The Yuma were one of the chief tribes of the old Yuman linguistic stock, to which they have given their name, but their closest immediate relatives were the Maricopa and Halchidhoma. The Yuman stock is now considered a part of the larger Hokan family.
Yuma Indians. Said to be an old Pima and Papago term for this tribe and in some cases the Kamia and Maricopa also (Forde, 1931). Also called:
- Cetguanes, by Venegas (1759).
- Chirumas, an alternative name given by Orozco y Berra (1864).
- Club Indians, by Emory (1848).
- Cuchan, or, strictly, Kwitcyána, own name.
- Dil-zhay’s, Apache name for this tribe and the Tonto and Mohave, signifying “red soil with red ants” (White, MS.).
- Garroteros, by Emory (1848).
- Guichyana, Chemehuevi name.
- Hatilshe’, same as Dil-zhay’s.
- Húkwats, Paiute name, signifying “weavers.”
- Kún, said to be Apache name for this tribe and the Tulkepaia.
- Wamâkava, applied by Havasupai to Mohave and perhaps to this tribe also.
Yuma Indians Location
The Yuma tribe extended into the extreme southeastern corner of California along both sides of the Colorado River above the Cocopa, or about 50 or 60 miles from the mouth of the river, at and below the junction of the Gila River, Fort Yuma being in about the center of their territory.
Forde (1931) gives the following:
- Ahakwedehor (axakweởexor), about 2 miles northeast of Fort Yuma.
- Avikwotapai, some distance south of Parker on the California side of the Colorado.
- Huksil (xuksī’l), along the Colorado River near Pilot Knob, a few miles south of Algodones and across the International Boundary.
- Kwerav (ava’io), about 2 miles south of the present Laguna Dam and on the California side of the Colorado.
- Unnamed town, a little east of the present site of Picacho, at the foot of the Chocolate Mountains
Neither Alarcon, who ascended the Colorado River in 1540, nor Ofiate, who visited it in 1604, mentions the Yuma, but in the case of Oñate this may be accounted for by the fact that these Indians were then living exclusively on the west side of the river, which he did not reach.
The first explorer to mention them by name seems to have been Father Kino, 17012; and Garcés, 1771, and Anza, 1774 and 1775, have a great deal to say about them.
Garcés and Eixarch remained among them in 1775. See Kino (1726), and Games (1900).
Most of their territory passed under the control of the United States by the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, and the remainder in consequence of the Gadsden Purchase of 1853.
After the founding of Fort Yuma, contacts between the Whites and this tribe became intimate. Most of them were ultimately concentrated on the Colorado River and Yuma Reservations.
Garcés (1776) estimated that there were 3,000 Yuma, but Anza (see Cones, 1900) raises this to 3,500. An estimate attributed to M. Leroux dating from “early in the 19th century,” again gives 3,000.
According to the Report of the United States Indian Office for 1910, there were then 655 individuals belonging to the tribe, but the census of that year gives 834.
The Indian Office figure for 1923 is 826 and that for 1929, 826, but the United States Census for 1920 increases it very materially, to 2,306. However, the Report of the Indian Office for 1937 gives only 848.
Connections in which the Yuma Indians have become noted.
Besides giving its name to the Yuman stock, the name Yuma is preserved by counties in Arizona and Colorado; localities in Yuma County, Ariz.; Yuma County, Colorado; Cloud County, Kansas; Taylor County, Kentucky; Wexford County, Michigan; and Carroll County, Tennessee.