Sunday, December 20, 2015

Cocopah Museum, 12/15/2015

Today we visited the Cocopah Museum and Cultural Central located in the West Reservation (one of three non-contiguous federally designated reservations that total 6,500 acres established in 1985, for the Cocopah Indians in the Yuma, AZ, area). Today there are approximately 1000 registered tribal members living on the three reservations.  When Hernando de Alarcon first encountered the Cocopah people on an expedition of the lower Colorado River in 1640, there were 5,000-6,000 tribal members. There are also Cocopah Indians in Mexico who became a separate group when the international boundary was established. There is a museum with hand-crafted exhibits, meeting space, and a gift shop there. 

No photography is permitted in the museum. It is one large room with beautiful displays about the history and lifestyle of the Cocopah Indians. Traditional clothing worn (by some until the 1930s) was bark skirts for the women and loincloths for the  men with leather sandals. Beautiful beadwork is on display and also for sale in the gift shop (John got me a lovely necklace for Christmas!) Arrow weed-woven baskets were used in day-to-day life. The display about traditional facial tattoo designs was most interesting. Musical instruments used in tribal ceremonies were also on display. There are multiple sites where in the Yuma area of petroglyphs created by the ancestors of the Cocopah.  

The Cocopah were known as the River People as they lived along the banks of the lower Colorado River for centuries. They are one of seven descendent tribes of the Yuman language-speaking people. They have no written language, therefore history and traditions have been passed through oral history. In the late 1800s they were highly valued steamboat pilots due to their intimate knowledge navigating the Colorado River. 

The museum is located on a 1.5 acre park where replicas of Cocopah traditional dwellings have been constructed.  The building on the left is a ramada where folks could gather and the one on the right is a residence.  

The arrow weed-thatched homes were used as recently as the 1960s by tribal members. 

Native plants have been planted around the cultural center. 

The Cocopah Indians resisted assimilation and have maintained their social, religious, and cultural identity. If you are interested in the history of our Native Americans, this museum provides insight to the Cocopah tribe. Today there is a very successful Resort and Casino, as well as a golf course, speedway, and other businesses. 

There is no admission fee to the museum, but contributions are welcomed. We enjoyed talking with the tribal member running the gift shop as well. We are constantly amazed and horrified at the treatment of the native people of our country. I have so much respect for these folks that have persevered through the centuries in this arid environment invaded first by the Spanish and then Anglo settlers. For additional information, check out their website.



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