The Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona borders the Tohono O’odham Nation San Xavier District to the north, and is just 10 miles west of the Tucson International Airport. The Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona traces its history to the Rio Yaqui that flows through Sonora, Mexico. This large river allowed Yaqui ancestors to irrigate fields of corn, beans and squash and hunt deer that lived in the wetlands. The Yaqui traded extensively with other tribes and ranged far into the American Southwest.
In the 1960s the Tribe petitioned to become a federally recognized nation, and through the efforts of members including Anselmo Valencia Tori, the Pascua Yaqui Tribe was officially recognized as a sovereign nation by the U.S. Government in 1978. Today, the Pascua Yaqui Nation is 1,194 acres with a Tribal membership of more than 3,000 people.
The Spanish first encountered the Yaqui in 1533, and according to Spanish accounts were met by fierce warriors whose leader drew a line on the ground, threatening anyone who crossed over it into Yaqui land. The account called the Yaqui “the fiercest fighters in the New World.” Yaqui called themselves Yoeme. The Spanish misinterpreted the Yoeme word for speech, “hiaki,” as their name, and that was further transformed into “Yaqui.”
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, development and encroachment by the Mexican government and American investors forced the Yaquis to fight for their homeland. Many Yaqui were killed, taken as prisoners and forced into slavery on plantations or escaped into the surrounding mountains and into Arizona. Many Yaqui settled in Old Pascua Village in Tucson, and it is this group that became the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, one of five Yaqui groups that settled in Arizona.
Pascua is Spanish for Easter and is thought to also be the day the village was settled. A Christian cross appears on the Pascua Yaqui tribal flag as does the sun representing Achai Taa'ah, Father Sun, an important part of traditional Yaqui beliefs. Achai Taa'ah is also represented by a deer, and Deer Dancers are an important part of Yaqui ceremonies today.