Mojave Tribe

Mojave Native American Indian Tribe

The Mojave Tribe
Summary and Definition: The Mojave tribe were a California tribe of fierce Native American Indians who were hunters, fishers and farmers. The Mojave tribe are highly distinctive due to the tattoos that adorned their bodies. The names of the most famous chiefs of the Mojave tribe included Chief Iretaba and Chief Hobelia.

What was the lifestyle and culture of the Mojave tribe?
The Mojave tribe were fishers, hunters and farmers who mainly inhabited California. The Mojave tribe called themselves Hamakhav meaning "People Living Along the Water," a reference to their homeland along the lower Colorado River in what is now California and Arizona. As can be seen from the above picture, tattoos were particularly popular with the Mojave tribe and used for sacred rituals and ceremonies. The Mojave tribe were expert fishers who used utilized nets and baskets to catch the fish. They traveled the river on rafts and poles to different fishing locations. The Colorado River used to overflow seasonally, depositing rich soil that the Mojave used for agriculture. In the Mojave culture the women were subservient to men. Each Mojave village had an elected chief who was responsible for the overall government of the people. The principal chief shared responsibilities for the tribe with the war chiefs, shamans and other religious leaders.

The Mojave Tribe Tattoos
The Mojave tribe tattoos were made using ink from a blue cactus plant. Tattooing was performed at the time of puberty as an important rite of passage. Both the women and men of the tribe wore complete body tattoos as part of religious ceremonies, and were believed to bring good fortune and entry into the afterlife. Protection tattoos were also made when Mojave warriors prepared to go into battle to bring protection and to instil fear in their enemies.

Where did the Mojave tribe live?
The Mojave are people of the California Native American cultural group. The location of their tribal homelands are shown on the map.  The geography of the region in which they lived dictated the lifestyle and culture of the Mojave tribe.

  • They mainly lived in the American states of California and Arizona along the Colorado River

  • Land: Arid but with rivers

  • Climate: Mild temperate climate.

  • Land Animals: Rabbits, squirrels, quail and chipmunks,

  • Natural Resources: Mushrooms, roots, acorns, nuts and grasses, seaweed

What did the Mojave tribe live in?
The Mojave tribe lived in houses near the banks of the Colorado River. The houses were raised on stilts in order to protect from the seasonal flooding of the river.  Their houses were similar to the brush shelter homes called wickiups that were used by other Native Indian tribes. A wickiup was a cone-shaped structure and made of a wooden frame covered with branches, leaves, and grass (brush). 

What language did the Mojave tribe speak?
The Mojave tribe spoke in the Yuman language.

What did the Mojave tribe eat?
The food that the Mojave tribe ate included a variety of fish and shellfish including salmon, trout, eels, clams and crabs. Rabbits were in abundance in their area and were used as a meat supplement to their fish diet. They grew crops of beans, squash, corn (or maize) and pumpkins and the women collected roots, herbs and berries to add to their meals.

What clothes did the Mojave men wear?
The clothes worn by the men were limited to loin cloths woven from grass or bark fibers. Cloaks made from rabbit skins were worn if it grew cold at night. The Mojaves were usually barefoot, but occasionally wore sandals. They adorned their hair with a pelican plume.

What clothes did the Mojave women wear?
The type of clothes worn by the women were also limited. They wore a willow-bark, knee-length skirts and, like the men, used rabbit skin cloaks at night. Both the men and women of the tribe wore jewelry made from shells and beadwork. They were highly skilled at creating beaded collars with elaborate designs and patterns.

Who were the most famous leaders and chiefs of the Mojave tribe?
The most famous leaders and chiefs of the Mojaves included Chief Iretaba and Chief Hobelia. The enemies of the Mojave Tribe were the Pima, Halchidhoma, Cocopa, Maricopa, and Papago tribes. Their allies were the the Quechan and Yavapai tribes.

What weapons did the Mojave tribe use?
The weapons used by the Mojaves included spears, stone ball clubs, knives and the bow and arrow. Enemies captured during raids and battles were made slaves, identified by tattoo markings on the chin.

What was the religion and beliefs of the Mojave tribe?
The religion and beliefs of the Mohave tribe was based on Animism that encompassed the spiritual or religious idea that the universe and all natural objects animals, plants, trees, rivers, mountains rocks etc have souls or spirits. The Mojave were a deeply religious people. Their supreme deity was Matevilya, who created the earth. When his task was done, he transformed himself into a fish eagle. His son, Mastamho taught the people how to live and how to plant. "Dreaming" was the source of religious power and the Mojave tribe underwent a form of a Vision Quest or Spiritual Journey which was sometimes accompanied by the inducement of a Trance State for the purpose of attaining guidance or knowledge from supernatural forces or spirits.    

Mojave History: What happened to the Mojave tribe?
They made first contact with the whites in 1540 when they were met by the Hernando de Alarcon expedition who was exploring the Baja California peninsula. The United States acquired Mojave territory in 1853 with the Gadsden Purchase, which saw an influx of white settlers and farmers encroaching their lands. Most of the Mojave tribe living in the region were forced to move to the Colorado River and Fort Mojave reservations were established in 1865 and 1870, respectively.

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