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People of the Legends

Indigenous People of North America - Papago (Tohono O'odham)

Tohono O'odham Today

Driving from Phoenix to TucsonToday, less than one-third of Tohono O’odham people live on their nation all year round.

Many leave to work in nearby cities like Tucson or Phoenix, and others move around working on farms away from their lands.

The Nation is running programs to support new businesses and create jobs for people closer to home, but unemployment is high and many people have to move away for work.

Hospital roomThe nation earns income from leasing land to mining companies and by running a casino.

This pays for education, health, housing and other services.


Near the Mexico borderTowns and villages on the main reservation are split by the US-Mexico border.

People can’t cross without passports and visas even though they are on their own land.

US border officials also sometimes won’t let them carry things across, such as food and items for ceremonies and celebrations.

Flag of MexicoThe Tohono O’odham are trying to resolve this with the US government.

Several Tohono O’odham belong to the Shadow Wolves, a customs patrol unit that is based on their nation.


Flag of the US State of ArizonaThe unit tracks people who try to illegally enter the US or smuggle goods across the border on Tohono O'odham lands.

The Shadow Wolves unit was formed in 1972 by the US government.

The officers use high-tech equipment as well as skills they learned as children, hunting for food or tracking animals that wandered away. They look for ‘signs’ or evidence like footprints, tyre tracks or threads from clothes.

A film about the Shadow Wolves was shot in southern Arizona in October 2009 – “Call of the Shadow Wolves” directed by Brian Kosisky. Shadow Wolves officers have also visited Moldova in Eastern Europe to train their border guards and learn how tracking is done there.

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