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Visiting Huhugam

Updated: Jan 25, 2023

Our second field trip of the year was to the Huhugam Heritage Center in the Gila Indian River Community just north of Maricopa. We had a wonderful docent named Robert. It was a very informative tour of a wonderful museum.

Two of the students on the tour wrote notes of some things our docent said. I asked them if they would write a paragraph on what they learned. Here are their thoughts.

The most interesting thing was the traps and cookware. The baskets were used for storing corn, beans, and flour. They were also used for cooking. The jugs held water for travelers. They had small holes so water wouldn't slosh out. Some were made with cottonwood stoppers. U'uhig la ashpakuel or bird trap could be used as a shelf or door cover. The rabbit net is a stick with a rope on the end with a net to snatch up the rabbits. The parching bowl was used to toast corn and seeds in charcoal. These things interested me the most.

5th-grade student

At the museum, we learned all about the tribes of Arizona and mostly about the tribe of Maricopa.

There were 2 main tribes of Maricopa. First, there was the Maricopa tribe. Second, there was the Pee-Posh tribe. I'm going to talk mostly about the Maricopa tribe.

The Maricopa tribe was chased from their home by the Colorado River in the 1500s. The museum didn't say who did it but I personally thought it was the Pee-Posh because they lived kinda close to each other. But there were over 22 tribes in Arizona, so no one really knows. Ever since then, they were at war. But a Confederation was made to protect the Maricopa tribe.

The Maricopa tribe made baskets out of cattail, willow, devil tail, and things like that. They also put pictures on their baskets of the things they saw. They had no writing utensils at the time so they had to make them based on their memory. They taught little girls around 6 years old how to make baskets. They did this so when they were teenagers they would be pretty good at it. And when they were adults they were experts at it. They used baskets to baskets to make flour and corn by mashing it up.

They also played games. The men and boys played with clay balls the size of a softball. They held competitions against other villages. It was the men versus the men and the boys versus the boys.

The men also used fish nets to catch jumping trout. One man in the river would catch the trout and pass it to the man next to him until it reached a man on the bank cooking the fish. They also used bows and arrows. They taught boys around 8 years old how to use a bow and not waste arrows. A boy would usually bring only 3 arrows with him so they couldn't miss. They were also taught how to use a sling.

One day a man came. He had soldiers on horses to protect him. The soldiers had to practice with their horses every day. The natives watched and learned how to ride horses. Shortly after they learned how to ride a horse they had oxen. They made the yoke out of a cottonwood branch. They never wasted anything and used nature for everything.

The woman had dresses that were made by hand. The Maricopa tribe did something that none of the other tribes did. They used capes. The dresses with the capes usually belonged to the women of the royal court. The royal court was probably the only one who could buy that kind of expensive thing.

They also used sticks and yarn to make a sleeping mat. It was made by hand and was easy to take somewhere if you had to travel because it rolled up when you didn't need it and rolled it out at dusk. They also had a large basket that they could strap on their heads and back so that could carry up to 100 pounds of travel items. They also had a cradle bed that they could strap to their backs to they could carry babies.

The Maricopa tribe had the warclub as their close combat weapon. The warclub had a stone in the middle so the blows would be harder. The warclub was made to break bones. They also had a small shield. I don't know how they survived with such little items to fight back with but they did.

Eventually, tourists came to the tribe of Maricopa. The Maricopa tribe was well known for its pots. It came with several designs such as desert flowers and butterflies. Some of them had other designs but the tourists were willing to buy them. My guess was that if it had more petals then it was more expensive because the more detail the longer it took. It took years to learn how to make a flower with a dozen petals without messing it up.

These were the things that I learned at the museum. Thank you Robert for taking the time to explain everything that happened to the tribe of Maricopa. It was one of the best museums that I went to.

-eighth grade student

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