Saturday, July 19, 2014

Cocopahs of the desert southwest

The Cocopahs lived along the Colorado River.
Tucked away among the fields off U.S. 95in southern Yuma County is the Cocopah Museum and Cultural Center.

The museum isn’t very large, but what it lacks in space, it makes up for in the quality of the exhibits. There are ancient artifacts as well as exquisite beaded jewelry as well as women’s shoulder coverings.  From a few feet away, the beadwork resembles very fine crochet work, only a lot heavier.
Traditional summer housing

There’s an exhibit on war paint the warriors used as well as a display on facial tattoos.  Another display covers traditional clothing, such as bark skirts, worn by the women. As you enter the museum, a three-sided glass case shows Cocopahs at work and play. Outside the museum are two huts made from native vegetation the tribal members used in the summer.

The Cocopahs, a desert southwest tribe, have lived along the lower Colorado River in Arizona and Baja California for many centuries. The motto on their logo, Xawiƚƚ kwñchawaay, translates as ‘those who live on the river.” Early Spanish explorers interacted with the Cocopahs s early as the 16th century. Today, there are just over 1,000 Cocopahs,  

The museum probably isn’t worth a special trip from Yuma by itself, but combining it with a visit to the tribal casino or as a stopover on the way to San Luis Rio Colorado in Mexico makes it more worthwhile.

The museum is south of Somerton. Turn right onto G Street from U.S. 95 and follow the signs to the tribal business center. The exhibits are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Admission is free.

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