OF HISTORY AND ARTS
|Memories > Mohave
Author: Carroll S. Farley
Illustrations: Doris Lightwine
Copyright © 1973, C. Farley & D. Lightwine
The Mohave nation numbered about 6,000 people when the white men arrived. Their villages stretched along the semi-level land on the banks of the Colorado River. The largest concentration was in Arizona, across the river from the present town of Needles, California.
Each summer the melting snow in the high country fed the northern Colorado River and its tributaries, causing a huge flood that inundated the lowlands, forcing the Mohaves to build all permanent structures on ground above the flood level. Mohave houses were crude brush and thatched shacks clustered together in very small villages. Scattered throughout the village were many six-foot high arrowweed baskets in which each family cured and stored their mesquite beans. The baskets were built on low stilts to allow ventilation and prevent spoilage.
Each village had a tall teepee-like structure about thirty feet high and twenty-five or thirty feet across the base. It was made by fastening poles at a common point at the top and thatching the cone-shaped walls. The white man called this structure a smoke house because it had no chimney and only a single very low entrance. A fire burned in the center on the ground, the smoke filtering through the cracks where the poles were joined together at the top of the teepee. On cold winter nights, when the brush shacks offered inadequate protection to the villagers, the entire population slept around the inner circular walls.
The Mohave squaws spent most of their time tending babies and preparing food. They were responsible for the farming, in addition to collecting and preserving food. They also made pottery and baskets in which to serve and store food.
Because most of the year the climate was from hot to moderate, clothing was quite simple. Women wore only bark skirts, men wore breech cloths, and children were completely naked. When the winter cold settled in this lowland, more protection was needed, such as buckskins, fur, blankets and moccasins.
The mothers spent much of their time combing lice from their children's and each other's hair. They killed the lice by biting them. The men would plaster their heads with mud to smother the lice in order to get rid of them.The main occupations of the men were hunting, fishing, fighting, playing games, and participating in government. The Mohaves were a peace loving people. They rarely went to war unless another tribe stole their squaws or horses. Although the men sat in council and ran the government, the squaws were the absolute bosses in their own homes.
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