The Mojave have always had a real sense of national identity. In the past, Mojave villages were governed by a chief who was chosen in a religious ceremony based on visions he had seen. Today, the Mojave tribes (whose members are also U.S. citizens) are led by tribal councils elected by all the members of the tribe. Their way of life is modern, but their culture and ceremonies from the past will not be forgotten. Some are still practiced in celebration of their rich history.
Most of the Mojave religion is centered around the belief of a supreme creator and the significance of dreams. All of the Mojave religious ceremonies of the past consisted of singing cycles of songs that came to tribe members in a dream or vision. There were often hundreds of songs in a single cycle. The ceremonies were held to strengthen the tribe. To accompany the singing, they used gourd rattles and baskets for drums. Dreams were their source of knowledge and courage. They looked to dreams for the solutions to love, finding a chief, war, gaining courage and attaining skills. The Mojave chose their chief in such a ceremony.
The Mojave cremated their deceased and sang song cycles during the funeral. Wailing usually accompanied the bringing of the body and the cremation ceremony. If the deceased was a war chief or a warrior, they put on a ritualistic reenactment of the war. The Mojave believed that the spirit of the deceased remained with them for four days, at which time it went to join relatives in the spirit world. Spirits then went into a series of cremations and transformations. They believed that the spirit eventually ceased to exist.
Other Unique Practices
The Mojave farmed in the southern part of the Colorado River (where they still reside today) when the flood waters receded. They planted as soon as the water level went down. While some are farmers today, many take on modern-day roles along with other US citizens. They were allies of the Yuma tribe, but were sometimes at war with other Yuman people. They did not have a centralized government. The family unit was the structure of the Mojave people. They only had one chief at a time, usually chosen in a religious ceremony, preparing for a time of war.
The Mojave Tribe Today
There are about 2,000 people in the United States that identified themselves as Mojave Indians in the last United States Census. The Mojave live in Arizona and the southern portion of California. There are still Mojave in Mexico, as well. Many of the Mojave's ceremonies celebrate and honor their past. Avi Kwa Ame Pow Wow, for example, is held each February at the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe's resort near Laughlin, Nevada, to give visitors the chance to experience some of the Mojave traditions.
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images