Oodham in Mexico

Photo Source:  National Archive  Creative Commons 
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People Name: Oodham
Country: Mexico
10/40 Window: No
Population: 200
World Population: 21,200
Primary Language: Tohono O'odham
Primary Religion: Christianity
Christian Adherents: 96.00 %
Evangelicals: 1.00 %
Scripture: New Testament
Online Audio NT: Yes
Jesus Film: No
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: North American Indigenous
Affinity Bloc: North American Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

Oodham means “desert people,” but they were once called Papago. For hundreds of years, they lived in what is now Sonora, a state in northern Mexico, and Arizona, USA. They grew crops and hunted wild game. The Spanish Empire ignored their “barren” land until the Spaniards discovered silver nearby. Then the Oodham were used as silver miners. After the US defeated Mexico in the Mexican-American War, they were usually left alone. Then came the Gadsden Purchase in 1854. The US paid Mexico 10 million dollars for land in southern Arizona where they hoped to build a railroad. That land was the Oodham homeland. From then on, their homeland was split between the two countries. A simple card was enough to allow them to go back and forth across the border until the 1990s. At that time, drug cartels and human traffickers started using their tribal land for criminal activities. Violence was common. Oodham police became effective in turning the tide on the criminals, but there are serious unresolved issues they face in the 21st century. Most live in the US, but some of their relatives are south of the border in Sonora, Mexico.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Since their homeland straddles the Mexico-US border, the Oodham people are very much affected by issues pertaining to illegal immigration. They do not want illegal immigrants, human traffickers or drug carrying “mules” passing through their homeland, and their tribal police are very active in stopping criminals. On the other hand, having a firm border between the two countries restricts their ability to see relatives on the other side of the border. They do not want a wall running through their tribal land or surveillance cameras, which would violate their privacy.

What Are Their Beliefs?

The traditional religious beliefs of the Oodham involve medicine men. They are buried in mountains that they believe are sacred. Because of the sacred status of those mountains, the Oodham people will not live there. Each July there is vikita, where tribal members pray for the earth and all who live on it. Yet there is a strong Christian presence among the Oodham, especially on the US side of the border.

What Are Their Needs?

The Oodham people are caught in the middle of international border issues. Their homeland can potentially be used by drug cartels; therefore, they have to be vigilant. These two matters make them vulnerable.

Prayer Points

Pray for Oodham disciples to disciple others in the ways of Christ, leading to a spiritual blessing for their community.
Pray for the Oodham people to find Jesus in the midst of their many trials.
Pray for the Lord to abundantly bless the Oodham people, and that they will respond with gratitude and worship.

Text Source:   Joshua Project