EPILOGUE: The View from the Colorado River, 2013
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epilogue The View from the Colorado River, 2013 In the earliest days of the interior world when Kwikumat emerged, symbols acted as fundamental communicative tools for the peoples of the Colorado River. On today’s modern-day Colorado River Indian Reservation , the tribal seal still reflects the convergence of geography, cultures, economic pathways, and history.1 The purple-hued peaks represent the Riverside Mountains located west of the reservation. These peaks hold the sacred Xam Kwatcan Trail still utilized by Mojaves, Quechans, and Chemehuevis today.2 The checkerboard design represents both the irrigated pattern of farmland prevalent on the reservation as well as the equally complex pattern of Indian and non-Indian land ownership. Similar to many other parts of Indian country, tribal governments have negotiated and/or resisted the checkerboard system that resulted from the dramatic reduction of Indian landownership during the allotment era after the Civil War. Checkerboard allotments went hand in hand with transcontinental rail, hastening the expansion of the reservation system in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Equally as pervasive, the railroad brought tourists, photographers, and anthropologists (both amateur and professional) tainted with their own “discovery” narratives not unlike their Euro-American predecessors.3 At the start of the twentieth century, they recorded what they thought were timeless, isolated cultures clinging onto primitive forms of survival. Early professional ethnography provided crucial windows into the interior world. Yet the works of Kroeber, Latta, Russell, Steward, Powers, and Barrows provided just a snapshot — a moment in time — of Indian communities in transition. Nonetheless, they powerfully impacted late nineteenthcentury views of the interior world and shaped resulting Indian policy. Early anthropological studies, in fact, dictated how Native efforts obtained official nation-to-nation recognition in California. The earliest professional historians of California, such as Hubert H. Bancroft, focused on those materials that perpetuated the triumphal ascendance of California as the gateway to the Pacific. These and other works privileged coastal [142] epilogue economic development while leaving research on Native communities in the hands of prodigious anthropologists. For example, the predilections of prominent scholars such as Alfred Kroeber and John P. Harrington and their classifications for cultures and societies allowed some Natives such as the Miwoks (from northern California) to retain more sovereignty, while others such as the Ohlone (from the Santa Cruz region) failed to gain similar political recognition.4 Many ethnographers viewed intermarriage and cultural blending as tainting pure aboriginal culture. Communities that employed modern agricultural tools or worked as wage laborers were perceived as less culturally intact than isolated, “untouched” communities . These approaches continue to have profound impacts on tribes (including the Ohlones and Tongvas) who have yet to obtain full recognition based on these earlier perceptions of “Indian” culture. At the same time, as anthropologist Kent Lightfoot points out, somewhat arbitrary choices for ethnographic research also played a role in later tribal recognition: “The politics and personalities of early anthropologists in California exacerbated the neglect of the central and most of the southern coast by Berkeley scholars. . . . The resulting ‘turf wars’ influenced decisions about where fieldwork would be undertaken.”5 Thus, areas that initially piqued the interest of early Berkeley anthropologists based on proximity to the campus and personal relationships with informants set the stage for subsequent generations of graduate students seeking to complete fieldwork. In other parts of Indian country, Native communities struggled with similar relationships with regional universities, balancing the need to gain legal recognition while simultaneously acculturating on their own terms.6 Similarly, anthropologists and government agencies compartmentalized their understanding of Native California, Arizona, Baja, and Sonora, classifying the Yokuts, Serranos, Cahuillas, and Kumeyaays as culturally isolated “tribelets” (as Kroeber called them) rarely interacting with each other, and endowing Native Arizonans (Quechans, Mojaves, Maricopas, and Akimel O’odhams) with higher levels of politicaleconomic interaction. Many of these distinctions derived from assumptions about agriculture, intertribal warfare, and the influence of the Indian Southwest. Since Colorado-Gila River intensive agriculture paralleled AngloAmerican farming practices, this region did not fit into a Native Californian “primitive” culture based on hunting and gathering. Thus, while Quechans and Mojaves lived in both California and Arizona, their similarities to the dominant Anglo-American paradigm allowed them to deal epilogue [143] with government agencies in more economically beneficial ways. Tribal authorities, for instance, skillfully secured water and land-use rights to continue farming. The attitudes of non-Natives proved hardly benign or sympathetic to these river-based tribes, but they reflected very different reservation policies and negotiations than in...



Subject Headings

  • Indians of North America -- Colorado River Valley (Colo.-Mexico) -- History.
  • Indians of North America -- First contact with Europeans -- Colorado River Valley (Colo.-Mexico).
  • Indians of North America -- Wars -- Colorado River Valley (Colo.-Mexico).
  • Indian traders -- Colorado River Valley (Colo.-Mexico) -- History.
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- Colorado River Valley (Colo.-Mexico).
  • Colorado River Valley (Colo.-Mexico) -- History.
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