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The Yaqui are a Native American people who live in region comprising the northern Mexican state of Sonora and the southwestern United States state Arizona.

Lifestyle of the Yaqui

In the past, the Yaqui subsisted on agriculture, growing corn, beans and squash (like many of the natives of the region). They also made cotton products.

The Yaqui have always been skillful warriors.

History of the Yaqui

Throughout their history, they remained independent of the Aztec and Toltec empires, perhaps because of their northern locale. They were similarly never conquered by the Spanish, defeating successive expeditions of conquistadores in battle. However, they were successfully converted to Christianity by the Jesuits, who convinced them to settle into eight towns: Potam, Vicam, Torim, Bacum, Cocorit, Huirivis, Belem, and Rahum.

For many years, the Yaqui lived peacefully in a relationship with the Jesuit missionaries. This resulted in considerable mutual advantage: the Yaqui were able to develop a very productive economy, and the missionaries were able to employ the wealth created to extend their missionary activities further north. In the 1730s the Mexican (colonial) government began to alter this relationship, and eventually ordered all Jesuits out of Sonora. This created considerable unrest amongst the Yaqui and led to several rebellions.

The Yaqui attempted to form an independent nation separate from Mexico in the 1820s, under the Yaqui leader Juan Banderas, but the effort failed and the Yaqui remained within the scope of Mexican legal authority.

The nation suffered a succession of brutalities by the Mexican authorities, including a notable massacre in 1868 where 150 Yaqui were burned to death by the army inside a church.

Another prominent (and failed) effort to win independence was led by the Yaqui leader Cajeme. Following this war, the Yaqui were subjected to further brutality under the regime of Porfirio Diaz, who implemented a policy of ethnic transfer, in order to remove the Yaqui from Sonora so that he could encourage immigration from Europe and the United States. The government transferred tens of thousands of Yaqui from Sonora to the Yucatan peninsula, where they were sold as slaves and worked on plantations; many of these slaves died of the brutal working conditions. Many Yaqui fled to the United States to escape this persecution.

Yaqui is also the name of the language of the Yaqui people, as well as of the river that flows through that region in Sonora.