Maricopa Indians History

Maricopa Indians


When the Spanish conquistadors first came into the Salt River Valley some four hundred years ago, they found a group of Indians living around the Gila Bend district who were peace loving agriculturists, subsisting principally upon the products of the soil such as corn, squash, pumpkins, and beans, augmented by such wild roots, herbs and berries as they had learned to be healthful food.

Both males and females habitually decorated their bodies with bright and gay paints. Thus, when the Spaniards first saw them daubed in their brightest colors, they called them, it is said, “Mariposas”, (Spanish for Butterflies), corrupted by the Indians to Maricopa. Hence, the present tribe of that name. (The Indian Missionary, Vol. IV, June 1942, No. 6)

When the city of Phoenix was founded, the Maricopa Indians moved closer to the city. When moving closer they found that their clothing and gay paint insulted the sensibilities of the women. Because of this, the town fathers enacted a law that banned the Maricopa Indians from town unless they wore white man's clothing.

In 1932, Elder and Mrs. Orno Follett of Scottsdale, AZ came to southern Arizona from the Navaho mission field. They became acquainted with the members of the Maricopa tribe and were invited to hold Biblical meetings on the reservation. As the Follett’s continued to hold meetings each week, they found that nearly all of the Indian’s on the reservation attended their meetings and several of them were baptized into the Seventh-Day Adventist church.

Three years later, in 1935 they began building the first chapel on the reservation which was used as the church facility from 1936 to 2020.