Tepehuán people

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O'dam, Odami
Tepuhuan location 1616.png
In 1616, the Tepehuán lived primarily in Durango State on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Madre Occidental
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Mexico (Chihuahua,[1] Durango,[2] Jalisco, Tubare, Zacatecas, Nayarit)
Northern Tepehuán, Southeastern Tepehuan, Southwestern Tepehuan,[1] and Spanish
Animism, Roman Catholic
Related ethnic groups
Cora, Huichol, Tarahumara,[1] Durango Nahuatl through intermarriage[2]

The Tepehuán (Tepehuanes or Tepehuanos, from Nahuatl “People from the Mountains”) are Native Mexicans in northwest Mexico, whose villages at the time of Spanish conquest spanned a large territory along the Sierra Madre Occidental from Chihuahua and Durango in the north to Jalisco in the south. The southern Tepehuán community included an isolated settlement (Azqueltán) in the middle of Huichol territory in the Bolaños River canyon. The southern Tepehuán 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.[1]


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]


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.


Religion among the North and South Tepehuanes is Catholic and Animistic believes.


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


Most of the Tepehuan Indians still worship Animism. They 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 xiotahl. They do dance rituals for the mitote. A shaman usually praying for the whole tribe.

Tepehuán groups[edit]

The following groups of Tepehuán live in Mexico today:

Northern Tepehuán[edit]

O'dami, 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 c d e "Tepehuan, Northern." Ethnologue. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  2. ^ a b c "Tepehuan, Southeastern." 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]