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The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian community is bordered by the cities of Scottsdale, Mesa, and Fountain Hills, Arizona. Members of the Pima and Maricopa Native American tribes live in the community that was created by an executive order of the U.S. president, issued on June 14, 1879. The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian community is made up of 53,600 acres (21,691 hectares), 19,000 acres (7,698 hectares) of which are a nature preserve.
A sovereign tribe, the Pima-Maricopa Indian community has about 8,700 enrolled members. Half the population of the community is younger than 18 years old. About 12,000 acres (4,856 hectares) of the community are cultivated. Crops include cotton, melons, and carrots.
Commercial development lies on the community’s western side. Enterprises include a golf club, bank, and the 1.1 million square-foot (102,193 square-meter) Scottsdale Pavilions retail center. The tribe also has a telecommunications company, a casino, and a resort and spa.
The tribes that make up the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian community have two distinct cultural and language backgrounds. The Pima call themselves Akimel Au-Authm, which translates to river people. The Maricopa call themselves Xalychidom Piipaash, which translates to people who live toward the water.
According to legend, the Pima descended from the Hohokam, who had a civilization in Arizona more than 2,000 years ago. Living in the Salt River Valley, the Hohokam created a canal irrigation system that has been modernized and is still used. The Pima are known for making intricately woven, watertight baskets.
The Maricopa tribe lived in small bands along the Gila and Colorado Rivers. Moving toward Pima villages in the early 1800s, the Maricopa established a friendly relationship with the tribe. The Maricopa used red clay to create pottery, an art form that can be seen in the community’s Hoo-hoogam Ki Museum.
The Man in the Maze is important to the traditional beliefs of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian community, and the symbol can be found on the tribe’s seal. The symbol represents Elder Brother about to enter the maze that is symbolic of life. At the center of the maze is the sun god, who will greet Elder Brother and welcome him to the next world.
A president, vice president, and tribal council are elected to govern the community. Government departments include community development, education, and police. The community also has its own court system, a corrections facility, and fire department. The community’s newspaper is the Au-Authm Action News.