The Tarahumara Indians have lived in the Copper Canyon region of the state of Chihuahua for over 2000 years, with their heir traditions, customs, and religion being essentially unchanged. The Tarahumara have proved to be a valuable group for study because a simple American Indian culture still functions among them in a large tribal entity.
The Tarahumara are natives of the Gran Chichimeca area, an enormous area of over 2,700,000 square kilometers ranging from the North American Pacific coast across northwestern Mexico and southwestern United States. In this region, many other great societies have suffered collapse, dispersion, reorganization, or abandonment and no longer exist today, including the Mimbres, the Mesa Verdeans, the Hohokum, and the Mogollon. Unless action is taken, the Tarahumara may suffer a similar fate.
According to Richard D. Fisher, author of The Puzzle of Oasis America, Canyons the World, and Copper Canyon, “The Tarahumara American Indians of Copper Canyon Mexico are the last traditional American Indians left in North America. They speak a dialect of the Uto-Aztecan language group, indicating a direct relationship to the Hopis, the Utes, and the Aztecs, among many other North American Indian tribes.”
The Tarahumara culture is worthy of respect and preservation as the last remaining active society from which scholars can see evidence of the transmittal of ideas across the Gran Chichimeca area by virtue of the prehistoric significant Uto-Aztecan language shared by its inhabitants.
The Tarahumara are descended in part from the Anasazi Indians, particularly the group known as the Mimbre or Paquime branch. The Tarahumara are indeed American Indians; a title designating any indigenous native group of the Americas, North or South. The Tarahumara are the largest surviving traditional group of American Indians remaining on the North American continent.
Why is protecting the Tarahumara people so important?
The Tarahumara are, in our modern age, confronted by the encroachment of non-Indian people into their remaining homeland; are exploited by those who would make a spectacle of their society for a fast profit; are manipulated by still others who would employ them in the furtherance of illegal endeavors; and ignored, unacknowledged, or disregarded by so many of us who have the collective power to protect them and their ancient way of life. The greatest threat to the survival of the Tarahumara people, however, is the encroachment of the drug cartels on indigenous land and the devastating effects of drug trafficking.
Everyone suffers from the effects of the drug trade and the associated violence. By establishing a cultural biosphere for the Tarahumara, this will compel the Mexican government to further deal with the cartel intrusion on native lands, helping to reduce the scope of the cartels. We also suffer as a species every time a People is lost, a language becomes extinct and the beliefs, practices and knowledge of a civilization are forgotten.
What can I do to help?
The Friends of the Tarahumara Indians have initiated a petition to encourage the development of a biosphere reserve for the benefit of the Tarahumara peoples. As stated in the petition, “We call upon the government officials of the Republic of Mexico and the State of Chihuahua, to move with all speed to enact legislation and to otherwise promote, the creation of a cultural biosphere, a designated area consisting of or existing within, the present day living area of the Tarahumara Indians in Copper Canyon, Chihuahua.
This biosphere reserve would be a region in which the Tarahumara could continue to live according to their own cultural practices in the manner they have maintained for thousands of years. They would be under the protection of the Mexican government, but with as little outside interference in their lifestyle as possible. We urge the public officials of Mexico to act quickly, and, if desirable and possible, to engage the assistance of UNESCO and the international community of nations in the protection of the Tarahumara and in the process of establishing and maintaining a Tarahumara biosphere reserve.”
Mexico’s Own Death Valley
API: The Mexican Drug Cartels Interactive Map
The Yanomami Indian Biosphere Reserve
I did the adapted write up based on the source material. The petition author is a friend.