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CHAPTER III:
DETERIORATION OF NORTHERN PIMAN SOCIETY FROM 1520 TO 1729

1. The Twilight of Indian Civilization

The aboriginal epidemic region which included the northern Piman Indians disappeared in the death throes of the Aztec empire and Indian civilization in what became Mexico.

The coming of white men to North America had nearly immediate repercussions in the life of the Indians of the upper Santa Cruz River Valley. This statement may appear rather far-fetched since no records exist of this area at the time of the initial Spanish conquests. Admittedly, this is inference. But it is based on realistic appraisal of the cultural and biological effects of the coming of Spaniards to the Aztec empire and the other native states.

Cultural Effects. The Aztec Empire was the principal political structure on the North American continent at the time of its conquest by Spaniards. It represented the political culmination of cultural elaboration within the area of native civilization. As such it represented the area of most complex native culture in North America and the place of origin of impulses toward change and emulation among other societies beyond the bounds of the empire proper. With the collapse of the Empire, the cultural impulses emanating outward from its capital city of Tenochtitlan stopped. When the religio-political superstructure of Empire toppled, the lesser nations without the law were left without a pattern to copy and strive toward. Moreover, the conquest thoroughly and permanently destroyed Tenochtitlan and the surrounding lakeside communities as centres of commerce and trade to 33outlying regions. The sheer loss of manpower during the bloody struggles of the conquest forever removed the far-ranging traders of Tenochtitlan from the scene. Thus the very core and nerve-centre of transculturation of the northern peasant Indians was rooted out by the conquest, not to be replaced by Spaniards for many decades.

The Spaniards did quickly expand their empire beyond the former limits of the Aztec Empire, conquering yet-independent Indian states on the fringes of the former domain which shared the central Mexican civilization. Within a few years of the fall of Tenochtitlan in 1521, these surrounding principalities fell under the Spanish yoke. The results were the same as in Tenochtitlan though the loss of lives was less. The centres of civilization and sophistication and cultural innovation and influence were brought under Spanish domination so they were no longer able to send impulses northward into the semi-civilized peasant societies such as that of the northern Pimans. Therefore these northern societies were left stagnating at the point of cultural elaboration which they had achieved in 1519 when Cortez landed at Veracruz.

The Spaniards conquered the civilized Mexican tribes or states in a semi- or wholly psychotic state of lust for power and social status in European society symbolized and effectuated by gold from Mexico. Therefore their initial interest in new conquests was in wresting from native hands all the mined and refined gold on hand, regardless of what artistic forms it may have been in. Their second interest was in 34driving all the natives possible into all the gold mines which could be located by search or by torturing Indians supposed to know the location of pre-conquest workings. This created a tertiary interest in Indian slave labor for personal services to furnish gratification of Spanish drives for "gentlemanly life" while still obliged to dwell in the wilds of the New World, and to mine and smelt and mint gold and later silver to finance a triumphant return to Spain of the gentleman slaver. Forced labor was obtained by the same tactics formerly employed by the conquering Aztecs-tribute labor and outright slavery.

The net effect of the psychological state of the conquering Spaniards on the native civilizations was the destruction of the very productive potential that the money-mad Europeans lusted after. No better example of the disruption of native cultural centres and communication lines with the north country where the Pimans lived can be found in all the annals of Spanish conquest than the West Coast plundering expedition of Nuño de Guzmán. Guzmán arrived at Pánuco as governor in the spring of 1527 with a good reputation (Bancroft 1883:II: 263). Feuding with Cortez, he became president of the audiencia of Mexico and in December of 1529 embarked on his epic of despoilation of the northwest. He marched into Michoacan with the friendly king of the Tarascans held hostage (ibid., II:344). Unable to wrest the secret of the king's presumed hoards of metal from him by torture, Guzmán had the monarch burned at the stake (ibid., II:346). News of this atrocity 35rippled through the native settlements like wildfire, putting large numbers to flight. Guzmán's forces advanced northwest beyond the area explored previously by Spaniards-who had begun by encroaching on areas already claimed by the Cortez faction-fighting whenever he could provoke natives to give battle. From Michoacan the expedition plundered into Jalisco (ibid., II:351). After Easter of 1530 Guzmán's forces struck into modern Nayarit (ibid., II:354). Flooded out of his rainy season quarters in September (ibid., II:361) Guzmán carried his bloody sword and slave-branding irons ever northward, into modern Sinaloa where the Indian women became more appealing to the conquerors (ibid., II:363). The expedition established headquarters for seven months of useless exploring in the vicinity of modern Culiacán (ibid., II:364). Guzmán's slave-raiders had then reached, however, near the northern limit of densely-settled, civilized empires and tribal states radiating out from the central Mexican cultural hearth. The profits of slave-raiding diminished sharply as the supply diminished in numbers and increased in military ability-Guzmán's men probably ran into firm resistance from the Yaqui warriors. At any rate, Culiacán marked the high water mark of Guzmán's disorganization of native North America. Founding a Spanish settlement there, he turned back south toward a small measure of bureaucratic retribution (ibid., II:368-372).

Even in northern Sinaloa and southern Sonora, the Indians accused Guzmán's slave-raiders of capturing half the 36men and all the women and children, when they were able (Bandelier 1904:163). Within a decade after the fall of the Aztec capital city, Guzmán had carried the Spanish sword and slaver's brand to the southern Piman country, and the very approaches of northern Piman territory, pillaging and enslaving when he could and where he was able through the lands of all the civilized Indians between the fallen Aztec Empire and the northern Piman peasants. The Indians who escaped his slavers' chains-such as Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca's messengers saw in use (ibid., p. 165)-stayed free only by flight to the mountains and abandonment of their aboriginal civilized way of life. Civilization on the Mexican west coast was dealt its death blow by the nefarious exploits of a proud Spaniard, Nuño de Guzmán.

By the time Guzmán turned south again, the lines of communication between the former higher centres and the northern Piman peasants were completely disrupted. Moreover all the cultural centres which had influenced the northern Pimans over many centuries had toppled in the bloodbath and flames of Spanish conquest. The Mayas remained free, but no communication between those beleaguered natives and the northern Pimans was possible. The northern peasants were left to wither culturally like grapes on an uprooted vine, their cultural deterioration hastened by the seeping poisons of conquest exuded along the time-worn trade routes by the devastated provinces hounded by Guzmán.

37Biological Effects. For ten or more millennia since their ancestors crossed the Bering Strait from Siberia into North America, the Indians of the New World had lived in a state of isolation from Old World populations. The gene pools of the North American immigrants provided them with genetic potentials for independent development which were well on the way toward realization by A.D. 1500. This geographic isolation from the Old World also resulted in the development of two distinct groups of subhuman organisms preying on human populations. The Old World populations suffered the scourges of cholera, Bubonic Plague, epidemic smallpox and measles, and other microorganic threats to human survival. Over the centuries Old World populations developed either genetic physiological or psychological resistances to these threatening organisms. Shielded from those specific organisms by their isolation from Old World populations, American Indians developed neither organic nor psychological resistances. So when Christopher Columbus made his historic landfall in the Caribbean, he drew the curtain on one of the most grisly and bloody dramas of population decimation the world has ever witnessed.

Infectious epidemics, compounded with the forced labor imposed by gold-lusting Spaniards with concomitants of unaccustomed physical exertion, ideal infectious conditions in crowded labor compounds, and psychological despair produced by conquest, virtually wiped out the native populations of the Spanish conquests in the Caribbean before Cortez landed 38on the mainland in 1519. Conditions in North America were never as bad as in the islands, partly because of some amelioration of conditions of forced labor by royal edict, partly because there was more room in which threatened natives might manoeuvre to escape the worst effects of infection, and partly because the native populations were by and large already more sedentary than the islanders, and therefore better prepared by previous ecological experience to resist infectious epidemics. Most importantly, while the vast majority of tribes and individuals succumbed like the islanders to the apathetic psychology of conquered peoples, significant numbers of tribes-such as the Yaquis-and individuals somehow held to a psychology of resistance and successfully survived.

Sometimes the stresses of epidemic threats and Spanish control, which appeared most unpredictable and threatening indeed to the recently conquered Indians, grew too great for the natives to bear, and they rose in armed rebellions which were momentarily successful but generally disastrous. Such a revolt occurred in 1541, raging through much of the area north of Guadalajara. This nativistic movement was called the Mixton War. Native flight to mountain strongholds laid waste large districts. Battle losses in the thousands brought a marked acceleration in Indian mortality in the districts bordering the recently destroyed centres of civilization in the Aztec and nearby empires (Bancroft 1883:II:490 et. seq.).

By the time Francisco Vásquez de Coronado led his diminished expedition back to Culiacán in Sinaloa In 1542, the 39aboriginal epidemic region had certainly been destroyed by the wholesale disruption of aboriginal society and its communication lines.

The principal causes of this destruction had been: 1) the Spanish conquest with accompanying destruction of the governing elite and much of the manpower of the Aztec Empire, 2) the speedy and whole-hearted accession to the Spanish cause of major Tlaxcalan, Zapotec and Tarascan governing elites, to the detriment of aboriginal cultural sur-vival, 3) wholesale destruction of lives and birth of enmities during Guzmán's slave-raid of 1530-1531, 4) and the final futile spasm of civilized west central Mexicans in the Mixton War of 1541-1542.

By 1542 there was extremely little likelihood that a central Mexican epidemic could spread to the northern Pimans, since the close-knit fabric of commerce and social visiting of pre-Spanish peasant society had ravelled loose into tribal and village distrust and competitive isolation, where pathetic apathy had not paralyzed all social action.

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