13. Northern Piman Population Trends at Tucson, 1690–1821
THE NATIVE NORTHERN PIMAN INDIANS CONGREGATING at Tucson formed, with their congeners in other native settlements in the lower portion of the Santa Cruz River Valley, the original and one basic ethnic component in urban Tucson's eventual population. It is important, therefore, to understand the numerical trend of that population through historic times. While the author has elsewhere estimated the aboriginal population of the New World just prior to European contact,1 no trustworthy means of estimating the Tucson Piman population as of A.D. 1500 are at hand. The natives were not literate, and nonwritten evidence of population size is extremely difficult to interpret even if preserved. Once Spaniards reached the Northern Piman homeland and began to produce written documents describing it in various ways, native population trends may be perceived at least dimly through the curtain of time.
Paradoxically, while Tucson grew into an important Northern Piman settlement after 1752, Northern Piman population as a whole shrank rapidly during the entire 18th century. Much of the ingathering of Northern Piman Indians at Tucson resulted from the congregation of the remnants of other less fortunate native rancherías weakened by high disease mortality from Spanish-introduced Old World illnesses, which either became endemic or swept through the Northern Piman settlements in life-destroying epidemic episodes.
Infectious epidemics undoubtedly reached the Northern Piman Indian settlements in the Santa Cruz River Valley during the 17th century, and probably during the 16th, but the lack of direct contact between the natives and Spaniards who might have recorded in writing the scale of depopulation during that earlier period makes reconstruction of the process impossible.
Nine Northern Piman settlements can be identified as still existing in the lower Santa Cruz River Valley in 1700 between the Punta de Agua where the stream rose to the surface and the Picacho, beyond where the water sank under the sand again at Charco de los Yumas, at Point of Mountain. Several of those nine aboriginal rancherías possessed very large native populations in 1700. During the 18th century, the Northern Piman Indian inhabitants abandoned all but two of those aboriginal settlements as part of their people
So great was the 18th century diminution of Native American population in the entire Santa Cruz River Valley that it can hardly be imagined by people secure in the modern era of effective public medical prevention of major contagions. Because Spanish frontiersmen in northwestern New Spain often wrote on the basis of short inspection visits, many remained unaware of the dramatic process of Native American depopulation.
When first seen by Father Eusebio F. Kino and his companions, Tucson evidently was so small that no one thought it worthwhile estimating and recording its population. Yet its 18th century history seems unique in the area because it grew in population while the other rancherías declined in numbers. This astonishing reversal of the general population trend in the lower valley seems the more astounding for its having ended in the extinction of all the other settlements save Bac and Tucson in the three-quarters of a century from 1700 to 1775 before the Tubac garrison moved to Tucson and provided military protection for the Native American settlement. Tucson simply attracted immigrants from the abandoned settlements and survived at their expense. Clearly its own population did not reproduce itself.
When a Spanish officer enumerated the Indians who had settled peacefully at Tucson in the spring of 1752 following the Pima Revolt, he counted 156 individuals. (See Table 11, Appendix.) Joseph Díaz del Carpio2 found only 68 unmarried persons compared to 88 married individuals. Native Tucson suffered a serious deficiency in children, which meant that the population was 20 individuals short of reproducing itself, a deficiency of 21.8%. Analysis of family structure shows that the biological situation was very dangerous indeed. A total of 19 of the 44 married women, or 43%, had no reported children. The other 25 married women had 34 children, an average of only 1.36 per family. Even if the unmarried individuals not enumerated with families are allocated to the married women, the average number of hypothetical “children” per family comes to only 1.54. Two children per family would be required to maintain the population.
The prospects for the future of the Tucson population appeared even bleaker than the family analysis indicates. There were 20 unmarried youths 12 years of age and older, but only 14 maidens. That meant that the number of childbearing women would in a few years be less than the number of adult males. Furthermore, Díaz identified only 4 of the younger children as females.
The Native Americans of Tucson may well not all have returned by the spring of 1752, yet the enumerated sample was large enough to be representative of family structure unless return movement had been for some unknown reason very selective according to age. In any event, the reliability of the 1752 sampling appears to have been fairly good, because the population dynamics of that year seem consistent with those revealed in later enumerations.
As residents of other lower Santa Cruz River Valley rancherías migrated to Tucson, that settlement's population grew so that by 1765 it contained 200 inhabitants.3 Yet that “increase” seems to document an appalling interim depopulation, because the 250 Sobaipuris discussed in Chapter 2 had settled at Piman Tucson only three years earlier in 1762. Reflected in these figures was the mortality of the 1764 epidemic in Sonora4 and possibly emigration of Sobaipuris, if Captain Anza indeed managed to divert some of them to the Buenavista Valley.
By 20 February 1766, Father Neve reported that the population of Tucson had fallen to only 139 individuals, as shown in Table 12 in the Appendix.5 The total figure was less than the summer seasonal population, almost certainly, but that should not affect the distribution of individuals within families present. The sex ratio for adults was 102 men per 100 women, not far out of balance. The 32 women in existing unions had borne 47 enumerated children, an average of 1.4687 offspring per wife at that time. Ten of these women had no children enumerated, so that 22 women actually had an average of 2.1 offspring each counted.
Because the Jesuit enumerator recorded no ages, nor genetic relationships outside this limited number of marital unions, one cannot discern whether these women had borne additional older children already married or listed with the unmarried population. In any event, the 22 women clearly had borne just enough children to reproduce their own nuclear families. The Tucson Piman population was failing to reproduce itself because about one-third of its females were apparently barren.
All 41 enumerated women, including those listed as widows, had an average of only 1.365 children each. This number fell far short of the total required to replace the adult population. Such a situation was consistent with that reported in 1752.
When Friar Francisco Garcés assumed charge of Tucson Pueblo as a branch of Mission San Xavier del Bac, its population must have been small. He quickly set to work to attract Papago migrants to his mission and its Tucson branch. By 1774, at least, Garcés had begun to resettle Papagos from the desert country at Piman Tucson.6 The population increased to 239 inhabitants.7 Anza reported 80 families there in 1774.8 Families averaged, therefore, three persons each (actually 2.9875). If all of the individuals except
A few years later, the bishop of Sonora reported that Piman Tucson had 30 married couples in a total population of 82.9 Not only had total population plummeted, but average family size had also fallen to 2.73 persons. There were then 22 children at most, or at least 38 short of reproducing the married population, a minimum deficiency of 73.3%. The women averaged only 0.7 child each, at most!
Such calculations demonstrate very clearly that the historic continuity of Northern Piman Indian residence at Tucson depended on constant migration to that settlement of Indians from other places. Throughout the 18th century Piman residents of Tucson suffered what is often identified as an urban inability to reproduce their own numbers.
By 1783, the total population of Bac had fallen to 167 persons, and that of Tucson stood at 189,10 a total of 356 Native Americans in the two settlements.
The family structure of both Bac and Tucson Pueblo in 1783 showed how far the Pima, Sobaipuri and Papago Indians living there were even from reproducing themselves. There were 74 families at Piman Tucson and 77 at Bac. Thus, average family size amounted to only 2.2 persons at Bac, and little better than 2.55 at Tucson. Taken at face value, the Tucson Pueblo figures indicated only 41 children, an average of only 0.554 offspring per family. Apparently the population lacked 107 children of reproducing itself, despite the fact that the populace consisted for the most part of migrants, who should have been relatively young and vigorous.
That may not have been true of the Sobaipuris, reduced by war casualties and epidemic mortality, whom Captain Elias removed from the San Pedro River Valley in 1762, settling 250 at Piman Tucson.11 It was true, surely, of 99 Nixoras (Native American slaves on this frontier)12 and Papagos Friars Garcés, Belderrain and Llorens baptized at Bac and Tucson from 26 May 1768 to 1 January 1796. How many were settlers is not clear. Llorens labored mightily to repopulate both places. He baptized one group of 30 Papagos — evidently immigrants to Tucson Pueblo — there in 1795, and then another group of 27 later the same year. Llorens persuaded 184 Aquituni Papagos to come on 19 January 1796, and he christened 51 infants in the group.13 Some or all of these Desert People fled, forcing Llorens to persuade them all over again. Having already baptized 53 other Papagos in the two places during his first five years in this mission,14 Llorens clearly accelerated Papago urban relocation 150 years before the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs took a hand in this game.
In the fall of 1797, the president of the Franciscan missions in Pimería Alta reported that 211 of the Indians at Tucson were Papago immigrants, while only 78 were “Pimas,”15 a total of 289 persons. Family structure again told a grim tale of depopulation. The 78 survivors of the valley population and former migrants were 30 offspring short of reproducing themselves. They
Even the recent Papago immigrants barely maintained themselves. Their 107 children exceeded their adult population of 104 (88 married, 16 widows and widowers) by a narrow margin. Life at the mission soon sent them into decline.
In the spring of 1798, Llorens baptized more 1795–96 migrants: 25, then 12, then 22, leaving 27 unchristened.16
In spite of Llorens' conversion of pagan Papagos, when he enumerated the native population of his mission in 1801, he reported only 119 Native Americans at Bac, and 246 at Tucson Pueblo for a total of 365.17 (See Table 13, Appendix.) By this time, 213 of the people at Tucson were Papagos, 7 were Gila River Pimas, and only 26 were “Pimas,” that is to say, survivors of the native riverine population and all of the pre-1790 immigrants!
The 246 persons living at Piman Tucson in December of 1801 included 130 married persons, 8 widowers and 5 widows, a total of 143 persons of child-producing age or over. Their apparent total living child production had been, however, only 103, or 40 short of reproducing themselves. This was a 28% deficiency, reflecting recent Papago migration. The average number of children per married or widowed female came to only 1.47, counting all children and unmarried adolescents enumerated.
The sex ratio in the Tucson Native American population was 115.8 males per 100 females. Even though more boys probably were born than girls, the sex ratio among children 0–5 years of age was 81.3 males per 100 females. Such a figure suggests high male infant mortality. The sex ratio in the ll–15-year-old group sharply reversed in this population to 220 males per 100 females. Such a ratio suggests selective migration and/or very high mortality of girls at puberty during or just after the smallpox epidemic of 1799.18
At the end of the 18th century, imperial law prohibited settlement of Spaniards, half-castes and even Native Americans from elsewhere in Indian towns.19 Royal policy was either honored in the breach on the Tucson frontier, or local military officers allowed settlement of non-Native Americans at Bac and Piman Tucson in the interests of defense. As Appendix Table 14 shows, Llorens enumerated 39 Spaniards and half-castes there in 1801.
This citizen population of Bac and Tucson had a sex ratio of 82.4 males per 100 females at this time. Although the citizen population was so small that the ratio could be quite biased, the surplus females index an increasing population while the dearth of females in the Native American population indexed a declining population.
The more dynamic citizen population's ethnic constitution reflects the importance of miscegenation combined with transculturation within mixed-marriage families for eventual dominance of culturally Hispanic populations on this frontier. Only 36.1% of the “citizens” of Bac and Tucson Pueblo in
The 1801 enumeration of “citizens” shows, because of its careful ethnic identifications, that several persons of African ancestry had already reached the Tucson area during the 18th century besides Sergeant Francisco Xavier Márquez. Three mulattos, or progeny of European-African matings, comprised 7.7% of the citizenry in 1801.
The process of social transformation appears in Friar J. B. Llorens' ethnic classifications. He labeled three daughters of a Mestizo husband and mulatta wife as Mestizas, apparently following a rule of patrilineal inheritance, and suggesting how the frontier population blended genetic contributions from Europe, Africa and the New World into a socially unified new kind of population.
Third most numerous ethnic group among the “citizens” in 1801 was “Yuma,” comprising 20.5% of the total. A glance at the citizen enumeration in Appendix Table 14 reveals, however, that these “Yumas” occupied a very special niche in this population. Each of the three Spanish households included one or two Yuma children between the ages of seven and ten. They worked as servants in these households, much as hacienda Indian children have served in landlord households in provincial areas of the Andes in modern times. These Yuma servants most likely reached Bac and Piman Tucson as war captives of Gila River Pimas or Maricopas who sold them to citizens.20 The “Yuma” label applied to such juvenile servants doubtless referred more to their general linguistic affiliation than to the Quechan tribe.
Llorens listed four “Yumas” not living in Spanish households with the citizens, suggesting that such captives from tribes beyond the frontier of colonial rule actually contributed progeny to the general Mestizo population with a rapidity that missioned Native Americans did not.
The frontier custom of purchasing Native American captives from friendly Indians was rather explicitly described by a Franciscan official of the College of the Holy Cross at Querétaro a few years earlier:
The Gila River Pimas, as a result of the frequent campaigns that they carry out against the Apaches, conduct their child and adult women prisoners to the Pueblo of Tucson, where for small interests they leave them among the Indians and citizens. They are catechized and serve to augment the population of the Pueblos. Last October  they conducted some prisoners to the Pueblo of Tucson, where they graciously gave some of them to some Indians whom they recognize as relatives, and sold some. Ten pagan Gila River Pimas being present in said Pueblo (having come to guide us to their country) they saw that one of the Chiefs of the Province seized said prisoners from their masters, and without paying for them the smallest recompense, conducted them to Arizpe. I am a witness of this fact and can prove it whenever ordered to do so.21
The Franciscan feared that grave consequences would flow from that official action, from the point of view of both Church dogma and simple humanity. “In the future, the Gila River Pimas will kill the adult women from whose preservation they expect no recompense. Thus will be lost these Souls (which were previously assured for a small payment), offending our Religion, humanity, and against the piety of our Sovereign.…” Whatever their Catholic Majesties had decreed from Spain against human slavery, the Spaniards and Mestizos of Tucson practiced it on this remote colonial frontier, augmenting, as the Franciscan observed, the mixed ethnic population.
In 1802, the Bac-Tucson mission population declined by two Native Americans, to 363, and two citizens, to 37. The Indian sex ratio stood at 93.1 males per 100 females.22 By the end of 1804, the Bac-Tucson Pueblo population had risen to 496 Indians, while citizens fell to 29. The Indian sex ratio had climbed, however, to 112 males per 100 females, heralding future decline.23
In 1818, Bac and Tucson had 287 Native Americans and 37 citizens.24 If there had been no additional immigration to Bac and Tucson Pueblo between 1804 and 1818, the population lost no less than 209 persons during those 14 years. The apparent average loss of 15 persons annually probably was concentrated during 1816 when a smallpox epidemic swept the Pimería Alta mission populations.25
During 1819, the population of Tucson Pueblo and Bac increased through additional migration to 318 Indians and 62 Spaniards and mixed-bloods. The crude death rate among the Native Americans, computed from end-of-year population and 35 reported burials, was no less than 110 per 1000 population. In contrast, the birth rate indicated by six baptisms amounted to only 19 per 1000 population. If eight baptisms of heathens denoted immigrant infants, some of the disparity was made up by their fertility, but clearly the Native American population still depended upon immigration to this incipient city at the cost of depopulating other settlements.
The apparent net population loss of 6.1% during the year would eradicate any community not reinforced with migrants in a short time. The birth-death rate difference meant a 9.1% annual population decrease without immigration!
In contrast, the non-Indian population remained, immigration aside, in equilibrium with one birth and one death,26 indicating the tremendous biological advantage persons of European ancestry enjoyed in the biological and cultural environment of the times in the lower Santa Cruz River Valley.
During 1820, the Native American population dropped to 310 in Bac and Tucson, even though baptisms rose to 21, plus 67 heathens, indicating the two years seem to reflect the variation in birth incidence in a small population. The death rate rose slightly to 119 per 1,000 population, 37 burials being reported. The non-Indian population dropped to 44 through emigration, inasmuch as one birth and only two burials were recorded.27
The Native American population of the Tucson area continued to decline until the very end of the period of Spanish colonial rule. This is not a matter of Black Legend hyperbole. The figures presented in this chapter speak for themselves. The Northern Piman Indians still reeled biologically and psychologically from the shock of conquest and foreign domination, plus the deadly impact of Old World diseases. As these Native Americans died, they left lands that they had once inhabited open to Spanish colonization. Spaniards and Mestizos farmed Santa Cruz River Valley fields once tilled by Northern Pimans. They ran their livestock on ranges where Northern Pimans once hunted and collected wild foods. The European population increased, however, much more slowly than the Native Americans died. Consequently, large stretches formerly inhabited remained vacant of habitation although exploited for forage, inviting hostile Apache penetration.
Silent biological conquest of the Northern Pimans brought innumerably more casualties than all the Spanish colonial military actions ever carried out in the aboriginal homeland of these Native Americans. Ultimately, migration of Papagos into the lower Santa Cruz River Valley maintained the Northern Piman ethnic character of Tucson and assured that basic ethnic component would eventually participate in urbanizing Tucson.
The grim reality of Native American depopulation recounted in this chapter identifies one basic factor responsible for the decline of Christian missions in the Southwest.28 Although this chapter deals with a limited area, the Old World diseases affecting the Native American population of the Santa Cruz River Valley spread widely through the Southwest and beyond. What happened here can be generalized throughout the Southwest, and on a grander scale to the densely populated areas of Latin America. This chapter does not make pleasant reading. Yet it reconstructs accurately a major phenomenon in the pageant of the historic peopling and governing of the Americas by European immigrants. The Christian mission as a frontier institution that emerges in this chapter is not a romantic pastoral scene peopled by happy converts led by congenial pastors. Rather, it is the grim story of rapid population decline.
This chapter raises some serious questions about the nature of the Christian mission as a frontier institution. One may ask what the missionaries themselves thought about the decimination of Native American populations. Were they concerned only with finding replacements to keep their clientele at a level high enough to continue to merit royal financial support? Were they alarmed and morally disturbed by depopulation?
The author can but say that clerics and civil Crown representatives on the northwestern frontier of New Spain seem to have left very little evidence on paper that they even perceived the scale of Native American depopulation that occurred. One does not encounter in the primary sources on northwestern frontier colonial history the sort of impassioned indictments of colonial policies that abounded in records of the more densely settled areas of high aboriginal civilization in Meso-America and the central Andes.
This is not to say that a few colonial officials did not perceive that Native American depopulation was occurring. Captain Juan Bautista de Anza, the energetic commandant of the Presidio of Tubac, was one of the few Sonoran frontiersmen to perceive the native population decline and comment on it. His remarks appeared in a report he penned for the viceroy on 15 December 1772. Discussing the missions established in Pimería Alta in his father's time, Anza remarked that “although the natives used to number thousands, today they are reduced to a few hundred.…” Even worse, Northern Piman depopulation proceeded “at such a rate” based upon Anza's 20 years of observation, that he estimated that “very few Indians of the Pima nation will remain” within 10 to 15 years if the rate continued. Anza presented the Las Casian explanation for native population decline as the one held commonly in his area. He blamed it upon excessive work and domination in the missions, noting that the decline seemed most rapid in the missions, less so in the branches, and the heathens appeared to increase.29
A full generation later, a bureaucrat in the Frontier Provinces headquarters staff at Arizpe also sarcastically demonstrated his awareness of what actually went on when he recommended against a requested reimbursement to Mission San Xavier del Bac. Father Diego Bringas had asked that Bac be reimbursed for the cost of settling 134 Papagos from Aquituni at Tucson Pueblo in 1795.
The staff officer dryly pointed out to the commandant general that the royal grant of 1,000 pesos made to each new mission was expressly destined to meet all of its temporal expenses. Furthermore, royal policy stipulated “that for the fastest possible growth of new missions, the old ones are allowed to aid them with seeds and cattle that they may be able to give without running themselves short.” The staff officer then delivered his analytical punch line:
“The established missions ought to aid and contribute in this way to the foundation and establishment of new ones. With far greater reason, therefore, should Mission San Xavier del Bac collaborate — as it has done — in its own repopulation and increase, and aid insofar as its funds allow the heathen families that have recently joined it.”30
There was some element of church-state conflict in this exchange. Father Bringas would have liked to see Tucson Pueblo changed from a branch to a full-fledged mission with its own 1,000-peso foundation grant. Civil officials, on the other hand, sought economy. Even within that continual contest for funds and power, however, it seems today a bit odd that Bringas and the other men of God consistently presented resettlement of Papagos as new triumphs of the Faith, new additions of souls to Christendom, without counting the antecedent acceleration of conversion of Native American bodies into souls. It remained for a skeptical civil official at Frontier Provinces headquarters to come right out and state baldly that the frontier missionaries were doing nothing more than repopulate their own missions in an attempt to maintain the numbers of neophytes and by implication, their royal support.