Before the arrival of the European settlers in the 15th Century, the Mojave, or Aha Macav,  represented the largest human population of the Southwest and were divided in three groups; the northern Maya Lyathum, the central Hutto Pah, and the southern Kavi Lyathum.  All were of Yuman linguistic stock and occupied territory from Black Canyon to the Mojave Valley and the Picacho Mountains, (where the Parker Dam now stands on the Colorado River). 

The Mojave were called Aha Macav, or Pipa Aha Macav,  - the people by the river, and they looked upon the river as the source of all living things, as told in their creation myth.

The Mojave were a deeply spiritual people and placed such importance in their dreams, or su’mach,  that practically all aspects of their lives, including love, songs, war, politics, and medicine were governed by them; they believed their dreams allowed them to return to the dawn of time and acquire the wisdom of Mastamho, the son of the Great Spirit and Creator, who had taught the tribe how to live and given them the names for everything, including their 22 patrilinear clans, which he had named after the Sun and clouds, and other things from the earth and sky. 

The Mojave also believed that through dreams, they acquired individual gifts, or special talents which would help them better themselves. The dream state in which the Mojave would receive the gift, or "sumach a’hot," was usually attained as part of a complex and difficult series of trials and rituals. 

Although their social structure was patrilinear, meaning that their lineage was traced through the names of the fathers clans,  only women used the clan name.  Mojave leadership was divided between the leaders of the three groups and a hereditary Chief, or "Aha Macav Pina Ta’ahon".

The Mojave sustained themselves through farming; growing crops of beans, corn, and pumpkins.  They were masters of irrigation, directing water from the river to their gardens on the riverbank.  In addition to agriculture, the Mojave practiced fishing using nets and set up traps for small game.  Although sedentary, they often ventured far from their settlements to trade crops for valuable goods with tribes from the Pacific Coast.  The Mojave were also expert pottery makers, making their various bowls, pots and even dolls using ground sandstone and clay from the riverbank; Mojave plates and pots were also colorfully decorated with geometric shapes.

In addition to decorating their pottery, the Mojave decorated themselves, tattooing designs on the faces of men, women and children alike. Decoration and valuable material possessions had much importance in Aha Macav culture, as did ceremony; at death, the Mojaves would be cremated with their valuables and other gifts that had been offered by loved ones in mourning.

© 2003
Last modified: May 02, 2003