Tepehuán people

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Tepeguːán, O'dam, Audam 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
approx 35,000-40,000
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, Mountain Pima, Tohono O'odham, Chichimecas, Cora, Huichol, Tarahumara,[2] Mexicanero[1]

The Tepehuán, (Nahuatl pronunciation: /tepeˈwaːn/) (Spanish pronunciation: [tepeˈwan]) (Northern Tepehuán pronunciation for Ódami: /ɵdaːmi̠/) (Southwestern Tepehuán pronunciation for Audam: /audaːm/)(Southeastern Tepehuán pronunciation for O'Dam: /o'daːm) Tepeguːán, O'dam, Audam, or Ódami Indians (Tepehuanes or Tepehuanos, from Nahuatl meaning “Mountain Dwellers” or "Mountain People", "tepe" coming from tepetl meaning "mountains" and "huan" coming from nemohuayan meaning "dwelling" or from macehualtin meaning "people", in Nahuatl Tepehuán is spelled Tēpēhuanih, Tepēhuāntin, Tēpēhuanitlahtōlli, and/or Tepēhuahcān)(or as they refer to themselves as O'dam, Audam, and Ódami meaning "The People" in their native languages Northern Tepehuan, Southeastern Tepehuan, Southwestern Tepehuan) are Native Mexicans of Northwestern, Western, and some parts of North-Central Mexico whose villages at the time of Spanish conquest spanned a large territory along the Sierra Madre Occidental. The Tepehuanes live in Ranchería in present-day Durango. The Tepehuan Indians have the largest territory in Aridoamerica. They originated in the state of Durango, but their territory grew to south of Chihuahua, west of Sinaloa, and north of Jalisco, Nayarit, and Zacatecas. The Tepehuánes have divided into three Nations: Northern Tepehuán, Southwestern Tepehuán, and Southeastern Tepehuán, each with their own language and culture. The southern Tepehuán community included an isolated settlement (Azqueltán) in the middle of Huichol territory in the Bolaños River canyon, were historically referred to as Tepecanos.

Tepehuán groups[edit]

They still retain some of their traditional customs.[3] The northern Tepehuán numbered 18,249 in 2005, the southeastern, 10,600, and the southwestern, 8,700.[4] The following groups of Tepehuán live in Mexico today:

Northern Tepehuán[edit]

Ódami, meaning "The People", live in southern Chihuahua, northwestern Durango and eastern Sinaloa. Tepehuans means mountain people. Ódami use the term to refer to mestizos or foreigners.

  • Ocampo, Durango (about 4,812 speakers)
  • San Bernardo, Durango (about 4,200 speakers)
  • Guanacevi, Durango (about 3,939 speakers)
  • Tepehuanes, Durango (about 1,200 speakers)
  • Guadalupe y Calvo, Chihuahua (about 1,900 speakers)
  • Balleza, Chihuahua (about 1,100 speakers, some use a dialect variant similar to the Tarahumara)
  • Guachochi, Chihuahua (about 894 speakers)
  • Batopilas, Chihuahua (about 203 speakers)


The Tepehuan government is composed of a master general, several governors, six alternates, captains, sergeants, corporals, officers of justice, prosecutors and partygoers. Along with the captain-general, governors administer justice and intervene in resolving conflicts between people. The other members of Ódami government also involved in the administration of justice, while prosecutors are dedicated to clean the churches and partiers, the arrangement of the altar.


Each community has a ring other parties, introduced following the colonial evangelization that stewards are sponsored elected a year in advance to gather the necessary funds to pay for adornments and beef slaughtered in offering to saint commemorated.

Southern Tepehuán[edit]

O'dam means "The People" in Southeastern Tepehuán and Audam means "The People" in Southwestern Tepehuán, both groups live in the Sierra Madre Occidental in southern Durango, northern Nayarit, Jalisco, and Zacatecas. The O'dam, also known as Tepehuanes South or South Tepeguanos are an ethno-linguistic group. The Tepehuanes name or Tepeguanes (as they were known in colonial times) is of Nahuatl origin and was imposed both by speakers of that language as by the Spanish in the sixteenth century. The language of the Tepehuans south, O'dam and Audam belong to the branch of linguistics, Pima Bajo Uta-Aztecan family. It is important to note that while South tepehuanes keep a historical and linguistic relation to Northern Tepehuans (Ódami) inhabiting southern Chihuahua, and Northern Durango today there are three distinct groups with different culture and language.

Geographic and Demographic Data[edit]

The South Tepehuanes live in the municipalities of Mezquital and Pueblo Nuevo in the state of Durango, in the town of Huajicori in Nayarit. El Mezquital-San Pedro River divides the area forming two areas in which Tepehuanes speak a different language variant, it serves as a proper name of the group, since the name "Tepehuán" or "Tepehuanes" word of Nahuatl origin, fared imposed by other Indians and Spaniards in colonial times. On the eastern side of the river we find O'dam speakers; on the western side speakers of Audam. Early in the communities of Santa María de Ocotán and Xoconostle, San Francisco and Santiago de Ocotán Teneraca, in the municipality of Mezquital, Durango. The Audam in Santa María Magdalena Taxicaringa in the same municipality; Chico Milpillas San Bernardino and San Francisco de Lajas in Pueblo Nuevo, Durango; while in the town of Huajicori, Nayarit, the community of San Andrés Milpillas Grande is located. Then, the language of this group is the Southern Tepehuan with two linguistic variants, O'dam (or Tepehuán Southeast ) and Audam (or Tepehuán south - west). The Census of Population and Housing, INEGI, 2005, reports a total of 21,720 speakers of "Southern Tepehuán" (different from Northern Tepehuán) over 5 years, of which 17,499 also speak Spanish.

  • 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)


According to figures from the last population census of the 37,953 Tepehuanes, 18, 699 speak Spanish in addition to their native language and 3,573 are monolingual. You will often see cases of trilingual Tepehuáns especially in ethnic areas where some learn another indigenous language, whether frequent treatment or by joining families (marriages between Tepehuanes, Tarahumara, Mexicanero, Huichol, Cora Indians, and mestizos are given).


The name is pronounced /tepeˈwaːn/ in Nahuatl, (Tēpēhuanih: Nahuatl pronunciation: /tepeˈwaːniː/) (Tepēhuahcān: Nahuatl pronunciation: /tepeˈwaːnkaːn/) 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 Ódami is "The People" in Northern Tepehuan, Audam is "The People" in Southwestern Tepehuán and O'dam is "The People" in Southeastern Tepehuan.[5]



The Tepehuán, Acaxee, and Xixime to their west shared common traits such as

“the cultivation of corn, beans, squash, chiles, and cotton adjacent to dispersed, small villages and settlements;…frequent warfare with associated ritual cannibalism; polytheism and worship of idols; the presence of shamans or ritual specialists (hechiceros and curandero); and a decentralized political structure that relied on the leadership of elders in peacetime and on war leaders to deal with outsiders.”[6]

The Tepehuán suffered a series of devastating epidemics of European-introduced diseases in the years before the revolt. Epidemics were known to have occurred in their region in 1594, 1601-1602, 1606-1607, 1610, and 1616-1617.[7] The Tepehuán and their neighbors may have been reduced in population by more than 80 percent by the epidemics, from a pre-Columbian population of more than 100,000 to fewer than 20,000, of which the Tepehuán may have been one-half of this total[8]

Tepehuán Revolt[edit]

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]


Most men wear today, jeans, shirt and cowboy hat and sandals. Traditional clothing worn by some men and women most, very simple in the case of the first and very colorful in the latter. The male attire consists of a shirts, pants and blankets, blankets in Northern Tepehuán are called kutum and sawira, respectively. In most communities, these items are used with a simple decorated in a colorful thread used to sew the hems and folds, even in places like San Francisco de Ocotán, it is customary tack pants, various tissues headbands multicolor, from the hem to the knee. The traditional hat is soyate fabric with circular shape. It is known as bonam and there are some variations in different communities. Like traditional dress, very few people use nowadays leather and three holes, Susak huaraches, although in some communities use is mandatory in ceremonies as mitote. The women's dress consists of three main parts: a skirt or springcity, a blouse with long sleeves and an apron around his waist. The fabrics are satin-liked and decorated with lace and colored ribbons. The long socks use of bright colors is very widespread, roasted like plastic shoes. The outfit is enriched with long hair combs beaded necklaces and earrings or other accounts. Men and women use backpacks to complement their outfit.

Religion and Mythology[edit]

Religion among the Northern and Southern Tepehuanes are Tepehuán Mythology, Catholic, and Animistic beliefs. Traditions and religion Death and the dead among the three Tepehuán culture have an important meaning at all times. Relatives are damaged by their dead when they fail to religious rules. When someone dies fingers are cut deceased symbolically placing a black thread on the neck and do not see it when deposited in the pit. After a year, and then the next one should "take the soul" dead to stop disturbing the living. In the run of the soul, the assembled relatives heard as the mas'amcalls the dead to eat with relatives an offering food of your choice and then enjoins it go forever. During the Day of the Dead ringing bells remain at the clock: at sunset an offering of tiny food for both children and adults are kept and night passed the church where they remain velándolos.

Tepehuán Mythology[edit]

They worship their god called "Ubumari", son of Father Sun and Mother Earth, brother of Rainbow and Maize. Ubumári 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.

Quetzalcoatl in feathered serpent form as depicted in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis

List of Tepehuán Gods:

  • Ubumári: Son of Father Sun and Mother Earth , siblings of the Rainbow and Maize. Creator and guardian of all the Tepehuán tribes.
  • Father Sun: Father of Ubumári and husband of Mother Earth. God and creator of the sun and heat.
  • Mother Earth: Mother of Ubumári and wife of Father Sun. Creator of the earth.
  • The Rainbow: Daughter of Father Sun and Mother Earth, sister of Ubumári and Maize. God of the rain, clouds, and sky.
  • The Maize: Son of Father Sun and Mother Earth, brother of Ubumári and Rainbow. God of harvest and grains.
  • Deer God: Protector of the deer and God of hunting.
  • Mountain Spirit: Creator and God of the mountains, hills, and rock.
  • Morning Star: Creator of the stars, planets, universe, and archery, he's the divine archer.
  • Cultural hero resembling Quetzalcóatl (Unknown Name): God of curing illnesses and war.

They pray to a "mitote" or in Tepehuan language "xiotahl". They do dance rituals for the mitote.


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.

A flowering peyote.
God's eye or Ojo de Dios on Quemado Mountain, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, photo by Anaroza, 2007

[citation needed]


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]

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. ^ Gradie, 17-183
  4. ^ "Tepehuan." Native Languages. Accessed Feb 13, 2011
  5. ^ Tepehuán Language and the Tepehuan Indian Tribe (Tepecano, Tepehuano)
  6. ^ Schroeder, Susan, Native Resistance and the Pax Colonial in New Spain. Lincoln: U of Neb Press, 1996, p. 4
  7. ^ Schmal, John P. “The History of Indigenous Durango.’ http://www.houstonculture.org/mexico/durango.html; Deeds, Susan M. Defiance and Deference in Mexico’s Colonial North. Austin: U of Tex Press, 1003, p 16
  8. ^ Reff, Daniel T . “The ‘Predicament of Culture’ and Spanish Missionary Accounts of the Tepehuan and Pueblo Revolts.” Ethnohistory 42:1 (Winter 1995), p. 70; Schroeder, p. 8

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]