See H. Grey, Tales from the Mohaves (1970); study by A. L. Kroeber (1974).
Mohave and Mojave are both tribally accepted and interchangeably used phonetic spellings for a Native American people known among themselves as the Aha macave. Their name comes from two words: aha, meaning 'water', and macave, meaning 'along or beside', and to them it means 'people who live along the river'.
Today, many of the surviving descendants of these indigenous old families live on or near one of two reservations located on the Colorado River. The Fort Mojave Indian Reservation includes parts of California, Arizona, and Nevada. The Colorado River Indian Reservation includes parts of California and Arizona and is shared by members of the Chemehuevi, Hopi, and Navajo nations.
The original Colorado River and Fort Mojave land reservations were established in 1865 and 1870, respectively. Both reservations include substantial senior water rights in the Colorado River, which are used for irrigated farming. Though the four combined groups of families sharing the Colorado River Indian Reservation function today as one geo-political unit, the Colorado River Indian Tribes, each continues to maintain and observe its individual traditions, distinct religions, and culturally unique identities.
The tribal headquarters, library and museum are in Parker, Arizona, about 40 miles (64 km) north of I-10. The National Indian Days Celebration is held annually in Parker, from Thursday through Sunday during the last week of September. The All Indian Rodeo is also celebrated annually, on the first weekend in December. RV facilities are available along the Colorado River.
Now almost completely bilingual, their oral language is changing and the old wording of the stories and songs are not easily translated. Not only does the structure of the two languages differ, but the meaning of the words themselves, richly embedded with Mojave culture, idiom, and ancestral history, complicates non-native understanding.
As a prime example, their real tribal name has been spelled with over fifty variations, such as Hamock avi, Amacava, A-mac-ha ves, A-moc-ha-ve, Jamajabs, and Hamakhav. The resulting incorrect assumed meanings can be partly traced to a translation error in Frederick W. Hodge's 1917 Handbook of the American Indians North of Mexico, which incorrectly defined it, "Mohave (from hamock, three, avi, mountain)." According to this source, the name refers to the picturesque mountain peaks called the Needles, located near the Colorado River a few miles south of the city of Needles, California. Mojaves call these peaks Huqueamp avi which means, 'where the battle took place' It refers to the battle in which the God-son, Mastamho, slew the sea serpent.
Hoffman immediately ordered the Mojave men to assemble at the armed stockade adjacent to his headquarters and two days later, on April 23, 1859, clan leaders came as ordered to hear Hoffman's terms of peace. Hoffman gave them the choice of submission or extermination. They chose peace. At that time, the Mojave had an old culture that had been passed down the centuries unadulterated by the few parties of white men who had traveled through their country. Twenty-two totemic clans existed then among a Mojave population estimated to be about four thousand in number.
During most of the period of military occupation, the Fort Mojaves were technically under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior. "Legally" they belonged on the Colorado River Reservation after it was established in 1865. However, they refused to leave their ancestral homes in the Mojave Valley, the War Department declined to try to force them onto the reservation, and the Indian Agent there was unable to supervise them. Whatever actual supervision or control they had came from the commanders at Fort Mojave. As long as Fort Mojave was garrisoned by the War Department, the Fort Mojaves, if peace abiding, were relatively free to follow their old tribal ways unmolested. This state of affairs came to an end in the midsummer of 1890 when the War Department withdrew its troops and transferred the post to the Department of the Interior.
Beginning in August, 1890, the Department of the Interior forced native children living on reservations into reservation schools to learn to speak, write, and read English. Fort Mojave was converted into a boarding school for Fort Mojave and other "non-reservation" Indians. Until 1931, forty-one years later, all Fort Mojave boys and girls between the ages of six and eighteen were compelled to live at this school or attend an advanced Indian school remote from Fort Mojave.
This was the era of de-Indianizing Indians, breaking up tribal ties, rooting out Indian beliefs, customs and native tongue, and civilizing them after the patterns of white men. At the school the children and youth were transformed, outside, into facsimiles of white children of their day—haircuts, clothing, habits of eating, sleeping, toiletry, manners, industry, language, and so on. They were forbidden to use their own language, as with most other native ways which were also prohibited and punished. Five lashes of the whip was the penalty for the first offense of speaking in their native tongue. Corporal punishment of children scandalized Mojaves who did not discipline their children with whips and straps.
Their English names were assigned to them by the administrators of the reservations' school systems. These names were registered with the Department of the Interior as members of two tribes, the Mojave Tribe on the Colorado River Reservation and the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe on the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation. This arbitrary naming and division was done for purpose of appropriating and reallocating their ancestral lands. It does not reflect the old Mojave family system. The word 'tribe' itself, similarly, is not an Aha macave word, but some modern Aha macave do use it to describe their family.
By 1965, their number had diminished to approximately one thousand and only eighteen old clans still survived.
Estimates for the pre-contact populations of most native groups in California have varied substantially. (See Population of Native California.) The Franciscan missionary-explorer Francisco Garcés estimated the Mohave population in 1776 as 3,000 (Garcés 1900(2):450). Alfred L. Kroeber (1925:883) also put the 1770 population of the Mohave at 3,000.
Kroeber estimated the population of the Mohave in 1910 as 1,050.
Sherer's research revealed that in 1963, the population of Fort Mojaves was 438 and that of the Colorado River Reservation approximately 550
Mohave names are typically only capitalized on the first word, with the following words all in lowercase. Therefore a Mohave joke name would be rendered, for example, "My leg is made out of yellow pine" and not "My Leg Is Made Out Of Yellow Pine" as in the European / Westernized tradition. This was the name of a Mohave man, Hoalye-ime, who lived around 1844: he once saw a "beaver eater" ("white man") with a peg leg, and he was so amused that he pretended to also have a wooden leg.
A Mohave "joke name" (roughly analogous to nicknames) was one that a Mohave would assign herself or himself, or a friend would assign to someone. "Face like a horse" would be one example; "Kicked in the head by the sun" another. Some joke names are not funny at all, but were teasing and abusive, but a Mohave was socially bound to put up with it.
The traditional sitting position of women was described by Kroeber (1,4) as follows: "Women at rest stretch their legs straight out, and sometimes cross their feet. At work, a Mohave woman tucks one leg under her, with her other knee up . . . When she pleases, the Mohave woman also sits with her legs folded in oriental style." The Mohave specified that women were careful to arrange the tassels of their fiber-skirts in such a manner as to avoid exposure. Hence, whenever the thighs were spread, some of the tassels were made to hang down between the legs. Male Two-Spirits sat like women and observed the same proprieties.
Only close relatives of opposite sexes, or else husband and wife, were permitted to share the same bench or wagon or automobile seat. This is not an inflexible rule, though it is usually broken with some embarrassment on behalf of those involved. The rule that unrelated persons of the opposite sexes should not share the same car seat can be readily linked with the Mohave belief that thoughts or daydreams about traveling with a member of the opposite sex induces amorous desires.
A woman may swim either alone or else in the company of her husband or close relatives. If a man happens to be already swimming at the spot where she had intended to swim, she is supposed to look for another place. Should she violate this rule, she will expose herself to criticism and to gossip. This rule is frequently violated, however.
Women are permitted to dance at gatherings. They must, however, dance "in a decent way" and must not attract attention through cocky talk or through impish and showy behavior.
A woman may eat from the same dish only with her husband, her ascendants, descendants, siblings, and first cousins, i.e., only with persons who are so closely related to her that no one would suspect them of 'carrying on'. Should a woman wish to share a fruit with a man who is neither her husband nor a close relative, she must divide the fruit and give the man his share before biting into it.
The Mohave call chewing gum halyak. In aboriginal times this term designated a certain native chewing substance which was prepared from a vine called halyak.
The Mohave did have a wonderous appetite for ariel. They shared it when unweary guests were visiting.
The Mohave of both sexes are very fond of cigarettes. Anyone who takes out a pack of cigarettes is expected to offer a cigarette to all those who happen to be present, before helping himself. Should one fail to do so, one exposes oneself to a reprimand or to a jeer. It should be pointed out, however, that Mohave smoking etiquette is based on the principle of reciprocity. Hence they do not beg for cigarettes, nor do they demand cigarettes from any chance-met stranger.
A Mohave man is not supposed to light the cigarette of a woman who is neither a wife nor a close relative.
The Mohave do not inhale while lighting their cigarettes. This habit may be due to the fact that the first matches to reach the Mohave were made with sulfur. They hold the cigarette in one hand and the match in the other hand, and toast the tip of the cigarette until it is lit. Only then do they bring the cigarette to their lips. As a rule only men appear to inhale the smoke, while women, as well as male transvestites, seem to refrain from doing so.
The Mohave Indians also smoke small clay-pipes, and are much impressed with the skill of certain people who manage to smoke an entire pipe in four puffs.
The Mohave differentiate between "laughing with" and "laughing at" (4) people, and are quite sensitive to ridicule. On the other hand shared laughter is believed to be an expression of good-fellowship and of a friendly disposition. Unlike the Yuma (12) they believe that men and women laugh alike, except for the fact that the laughter of men has a deeper pitch. They also differentiate between laughter and provocative giggling.
Shared grief is likewise an expression of good-fellowship. The Mohave are ready to share the grief of their friends, and men do not consider it below their dignity to shed a few tears. A refusal to allow one's friends to share one's troubles is resented.
The Mohave sometimes disguise their sadness under an appearance of "being cross." Unemotional people are believed to be insensitive and lacking in human feelings.
Generosity is taken so much for granted that it must be thought of as a basic personality trait (4) rather than as a form of etiquette. The charge of stinginess is the most damning accusation that can be leveled at a person.
Loyalty to one's friends is a pivotal point of Mohave social ethics. It is an unforgivable sin to speak ill of one's friends and associates behind their backs, and disloyalty is one of the things that will cause a person to be known as "worthless" or as "a bad person." Wanton indiscretion, especially about love affairs, is likewise condemned, and is said to be characteristic only of psychopathic prostitutes (kamalo:y). (10)
The Mohave are eager for praise and freely praise those whom they like. "A good person" is a term of high praise. The highest praise that can be given to an alien is, "He is just like a Mohave." This form of praise has been reported as far back as the XVII Century." The Mohave often express their friendship and approval by mercilessly "razzing" the person they happen to like. If a woman slanders a man and refers to his dead relatives, the man feels certain that the woman loves him.
Mohave Indian courtesy does not partake of the elaborately ritual character of, for example, Chinese etiquette. It is, with a few small exceptions, chiefly the etiquette of good sense and of the heart, which is the foundation of all real courtesy. The terms "a good man" or "a good woman" also imply good manners. In brief, Mohave courtesy is completely characterized by a line in a play by Alfred de Musset: "Polite indeed! My coachman is polite! In my time, men were courteous." The essence of Mohave courtesy is identical with that of the early Renaissance concept of "cortesia" - it is the considerateness of kind and fair minded people.'