Native American Culture

How Heritage Foods Connect Past, Present, & Future

Tohono Oʼodham Nation

Roughly the size of Connecticut at 2.8 million acres, The Tohono Oʼodham Nation is the second-largest Native American reservation in the United States. The tribe's ancestral lands span across southern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. The Tohono O'odham have lived in the region for thousands of years, and have a rich cultural history that is deeply rooted in the land.

In their words,

“Our origins are linked to our homeland, the Sonoran Desert.”  


The Tohono O'odham are known for their traditional farming practices, which include growing crops such as beans, corn, melons, and squash. At San Xavier del Bac along the Santa Cruz River, irrigation agriculture was practiced.  But on the larger reservation to the west, there were no permanent rivers for irrigation, instead, they practiced a type of floodwater farming called Ak Cin or “mouth of the wash.” After heavy rains, they would plant seeds at the mouth of washes that experienced the most water. The tribe used reservoirs, ditches, and other techniques to guide runoff water to maximize their efforts.

The Tohono O'odham also have a long tradition of basket weaving, which is still practiced by many members of the tribe today.

The Tohono O'odham Nation is involved in the gaming industry and operates Desert Diamond Casinos. If you'd like to try a Native American restaurant, don't miss Cafe Santa Rosa, which serves up mouth-watering Native American Cuisine with a Tohono O'odham Influence.

Exterior of Tucson's Desert Diamond Casino. A long, curved building with desert landscaping lit with golden glowing lights against dark night sky

Tucson's Desert Diamond Casino

Pascua Yaqui Tribe

The Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s ancestors, the Yaqui people, lived from what today is known as the southwestern United States into Northern Mexico dating back. During the Mexican Revolution, the tribe was awarded refuge by the United States government and recognized Yaqui ancestral land just south of Tucson, where the tribe would return and permanently settle.

Like the Tohono O'odham Nation, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe is known for their traditional farming practices. They also have a strong tradition of arts and crafts, including pottery, basket weaving, and jewelry making.

The rich culture of the Pascua Yaqui pairs spirituality with Christianity to view the world and morality with clearer eyes. In the 1600s, when Jesuit missionaries traveled to Yaqui settlements, they founded the Yaqui Lay Priests. These lay priests helped further establish the Catholic religion the tribe had adopted. The tribe’s unique take on the “Passion of the Christ'' is an excellent example of bringing indigenous customs and Catholicism together.

While many tribal members follow the teachings of Catholicism, it is important to note that the Pascua Yaqui has maintained a legacy of rich native elements that survived the missionaries' influence. They practice a robust oral tradition passed down from generation to generation.

Visit the Yoemem Tekia Cultural Center And Museum, “conceived by the late Traditional Chief and Spiritual Leader Anselmo Valencia Tori, as a place where the preservation and presentation of Yaqui Culture and History would be in the hands of Yaqui Elders, Cultural Leaders, and the Yaqui Community.”

Support the Pascua Yaqui by visiting Casino Del Sol Resort, Spa and Conference Center, and Sewailo Golf Club.

Exterior of Casino Del Sol, Wide shot showcasing the green landscape and pond of the Sewailo Golf Course. Casino Del Sol stands tall and golden against the desert mountains

Casino Del Sol Resort, Spa and Conference Center and Sewailo Golf Club

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