Opata Nation

We the Opatas invite you to join us in working towards the recovery of our language, culture, and to provide a unique source of information regarding our nation, mainly formed of the families Tegüima, Tegüi, Eudeve, Caüinachi, and Jova, collectively known as the Opata Indians of the Sonora/Chihuahua-Arizona region.

The loss of identity of the Opatas was due to a combination of reasons. Below is a list of reasons starting with the arrival of the Spanish and continuing through Mexican independence and the Revolution:

-Disease, war, and famine reduced the population of Opatería. Some estimates put the population as high as 60,000 at the time of the first contact.

-Opatas who opposed the missionaries around 1622 in the Matape area were killed by an expedition of two thousand soldiers led by Captain Hurdaide precisely to put an end to this opposition, which left 400 orphaned children alive, and later these children were baptized and indoctrinated by the Jesuits.

-The fear of losing properties, children, rights, fair treatment, etc., for being a Native American in Mexico.

-The Mexican government’s policy to “Mexicanize” the tribes because in that way it was easier to take land and resources and to avoid supporting them.

-The Opatas, along with other indigenous people, were prohibited from speaking their original language and were forced to speak Spanish. The various states and the Church attempted to homogenize existing cultural diversity through formal schooling.

-Opata individuals were given Spanish first and last names, erasing their connections to family and land.

-None of the previous studies and documentation performed by foreigners about the Opatas (Eudeves, Jovas, Tehuimas, or related family groups) was brought back and shared in the region during at least the last 200 years to help the Opatas learn more about their language and culture.

-The racism and discrimination in the Sonora-Arizona regions pushed the Opatas to stop using and passing on their language and knowledge (very timid about it). Due to the Mexican thinking that being a native American means being “a lower class in the society” some descendants did not follow their Opata traditional roots with the elders of their families. Also, some were brainwashed into believing that it was wrong or evil to be an indigenous person indirectly and, in some cases, directly; the church played a big part in this.

For example, Opatas are the only indigenous people that we are aware of who only let one anthropologist live with them for a while, and only if he changed the tribal name in his published study. That resulted in the monograph about the “Marobavi.” (Eudeve-Tehuima).

-At different points in history, the Opatas allied with the Spaniards, the Catholic Church, Franco-Mexican Imperial Forces, and later on with the Mexican military forces for different reasons; which had a substantial impact on the culture/language/survival.

-Years of conflict with the Chiricahuas (Apaches); Sometimes when a people are facing overwhelming odds against survival, the women may allow their children to become part of a different culture to ensure that the children will live. Opata women tended to marry mestizos or Spaniards at the time with the goal of giving a better future to their heirs and avoiding the loss of their ancestral land.

-The Mexican government formation and eventual disbanding of an all-Opata army division.

-The Ioris (white foreigners) and indigenous caciques allied with them specifically targeted Opatas because of their good land. When traditional people are separated from the land, sacred places are lost, along with the cultural practices that honor them.

-The Sonoran Governor Pesqueira with his forced colonization scheme in 1857.

-Between 1870 and 1900, under the banner of “progress” and “order,” the Mexican government provoked the Yaqui Rebellion, in which they were joined by Mayos, Pimas and local Opatas. The government deported many to the Yucatán as slave labor, while others became victims of national progress and cheap industrialized labor for the economic development of the state of Sonora.

Around 1929 by decree of Governor Plutarco Elías Calles, the practice of indigenous languages and traditional customs were prohibited in the state of Sonora, and this caused the loss of certain traditions that stopped practicing and celebrating in the Opateria which in turn affected the use and transmission of the Opata language.

This is the Opata Indian Nation known throughout the Southwest as people who inhabited the original territory of the Sonoran-Chihuahua Mountain ranges, and part of the Sonoran Desert, and linking the State of Sonora to the Southwestern United States before there was a borderline dividing the aboriginal lands.

Like many other Indian Nations from the region, the Opatas changed their names and identities in order to avoid the genocides and executions in Mexico, and to avoid the boarding schools ‘Kill the Indian … Save the Man’ (Link 1, Link 2, Link 3) to which Native American children were forcibly sent in the U.S. Many families scattered throughout the Southwest, unidentified and uncounted, who stopped referencing their homelands and ancestry in order to begin a new life away from the cultural genocides of Mexico. 

All Opata peoples in the U.S. come from the traditional homelands in Sonora and the part of Sonora that became Arizona. Some have held on to a knowledge of their heritage, while others were conquered and blended into other cultures. It is difficult for any tribe of people who are so widely scattered throughout the southwest to keep ties with a people who were set to be exterminated by the Mexican Government just for being an “indio”; so individual families who sought refuge in the U.S. or other states of Mexico did not speak of their Indian identity due to the harsh persecution that awaited them upon identification, some Governors of Chihuahua (1839-José María Irigoyen de la O; Link 1 AND 1845-Don Angel Trias; Link 1, Link 2, Link 3) offered a bounty for scalps, leading to widespread slaughter of all Indians until the practice was stopped in the 1880s. Many cowboys and soldiers were glad to collect pesos in exchange for a black-haired scalp.

The English pronunciation of the Spanish words referencing our main families in parenthesis:
-Eudeve (E-udev-e)
-Tegüima (Tewima)
-Jova (Khova)

In Opata must be written as: