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Middle Sky, Cocapah.jpg
Middle Sky, Cocapah, photo by Frank A. Rinehart, 1899
Total population
1,009 in the United States (2010)[1]
Regions with significant populations
( Baja California and  Sonora)
 United States ( Arizona)
Cocopah, English, Spanish
Traditional tribal religion
Related ethnic groups
other Yuman peoples
Cocopah man and woman

The Cocopah, or Cocopá, are Native Americans who live in Baja California and Sonora, Mexico, and in Arizona in the United States. The Cocopah language belongs to the Delta–California branch of the Yuman family. In Spanish, the Cocopah are termed Cucapá. Their self-designation is Xawiƚƚ kwñchawaay or “Those Who Live on the River”. According to the US Census, there were 1,009 Cocopah in 2010.[1]

Prehistory and history[edit]

Cocopah traditional territory on the Colorado River and the Gulf of California

The term Patayan is used by archaeologists to describe the prehistoric Native American cultures that inhabited parts of modern-day Arizona, California and Baja California, including areas near the Colorado River Valley, the nearby uplands, and north to the vicinity of the Grand Canyon. This prehistoric culture is mostly likely ancestral to the Cocopah and other Yuman-speaking tribes in the region. The Patayan peoples practiced floodplain agriculture where possible, but they relied heavily on hunting and gathering.

The first significant contact of the Cocopah with Europeans probably occurred in 1540, when the Spanish explorer Hernando de Alarcón sailed into the Colorado River delta. The Cocopah were specifically mentioned by name by the expedition of Juan de Oñate in 1605.

Cocopah Indian Tribe[edit]

Cocopah peoples in the United States are enrolled in the Cocopah Indian Tribe. As of the 2000 United States Census, the Cocopah Tribe of Arizona numbered 891 people.[1] There is a casino and bingo hall on the reservation. Another Yuman group, the Quechan, lives in the adjacent Fort Yuma Indian Reservation. The Cocopah sometimes wear traditional grass skirts.

Notable People[edit]

  • Bravie Soto - A U.S. Army Sgt. Bravie Soto served with Recon Platoon, Echo, 2/39, 9 Infantry Division, and he is often reported by family members and tribal historians to be the first Native American Casualty in the Vietnam War


  1. ^ a b c U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2010 Census 2010 American Indian and Alaska Native Summary File (AIANSF) - Sample Data, Cocopah Tribe of Arizona alone or in Combination, M22


  • Pritzker, Barry M. A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 978-0-19-513877-1.

Further reading[edit]

  • Kelly, William H. (1977). Cocopa ethnography. Anthropological papers of the University of Arizona (No. 29). Tucson: University of Arizona Press. ISBN 0-8165-0496-2.

External links[edit]