Tepehuán people

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Tepeguán, O'dam, and Ódami
Tepuhuan location 1616.png
In 1616, the Tepehuán Indians lived primarily in the state of Durango on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Madre Occidental
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Mexico (Durango,[1] Chihuahua,[2] Sinaloa, Jalisco, Zacatecas, Nayarit)
Northern Tepehuán, Southeastern Tepehuan, Southwestern Tepehuan,[2] and Mexican Spanish
Tepehuán Mythology, Animism, Roman Catholic
Related ethnic groups
Acaxee, Xiximec, Tepecanos, Zacateco, Cora, Huichol, Tarahumara,[2] Mexicanero[1]

The Tepehuán, Tepeguán, O'dam, or Ódami Indians (Tepehuanes or Tepehuanos, from Nahuatl meaning “Mountain Dwellers” or as they refer to themselves as O'dam and Odami meaning "The People" in their native languages Northern Tepehuan, Southeastern Tepehuan, Southwestern Tepehuan) are Native Mexicans in northwest Mexico, whose villages at the time of Spanish conquest spanned a large territory along the Sierra Madre Occidental. The Tepehuan Indians have the largest territory in Aridoamerica. Their native state is Durango, but their territory grew to south of Chihuahua, east of Zacatecas, west of Sinaloa, and north of Jalisco and Nayarit. The southern Tepehuán community included an isolated settlement (Azqueltán) in the middle of Huichol territory in the Bolaños River canyon. The Tepehuánes were historically referred to as Tepecanos.


The Tepehuán languages, which include the Northern Tepehuan, Southeastern Tepehuan, and Southwestern Tepehuan languages, are part of the Uto-Aztecan language family and is related to the Pima Bajo and Tohono O'odham.[2]


The name is pronounced [tepeˈwan] in Spanish, and is often spelled Tepehuan without the accent in English-language publications. This can cause confusion with the languages called Tepehua ([teˈpewa] in Spanish) and collectively referred to as Tepehuan in English. The name in Odami is "The People" in Northern Tepehuan and O'dam is "The People" in Southern Tepehuan. These are spoken on the other side of Mexico, and are closely related to Totonac and not at all to Tepehuán. The names of both groups come from Nahuatl and mean 'mountain dwellers' or 'mountain people'.[3]


When the Aztecs were coming down from Aztlán they went through the mountains on Tepehuán land, they saw the Tepehuanes in the mountains and that's why their name is "Tepehuán" which means "mountain dwellers" in Nahuatl, the Aztec's native language. The Tepehuanes were not too happy about the Aztecs on their land, so they had a small battle with the Aztecs, the Aztecs had a humiliating defeat and went back north, to go through another trial.[citation needed]

The Tepehuán Revolt from 1616 to 1620 was a bloody and ultimately unsuccessful attempt by the Tepehuán, inspired by a messianic leader named Quautlatas, to rid their territory of the Spanish.[citation needed]


Religion among the Northern and Southern Tepehuanes are Tepehuán Mythology, Catholic, and Animistic beliefs.[citation needed]

Tepehuán Mythology[edit]

They worship their god called "Ubumari", son of Father Sun and Mother Earth and protector of the deer. Ubumari is the creator and guardian of the Tepehuan Nation. They also believe in the Deer God, the Mountain Spirit, the Morning Star, and a cultural hero resembling Quetzalcóatl of Aztec mythology. They pray to a "mitote" or in Tepehuan language "xiotahl". They do dance rituals for the mitote.[citation needed]


Catholicism entered Tepehuan life after the Tepehuán Revolt. Most of Tepehuanes believe in God, Jesus, and other Catholic Saints. They use Catholic saints in tribal results.[citation needed]


Some of the Tepehuan Indians worship Animism. A shaman or a curandero prays to the spirits for good harvest, rain, and protection for the whole tribe. Like their neighboring tribe the Huicholes, Tepehuánes also use the Peyote and the Ojo de Dios in many of their rituals. The peyote plant is a very important part of Tepehuán rituals.[citation needed]

Tepehuán groups[edit]

The following groups of Tepehuán live in Mexico today:

Northern Tepehuán[edit]

Ódami, meaning "People", live north of the Rio Verde in Chihuahua and in northern Durango and Sinaloa.

  • Baborigame (about 6,200 speakers, some use a dialect variant similar to the Tarahumara)
  • Nabogame (about 1,800 speakers)

Southern Tepehuán[edit]

O'dam, meaning "People", live in the Sierra Madre Occidental in southern Durango and northern Nayarit and Jalisco.

  • Southeastern Tepehuán (about 10,600 speakers, live in southeast Durango and adjacent areas, their cultural and religious center was Santa Maria Ocotán)
  • Southwestern Tepehuán (about 8,700 speakers, live in southwest Durango and adjacent areas)

They still retain some of their traditional customs.[4] The northern Tepehuán numbered 6,200 in 2005; the southeastern, 10,600, and the southwestern, 8,700.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Tepehuan, Southeastern." Ethnologue. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d "Tepehuan, Northern." Ethnologue. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  3. ^ Tepehuán Language and the Tepehuan Indian Tribe (Tepecano, Tepehuano)
  4. ^ Gradie, 17-183
  5. ^ "Tepehuan." Native Languages. Accessed Feb 13, 2011

Further reading[edit]

  • Deeds, Susan. Defiance and Deference in Mexico's Colonial North: Indians Under Spanish Rule in Nueva Vizcaya. (2003) University of Texas Press, Austin, TX. ISBN 0-292-70551-4

External links[edit]