ABOUT THE MUSEUM
The mission of Himdag Ki: Hekǐhu, Hemu, Im B I-Ha’ap, Tohono O’odham Nation Cultural Center & Museum, is to instill pride by creating a permanent Tribal institution to protect and preserve O’odham jewed c himdag. Working with elders, the Cultural Center & Museum will promote understanding and respect for O’odham himdag through educational programs and public outreach.
HISTORY & CULTURE
a people who inhabit the Sonoran Desert in southwestern Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico. Our Nation’s lands cover almost 3,000,000 acres. Before European contact, our people lived throughout what is now southern Arizona and northern Mexico hunting and gathering food, trading with neighbors, and visiting family.
We are a people whose cultural values – our himdag – included respect for our land, respect for our elders, sharing with others, and hard work. We are a people whose origin stories tell us that we were created by Elder Brother and placed here. Archaeological evidence from Ventana Cave shows that our people were living here at least 10,000 years ago. We are the Tohono O'odham.
Our language is unique and therefore identifies us as O’odham. Through our oral tradition we learn about our history and our culture. As Tohono O’odham we identify ourselves with one of six distinct dialects (huhuwas, huhula, kokolodi, tatakwan, gigimai,…). Our language was first transcribed into English by Jose Lewis in 1897. Today, the Tohono O’odham Language has its own writing system with a growing selection of written material. Our current challenge is to teach the O’odham language to our children and future generations so they will fully understand our Himdag.
The traditional land of the O’odham covered a large area, stretching from the Colorado River to the San Pedro River; from the Sonora River and Gulf of Mexico to the Superstition Mountains. The O’odham used the land’s resources for shelter, food, clothing, tools, and more. Unfortunately, the aboriginal land base of the O’odham was split as a result of the Gasden Purchase of 1853 establishing the boundary between the United States and Mexico. The boundary separated the O’odham from their families and homelands and affected ceremonies and trade.
Our diet of natural and cultivated plants sustained the O’odham for generations. O’odham grew domesticated crops, using flood-water farming and irrigation. The gathering of the baihidaj (saguaro fruit) is unique to the O’odham and marks the beginning of a new year. Seasonal wild game supplemented our diet. Later, domestic cattle were introduced by the Spanish.
Traditionally, each O’odham village had its own form of leadership. Indian lands were reshaped by treaties and the creation of reservations during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1934 the Indian Reorganization Act initiated a creation of centralized tribal government. Today the Nation’s government is comprised of Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches.
The Veterans’ Hallway is the backbone of the museum. Traditional warriors and today’s men and women serving in the military are honored. The gallery reminds us of the sacrifices made by Tohono O’odham men and women in protecting their families, lands and cultural values.
Federal Indian Route 19 & Fresnal Canyon Road
Topawa, Arizona 856
PO Box 837
Sells, Arizona 85634
Phone: (520) 383-0200
Fax: (520) 383-2872
Curator of Education
Curator of Collections
Facilities and Security