Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation

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Map shows the location of the majority of the Tohono O'odham Nation in Pima County, highlighting the large Tohono O'odham Reservation as well as the smaller San Xavier Reservation in red. The non-contiguous segments in Maricopa and Pinal counties are not shown.

The Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation, is located in southwestern and central Arizona, United States.[1] The reservation is the homeland of the Tohono O'odham ('Desert People'),[1] an indigenous North American people who reside primarily in the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora. The reservation had a total 2000 census population of 10,787.


The reservation is located at 32°09′01″N 112°02′41″W / 32.15028°N 112.04472°W / 32.15028; -112.04472Coordinates: 32°09′01″N 112°02′41″W / 32.15028°N 112.04472°W / 32.15028; -112.04472. It has a land area of 11,243.098 square kilometres (4,340.984 sq mi) (97.48 percent of the Tohono O'odham Nation total area), and a 2000 census population of 8,376 persons (77.65% of the total). It encompasses portions of central Pima, southwestern Pinal, and southeastern Maricopa Counties.

The land is also site of the Quinlan and Baboquivari Mountains, which include Kitt Peak, and the Kitt Peak National Observatory and telescopes, as well as Baboquivari Peak. These astronomical sites are under lease from the Tohono O'odham Nation. The lease was approved by the council in the 1950s, for a one-time payment of US$25,000 plus $10 per acre per year.[2]

Tohono O'odham Nation communities[edit]

Martin Luther King Jr's First Visit to an Indian Reservation[edit]

On April 2, 2017, in the Arizona Daily Star newspaper, noted historian David Leighton related what is believed to be Martin Luther King Jr's first visit to an Indian Reservation, which was the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation.

On Sept. 20, 1959, Martin Luther King Jr. flew to Tucson from Los Angeles to give a talk at the Sunday Evening Forum. On that night, he gave a speech called "A Great Time To Be Alive," at the University of Arizona auditorium, now called Centennial Hall. Following the forum, a reception was held for King, in which he was introduced to Rev. Casper Glenn, the pastor of a multiracial church called the Southside Presbyterian Church. King was very interested in this racially-mixed church and made arrangements to visit it the next day.

The following morning, Glenn picked up King, in his Plymouth station wagon, and drove him to the Southside Presbyterian Church. There, Glenn showed King photographs he had taken of the racially diverse congregation, most of whom were Papago (Tohono O'odham) Indians at the time. Glenn remembers that upon seeing the photos, "King said he had never been on an Indian reservation, nor had he ever had a chance to get to know any Indians." He then requested to be driven to the nearby reservation, as a spur of the moment desire.

The two men traveled on Ajo Way to Sells, on what was then called the Papago Indian Reservation, now the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation. When they arrived at the tribal council office, the tribal leaders were surprised to see King and very honored he had come to visit them. King was very anxious to talk to them but was very careful with his questions, as he didn't want to show his lack of knowledge of their tribal heritage. "He was fascinated by everything that they shared with him." Glenn said

The ministers then went to the local Presbyterian church in Sells, which had been recently constructed by its members, with funds provided by the national Presbyterian church. King had a chance to speak to Pastor Towsand who was excited to meet King.

On the way back to Tucson, "King expressed his appreciation of having the opportunity to meet the Indians," Glenn recalled. King left town that day, around 4pm, from the airport.[3]


The telephone area code for the Tohono O'odham Reservation is 520.


  1. ^ a b "Home". Official Website of the Tohono O'odham Nation. 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-24. 
  2. ^ "Astronomy Development on Another Sacred Mountain: Kitt Peak". Mauna Kea – From Mountain to Sea. Na Maka o ka Aina. 2005.  Reprinting material from the Arizona Daily Star, 2005.
  3. ^ David Leighton, "Street Smarts: MLK Jr. raised his voice to the rafters in Tucson," Arizona Daily Star, April 2, 2017