialectal differences, but they are mutually intelligible and all O'odham groups can understand one another. Lexicographical differences have arisen among the different groups, especially in reference to newer technologies and innovations.

Oʼodham sub-groups


The Pima Alto or Upper Pima groups were subdivided by scholars on the basis of cultural, economic and linguistic differences into two main groupings:

One was known commonly as the Pima or River Pima. Since the late 20th century, they have been called by their own name, or endonym: Akimel Oʼotham

  • Akimel O'odham (Akimel Au-Authm, meaning "River People", often simply called Pima, by outsiders, lived north of and along the Gila, the Salt, and the Santa Cruz rivers in what is today defined as Arizona)
  • Ak-Chin O'odham (Ak-Chin Au-Authm),[6] Ak-Chin Indian Community
  • Sobaipuri, (also simply called Sobas, called by the neighboring Akimel O'odham as Ṣáṣavino – "spotted"), originally lived in the valleys of the San Pedro River and Upper Santa Cruz River. In the early 18th century, they were gradually driven out of the lower San Pedro River valley. In the middle of the century, their remaining settlements along the upper San Pedro River were broken up by Arivaipa and Pinaleño Apache attacks. They moved west, seeking refuge among the Tohono O'odham and Akimel O'odham, with whom they merged.

The other peoples are the Tohono O'odham or Desert Pima, enrolled in the Tohono O'odham Nation.

  • Tohono O'odham ("Desert People"); the neighboring Akimel O'odham called them Pahpah Au-Authm or Ba꞉bawĭkoʼa – "eating tepary beans", which was pronounced Papago by the Spanish. They lived in the semi-arid deserts and mountains south of present-day Tucson, Tubac, and south of the Gila River[7]
    • Kuitatk (kúí tátk)
    • Sikorhimat (sikol himadk)
    • Wahw Kihk (wáw kéˑkk)
    • San Pedro (wiwpul)
    • Tciaur (jiawul dáhăk)
    • Anegam (ʔáˑngam – "desert willow")
    • Imkah (ʔiˑmiga)
    • Tecolote (kolóˑdi, also cú´kud kúhūk)
  • Hia C-eḍ O'odham ("Sand Dune People", also known by the neighboring O'odham as Hia Tadk Ku꞉mdam – "Sand Root Crushers,"[8] commonly known as "Sand Pimas," lived west and southwest of the Tohono O'odham in the Gran Desierto de Altar of the Sonoran Desert between the Ajo Range, the Gila River, the Colorado River and the Gulf of California south into northwestern Sonora, Mexico. There they were known to the Tohono O'odham as Uʼuva꞉k or Uʼuv Oopad, named after the Tinajas Altas Mountains.)
    • Areneños Pinacateños or Pinacateños[9] (lived in the Sierra Pinacate, known as Cuk Do'ag by the Hia C-eḍ O'odham in the Cabeza Prieta Mountains in Arizona and Sonora)
    • Areneños (lived in the Gran Desierto around the mountains, which were home to the Areneños Pinacateños)
Hia C-eḍ Oʼodham Tohono Oʼodham Akimel Oʼodham
Traditional homeland Between the Ajo Range, the Gila River, the Colorado River and the Gulf of California Desert south of the Gila River Land around the Gila and Salt Rivers
Meaning of endonym Sand Dune People Desert People River People
Habitation patterns Nomadic ("no-villagers") Separate winter and summer residences ("two-villagers") Perennial habitation on rancherías ("one-villagers")
Prevalence of agriculture [10] Nearly 100% hunting and gathering 75% hunting and gathering, 25% agricultural 40% hunting and gathering, 60% agricultural


  1. ^ a b c Sheridan, Thomas E. (30 March 2006). Landscapes of Fraud: Mission Tumac‡cori, the Baca Float, and the Betrayal of the O'odham. University of Arizona Press. ISBN 978-0-8165-2513-3.
  2. ^ Alternate spellings include: O'odaam, Ootoma, or Odami.[1]
  3. ^ Carl Waldman (2006). Encyclopedia of Native American tribes. Infobase Publishing. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-8160-6274-4. Retrieved November 22, 2011.
  4. ^ "Place Names". www.nps.gov. National Park Service. Retrieved 22 May 2024.
  5. ^ Alternate spellings include: Gutzutag, Gusutag, Gusitag, Guzutac, Gusutaqui, Gussutaqui.[4]
  6. ^ "Ak-Chin Indian Community – About our Community". Archived from the original on August 18, 2011. Retrieved March 20, 2013.
  7. ^ Papago Local Groups and Defensive Villages, Period 1859–1890. Underhill 1939, S. 211–234.
  8. ^ Gary Paul Nabhan: Gathering the Desert, University of Arizona Press, ISBN 978-0-8165-1014-6
  9. ^ Because of dialect variations, both groups of the Hia C-eḍ O'odham are sometimes known as Amargosa Areneños or Amargosa Pinacateños
  10. ^ Castetter, Edward F.; Bell, Willis H. (1942). Pima and Papago Indian Agriculture. Albuquerque: The University of New Mexico Press.