See E. H. Spicer, Potam, a Yaqui Village in Sonora (1954); R. W. Giddings, Yaqui Myths and Legends (1959); R. Moisés, The Tall Candle (1971).
The "Yoeme" or Yaqui are a Native American tribe who originally lived in the valley of the Río Yaqui in the northern Mexican state of Sonora and throughout the Sonoran Desert region into the southwestern U.S. state of Arizona. The Yaqui call themselves "Yoeme," the Yaqui word for person ("yoemem" or "yo'emem" meaning "people"). The Yaqui call their homeland "Hiakim," from which some say the name "Yaqui" is derived. They may also describe themselves as Haiki Nation, the Haiki. Many folk etymologies exist as to how the "Yoeme" came to be known as the "Yaqui".
The Yaqui religion (which is a syncretic religion of old Yaqui beliefs and practices and the teachings of Jesuit and later Franciscan missionaries) relies upon song, music, and dancing, all performed by designated members of the community. There are also other, Roman Catholic, practices that are woven into the old ways.
The Yaqui deer song (maso bwikam) accompanies the deer dance which is performed by a pascola [from the Spanish 'pascua', Easter] dancer (also known as a deer dancer). Pascolas will perform at religio-social functions many times of the year, but especially during Lent and Easter.
The Yaqui deer song ritual is in many ways similar to the deer song rituals of neighboring Uto-Aztecan peoples such as the Tohono O'odham and Mayo. However, the Yaqui deer song is much more central to the cultus of its people and is greatly tied in to Roman Catholic beliefs and practices.
Flowers are very important in the Yaqui cultures. According to Yaqui teachings, flowers sprang up from the drops of blood that were shed at the Crucifixion. Flowers are viewed as the manifestation of souls, to the point that occasionally Yaqui males may greet a close male friend with the phrase "Haisa sewa?" ("How is the flower?").
The Yaqui world view is pure and preserved for 26,000 years. In 2004 Yaqui Chief Sonne Reyna recorded several chants on CD with Steven Halpern. The sacred tradition centers around nature as a living university where spirits are acknowledged as the living beings they are with love and respect. This world is believed to be a dream which started when Old Man and Old Woman were teenagers who fell madly in love and made passionate love, thereby producing creation. The Yaqui separate people into two classes: Yoeme (those with magic in their hearts) and Yori (those with confusion and fear in their hearts).
The Yaqui were never conquered militarily by the Spanish, defeating successive expeditions of conquistadores in battle. However, they were successfully converted to Christianity by the Jesuits, who convinced them to settle into eight towns: Pótam, Vícam, Tórim, Bácum, Cócorit, Huirivis, Belem, and Rahum.
For many years, the Yaqui lived peacefully in a relationship with the Jesuit missionaries. This resulted in considerable mutual advantage: the Yaqui were able to develop a very productive economy, and the missionaries were able to employ the wealth created to extend their missionary activities further north. In the 1730s the Spanish colonial government began to alter this relationship, and eventually ordered all Jesuits out of Sonora. This created considerable unrest amongst the Yaqui and led to several rebellions. Further, the Franciscan priests never arrived to be their religious leaders, leaving the Yaqui with no western religious ties.
Yaqui leader Juan Banderas (executed 1833) wished to unite the Mayo, Opata, and Pima tribes, together with the Yaqui, to form an alliance separate from Mexico in the 1820s, but the effort failed and the Yaqui remained within the scope of Mexican legal authority.
The nation suffered a succession of brutalities by the Mexican authorities, including a notable massacre in 1868 where 150 Yaqui were burned to death by the army inside a church.
Another prominent (and failed) effort to win independence was led by the Yaqui leader Cajemé. Following this war, the Yaqui were subjected to further brutality under the regime of Porfirio Díaz, who implemented a policy of ethnic transfer, in order to remove the Yaqui from Sonora so that he could encourage immigration from Europe and the United States. The government transferred tens of thousands of Yaqui from Sonora to the Yucatán peninsula, where they were sold as slaves and worked on plantations; many of these slaves died from the brutal working conditions. Many Yaqui fled to the United States to escape this persecution. Today, the Mexican municipality of Cajeme is named after the fallen Yaqui leader.
Yaquis have dwelt in the area of the southwestern United States since the incursions by Spanish missionaries and soldiers in the 1700s; Yaqui oral tradition and history emphatically state that there were small Yaqui settlements centuries before the arrival of the Europeans. The town of Tubac, Arizona, had Yaquis in its Spanish garrison.
Several communities of Yaqui have existed in Arizona since the 1800s: Pascua Pueblo is in the northwestern part of Tucson and Hu'upa was to the south (and has since been absorbed into the Valencia and Freeway neighborhood of Tucson); Marana has had continuous settlements of Yaqui.
In the late 1960s, several Yaqui, among them Anselmo Valencia and Fernando Escalante, started development of a tract of land about 8 km to the west of the old Hu'upa site, calling it New Pascua or, in Spanish, Pascua Nuevo. This settlement has a population (estimated in 2006) of about 4,000 and is the center of administration for the Tribe. Most of the middle-age population of New Pascua use English, Spanish, and a moderate amount of Yaqui. Many older people also speak the Yaqui language fluently, with a growing number of youth learning the Yaqui language in addition.
Many Yaquis also moved further north to Tempe, Arizona, and settled in a neighborhood named after Our Lady of Guadalupe. The town incorporated in 1979 as Guadalupe, Arizona. Today, more than 44 percent of the town's ethnic makeup is still Native American, many of them trilingual in Yaqui, English and Spanish languages.
There is also a small Yaqui neighborhood known as Penjamo in South Scottsdale, Arizona.
In all, there are (2008) 11,324 voting members of the tribe.
Maria Félix: Yaqui father
Ritchie Valens: of Mexican, Spanish and Yaqui descent