NATIVE LIFE IN THE SPANISH COLONIAL PERIOD IN THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST
THE MATERIAL ON THIS PAGE IS COPYRIGHTED AND SHOULD BE APPROPRIATELY CITED (C) 2007-2014, Deni Seymour
Native Sobaípuri settlements do contain small amounts of faunal material (Seymour 2007a, 2008b). Because the sites are so close to the surface usually only burned bone is preserved.
Scatterings of burned animal bone are present on most habitation sites, but like the other debris, most trash was tossed over the sides of the ridges and hills on which the sites are situated.
There was very little build-up of trash on settlements themselves which means that artifact density is very low. This has led to a lack of material to study, which extends to the faunal and
botanical remains. Still it is necessary to study what data are available on and near these native settlements rather than focusing on the Spanish centers where food preparation, disposal, and
consumption patterns were very different. A data set of faunal material is available from a number of Sobaípuri sites. Excavations over the past several years on multiple Sobaípuri sites has
resulted in the collection of faunal material from controlled contexts. These are available to other qualified researchers for study.
With regard to faunal material, evidence from a number of sites indicates that use of small bird and mammal species was important in the Sobaípuri diet. It is likely that larger bones were
discarded further from the place of use, and have since decayed, whereas small bones might have settled into the loose sediment near work areas, staying in place for archaeological study.
Some later sites and also the depressions of substantial features often contain the debris from later occupations, telling us about those who followed rather than the builders of those features
themselves. Other lines of evidence suggest that large-game species were important and that through time the livestock given them by the missionaries were incorporated into their diet. While
this process seems self-evident, the circumstances and timing of this transition are of interest. Data regarding site structure suggest that changes in site layout did not occur until the late
1700s, long after the first intensive Spanish presence (Seymour 2008). Given this, one must question how substantially other aspects of Sobaípuri life, including their diet, changed or if perhaps
they remained the same until this later period. It is expected that different aspects of life should change at different rates and so each must be studied independently, removing preconceived
notions. The documentary record indicates that livestock herds proliferated, and mention is made of the missionaries and presidials making use of the animals for food, but there is no direct
evidence that the animals were used by the natives themselves. This is an important question that requires attention.
Prior to the introduction of domesticated livestock (cattle, mares, etc.) the Sobaípuri depended on wild game (mountain sheep, elk, deer, and bison) as well as agricultural produce. At this time
they seem to have been an important player in a inter-regional exchange system that included many of the surrounding mobile groups and some of the Western Pueblos (such as Hopi and
Zuni) (Seymour 2007b, 2008). By way of this network they probably gained access to products, including faunal resources that might not otherwise have been available to them in such
quantities. Their role in the hide trade is important to consider given the abundance of mobile group material culture on their sites and evidence for mobile group structures on and near
Sobaípuri sites. In the past the Canutillo complex mobile-group tool kit has been confused with that used by the Sobaípuri. This has meant that burials containing these artifacts have
potentially been repatriated to the wrong group. This also means that the material culture attributes archaeologists have used to identify the Sobaípuri are in error because they in fact are
diagnostic of another group.
It is expected that tools of these other groups should be present on Sobaípuri sites because the sites were later reoccupied by mobile groups. Also, mobile groups sometimes visited the
Sobaípuri for trade, and they also co-resided in the same settlements and settled in their own rancherías along the same rivers (Seymour 2007b, 2008). Because Sobaipuri sites are so close
to the surface and appear to have been used for such a short period of time (this latter assumption we now know to be false), unconsciously researchers have assumed that these sites would
not show evidence of use by many groups. They have accepted that most Sobaipuri sites are underlain by prehistoric occupations, but because the signature of the mobile groups was not
known, consideration has not been given to the thought that later people might have settled on and left debris at these Sobaipuri sites, and in the process contributed to and confused the
material culture record. More recent research is identifying such evidence and it is more common than previously thought.
The problem of archaeologists focusing on the Spanish presence rather than the native contingent extends to a number of realms. One particularly visible example is the use of documentary
sources. Researchers who focus on the study of documentary sources (usually called ethnohistorians) tend to prioritize those sources, giving them clout above all other data sources. The
problem with doing this is that native life existed before documentation by outsiders. By focusing on the post-documentary period a very different impression is gained about native life than if
one considers the time before European arrival using archaeological data (Seymour 2007b, 2007c). Researchers know this but few follow this in practice.
Moreover, only a small slice of the native lifeway was visible to the Spanish. The Europeans interfaced with men who held political roles within their communities. Archaeological data suggest
that the household (which was the core of O'odham society) and women were shielded from Spanish influence until late in time (Seymour 2009, 2010). Also, many incongruities are visible in
the documentary record which themselves provide suggestions that the stated scenario was very different from reality. Use of the archaeological record is one way to access this type of data
that informs on the silent majority and the differences between reality and the documentary record left by interested European parties.
Even when the Spanish had access to native life, they often misconstrued what was taking place. Sometimes this was done intentionally to further their purpose. An example of this is provided
by recent work at Guevavi. The documentary record is silent on what happened to Father Kino's "neat little house and church" as described in Kino's own journal (Bolton 1948; also see Kessell
1970). No further mention of this construction is made once it was completed and once Kino ordered that it be whitewashed in 1701. Archaeological data indicate that the church was burned.
Arrowheads inside suggest it was probably burned by rebellious O'odham, as is historically recorded for later constructions of this type during O'odham uprisings. This suggests that these
early Upper Pima were not as pacified as Kino indicated, nor were they of one mind about the Colonial presence. This also suggests that the Spanish military and religious participants kept
this fact of native rebellion and what happened to this important symbolic feature quiet for decades. No mention is made of this event or of the disappearance of this feature indicating that Kino
was quite influential in maintaining a unified image of the progress of conversion on the northwestern frontier (Seymour 2009).
Kino and others of his mindset were successful in conveying this constructed and artificial impression of the Sobaipuri and other O'odham. Even later ethnographers and ethnohistorians have
perpetuated the impression that O'odhams are docile, peaceful, and compliant. Instead of being warlike, as apparently were the Apache, they were viewed as peace-loving. Instead of being
confrontational, the O'odham were cooperative. In reality, the archaeological record indicates that the Upper Pima or O'odham did rebel; though they chose their battles carefully after
considered discussion and planning. Their passive aggressive mode of resistence was partially responsible for why the O'ohham were able to survive while in such close proximity to European
culture. This indirect way of handling the surrounding world likely resulted from their pivotal role in the larger social arena and their position on the frontier, their role in a widespread trade
system, and their placement along key travel and trade trails. They were successful in many key realms of life and survival because of this diplomacy, but diplomacy does not equate to
compliance and docility.
The Spanish knew even less about the other native groups who resided in the region. The Apache and the non-Athapaskan mobile groups, such as the Jano and Jocome, were far beyond
Spanish observation and understanding. The only side the Europeans saw was the raiding and warfare aspects of their lifeway. These mobile groups chose to stay outside the Spanish world,
interfacing with it for economic gain (such as raiding) and political maneuvering. When it came to interaction with the Europeans their chosen method of inter-cultural interface was aggression
and hostility, using fear and intimidation rather than diplomacy. Their position at the periphery of the Spanish world meant that they were not under as much scrutiny and interference as were
the Sobaipuri-O'odham, and were able to attack and disappear, removing to the relative safety of the interior and mountain heights.
Bolton, Herbert E., 1948 Kino's Historical Memoir of Pimeria Alta. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Kessell, John L., 1970 Mission of Sorrow: Jesuit Guevavi and the Pimas, 1691-1767. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.
Seymour, Deni J., 1997, Finding History in the Archaeological Record; The Upper Piman Settlement of Guevavi. Kiva 62(3):245-260.
Seymour, Deni J., 2007a A Syndetic Approach to Identification of the Historic Mission Site of San Cayetano Del Tumacácori. International Journal of Historical Archaeology, Vol. 11(3):269-296.
Seymour, Deni J., 2007b Delicate Diplomacy on a Restless Frontier: Seventeenth-Century Sobaipuri Social and Economic Relations in Northwestern New Spain, Part I. New Mexico Historical
Review, Volume 82, No. 4.
Seymour, Deni J., 2007c An Archaeological Perspective on the Hohokam-Pima Continuum. Old Pueblo Archaeology Bulletin No. 51, December 2007, pp. 1-7.
Seymour, Deni J., 2007d Sexually Based War Crimes or Structured Conflict Strategies: An Archaeological Example from the American Southwest. In Texas and Points West: Papers in Honor
of John A. Hedrick and Carol P. Hedrick, edited by Regge N. Wiseman, Thomas C. O'Laughlin, and Cordelia T. Snow, pp. 117-134. Papers of the Archaeological Society of New Mexico No.
33. Archaeological Society of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
Seymour, Deni J., 2008 Delicate Diplomacy on a Restless Frontier: Seventeenth-Century Sobaipuri Social and Economic Relations in Northwestern New Spain, Part II. New Mexico Historical
Review, Volume 83, No. 2.
Seymour, Deni J., 2009 Father Kino's 'Neat Little House and Church' at Guevavi. Journal of the Southwest 51(2):285-316.
Seymour, Deni J. 2010 Beyond Married, Buried, And Baptized: Exposing Historical Discontinuities In An Engendered Sobaípuri-O'odham Household. Chapter in Engendering Households in the
Prehistoric Southwest, edited by Barbara Roth. Under review by University of Arizona Press, Tucson.
Remnants of the Spanish Colonial period are relatively abundant in the southern Southwest. They are especially visible because the Jesuits and Franciscans built religious edifices that
stand out from the native architecture. The Franciscans built church complexes that were even more impressive and sizable in Arizona than their Jesuit predecessors. Ranchos and
presidios also dot the countryside, providing focal points for Spanish Colonial research. Moreover, a rich and enticing documentary record has been left that fuels the active imagination,
essentially adding strokes of color to the shades of brown that characterize the desert Southwest.
The problem with these highly visible cultural properties and monuments is that they are more about the Spanish presence than the indigenous tribes that inhabited the area. The native
sites have been mostly neglected, receiving relatively little attention. One reason for this is that the monuments and cathedrals inspire historians and archaeologists while the humble
remains of the natives are difficult to study and not very attractive, plus they tell a somewhat different and at times contradictory story.
Even when researchers are attempting to understand the native inhabitants they tend to study the debris left at church complexes that reflect more of Spanish habits than those of the
natives. A recent example of this is provided by an the data from San Agustín de Tucson--a Franciscan mission among the Sobaípuri in Tucson--where excavations and analysis focused
on the faunal material found at the mission complex rather than the native settlement, although the results are applied to the natives. In southern Arizona the natives did not live in the
mission itself but rather inhabited the surrounding area in their own settlement (Seymour 1997). Consequently by studying the faunal remains from the mission complex an inaccurate
representation of native Sobaípuri faunal use has been developed.
THIS 1852 IMAGE OF THE SAN AUGUSTIN
MISSION COMPLEX BY JOHN BARTLETT
IS FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF "A"
MOUNTAIN. WHILE THERE ARE MANY
CULTIVATED FIELDS SURROUNDING THE
MISSION BUILDINGS NO NATIVE
STRUCTURES ARE NEARBY. RECORDS
INDICATE THAT AN EARLIER CHURCH
AND POSSIBLY THE NATIVE SETTLEMENT
ARE TO THE WEST. THIS IS NOT
SURPRISING BECAUSE THIS WESTERN
POSITIONING IS WHERE ANALYSIS
SUGGESTS IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN.