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Pascua Yaqui - Arizona (U.S.)

Native American

Last modified: 2022-10-14 by rick wyatt
Keywords: pascua yaqui | arizona | native american |
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[Pascua Yaqui - Arizona flag] image by Donald Healy, 24 January 2008

See also:

The Band

[Pascua Yaqui - Arizona map]
map image by Peter Orenski based on input from Don Healy

Pascua Yaqui - Arizona

Just outside Tucson, Arizona lies a patch of desert, 1,150 acres big. This is the Pascua Yaqui Reservation. It is one of five Yaqui communities in central Arizona. The others are Guadalupe in the Phoenix area, the Old Pascua village in downtown Tucson, Barrio Libre in South Tucson and Yoem Pueblo near Marana. The last one, the Yoem Pueblo, bears the true name of the Yaqui people - the Yoeme. It is aYaqui word meaning "people", a common way of referring to one's own Tribe throughout the Native population of North America (Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona - General Information, undated pamphlet, published by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe).

The Yoeme were dubbed the Yaqui by Spanish explorers who reached Yaqui lands along Mexico's Rio Yaqui in 1533. The confusion between languages led the Spanish to assume the Yoeme word "Hiaki" was the name of the people they had met. It actually meant "speech". The hiaki mutated into "Yaqui" and the name has been used ever since. In the 1880s, many of the Yaqui fled ongoing persecution by the Mexican government and sought a haven in southern Arizona (ibid..). The modern reservation, originally only 202 acres is size, was ceded to the Pascua Yaqui in 1964 and the Tribe received federal recognition in 1978. Today the Pascua Yaqui number about 13,000 members (Pascua Yaqui Tribe - Enrollment Department, undated pamphlet, Pascua Yaqui Tribe).

The entrance to the modern reservation is dominated by the Tribal Administration complex and the adjoining Casino of then Sun. These main buildings act as a backdrop for the display of both the tribal seal and flag.

The Yaqui settled in what is now the Old Pascua Village in northern Tucson, Pascua means Easter in Spanish and may recall the date of the settling of the village. The village was absorbed into the city in 1952. They also settled in the village of Guadalupe. Near Scottsdale. Both these settlements still are centers of Yaqui culture.

Recalling the "Pascua" or Easter portion of the Tribe's name and the unique merging of Yaqui cultural tradition with their Catholic faith brought to them by the Jesuits, the tribal seal of the Pascua Yaqui Nation features a Christian cross. It bears the rising sun of of Achai Taa'ah and most significantly, the deer dancer. The "Deer Dancer" was incorporated into Catholic celebrations to ease the adoption of the European based faith by the Aztecean Yaqui people. The "Deer Dancer" is a major participant in the Tribe's Palm Sunday festivities and the Tribe, as a whole is noted for its elaborate Easter celebrations. He is a traditional symbol of good in the Yaqui culture and originates "from a spiritual realm of bright, beautiful flowers that are empowered to destroy evil and bring out goodness". The seal also bears a crescent moon of Maala Mecha hanging over a landscape expressing the stark beauty of the Sonoran desert and the dominant plant feature - the Saguaro cactus.

Donald Healy 2008

The Flag

The flag combines elements of the seal, the colors of the United States, the land that gave the Yaqui refuge and the form of the flag of Mexico, their traditional homeland. The flag is comprised of three vertical stripes. Starting at the innermost or hoist, the stripes are blue, white and red. The central white stripe being approximately one and a half times the width of the others. The official explanation of the flag is as follows:

  • The color red symbolizes the blood shed to protect our people, our land, our customs and our religion.
  • The color white symbolizes the purity of our spirit.
  • The color blue symbolizes the sky, where our mother, Maala Mecha and our father, Achai Taa'ah are at.
  • The stars represent the cardinal directions, east, west, north and south.
  • The moon represents our mother, Maala Mecha, the mother of all creation.
  • The sun represents our father, Achai Taa'ah, the father of all creation.
  • The black cross represents the memory of all our ancestors who have died in the many wars to protect our people, our land, our customs and our religion

    (The Significance of the Yaqui Flag, undated pamphlet, Pascua Yaqui Tribe)
The flag is so well designed that one can find many interpretations in its graphical attempt to define the Pascua Yaqui. For example the white stripe bears a black cross, both alluding to the Catholic faith of the Yaqui and the Easter celebrations so important in modern Yaqui life. Above and close to the red stripe is the new crescent moon (actually representing Maala Mecha) in yellow, could be denoting Easter, which follows the first new moon of Spring. Directly below the cross is the yellow sun (of Achai Taa'ah), that might also recall the rising sun of Easter Sunday that revealed the miracle that is the center of the Christian faith - the rising of Christ from the dead.

The sun has been depicted in various ways. The actual flag flying outside the Tribal Administration building bore a sun of some 32 rays of varying width. Tribal documents show a flag eight even rays similar to designs found in southwestern petroglyphs. A pamphlet entitled "The Significance of the Yaqui Flag" shows a sun of 12 triangular points. It is the sun that is significant, not its exact representation.

Each corner of the flag normally bears a five-pointed yellow star. The explanation for these stars has been given as the prime directions, but they could just as easily represent the four Yaqui settlements in the Tucson area. These stars are not always represented on Pascua Yaqui flags. One photo, showing only a portion of a tribal flag shows no stars at all. No definitive reason for the disappearing stars has been found, but one might hypothesize that the starred version represents all the Yaqui in central Arizona. The one without stars may represent only the reservation itself.

Whatever the symbolism for the varying design elements of the Pascua Yaqui flag, they combine to represent an ancient people with a complex history and an evolving culture that continues to thrive into the 21st century.

Donald Healy 2008
information provided by Peter Orenski, 24 January 2008