Mohave - Orientation

Identification. The Mohave were a farming people whose name for themselves, "Hamakhav," has been translated to mean "people who live along the water." In the 1970s, two thousand Mohave lived on the Colorado Indian Reservation and the Fort Mohave Reservation, both located along the Colorado River at the Arizona-California border.

Location. Aboriginally, the Mohave occupied both sides of the lower Colorado River, roughly the region along the border between the present-day states of Arizona and California. The center of their homeland was the Mohave Valley. Mild winters, hot summers, and low annual precipitation characterize the climate of this region. The central geographical feature is the Colorado River, which flows southwest through canyons and floodplains to the Gulf of California. Before the river was dammed in the twentieth century it overflowed its banks each spring, depositing rich silt on the floodplains cultivated by the Mohave. Cane and arrowweed and cottonwood and willow groves grew along the river bottoms. Rabbits were common at the lower elevations inhabited by the Mohave, while large game such as deer were scarce.

Demography. The Mohave numbered about 3,000 in 1770, 4,000 in 1872, and only 1,050 in 1910. The dramatic population loss at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries was due to disease and poverty stemming from their subjugation by the U.S. government in 1859. The population had increased to 1,500 by 1965 and to 2,000 in the 1980s.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Mohave speak a dialect of the Yuman language, which is classified in the Hokan-Siouan language family.

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