Article

Rohonas and Spotted Lions: The Historical and Cultural Occurrence of the Jaguar, Panthera onca, among the Native Tribes of the American Southwest

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the author.

Abstract

Wicazo Sa Review 18.1 (2003) 157-175 To most people the very word "jaguar" conjures up visions of a magnificent spotted cat stalking through the dense semitropical or tropical rainforests of Brazil, Costa Rica, or perhaps Mexico. Few would associate this animal with the forests, woodlands, or especially the deserts of the American Southwest. Yet this land, too, is jaguar country. In reality, the historic range of the jaguar, Panthera onca, extended well into the United States. Jaguars have been documented throughout the state of Arizona as far north as the Grand Canyon. In all, at least eighty-four jaguars are known from Arizona alone since 1848. Jaguars have also been recorded in Southern California, New Mexico, Texas, and perhaps even Colorado. Unfortunately, jaguars, like all other large predators, were killed whenever and wherever they appeared. Never plentiful, the jaguars native to the American Southwest were soon extirpated. Although some animals continued to enter the country from the Mexican states of Chihuahua and Sonora, the great cat was not listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973. Between 1970 and 1996, many jaguars were reportedly sighted, especially in Arizona, but only two were "official," that is, they were killed and their skins collected. Then in 1996 two different jaguars were brought to bay by lion hounds belonging to two separate hunting parties two hundred miles apart in Arizona. The first cat was photographed; the second cat was photographed and videotaped. Both were then given their freedom. The jaguar had returned to the American Southwest. The appearances of the two jaguars galvanized the conservation community to action. Lawsuits and threatened lawsuits resulted in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) belatedly listing the jaguar under the ESA in 1997. Meanwhile, the states of Arizona and New Mexico, along with a dozen other federal, state, county, and local agencies, developed a Jaguar Conservation Agreement with the FWS. Initially put together to head off the listing of the jaguar, the coalition remained together after the cat was listed. The purpose of this group—a partnership of various government, public, and private interests calling itself the Jaguar Conservation Team (JCT)—is to develop and implement conservation practices beneficial to the jaguar. One task of the JCT has been to learn as much as possible about the jaguar in its Southwestern range. What type of habitat, for example, does the jaguar require? What prey does it most favor? What other unique factors and needs exist? The close relationship that exists between the jaguar and the native people of Mesoamerica and South America has long been studied and is well documented. For the native people living in these cultural regions, the jaguar was widely revered as a warrior and a god. Yet little is known about the relationship between the cat and tribal people north of the Mexican border. Did a similar relationship exist? The purpose of this essay is to explore this question, to document the historic and contemporary occurrence of the jaguar among the tribes of the American Southwest, and in doing so, add new knowledge to what we know about the spotted cat. The following section will deal with the occurrence of the jaguar in prehistoric Native American cultures prior to 1540. Subsequent sections will document the occurrence and role of the jaguar among the Pueblos, Southern Athabaskans, Northern Pimans, and other tribes of the American Southwest. In a closing section, I will present an argument in support of studying the role of the jaguar among these various peoples. George Gaylord Simpson determined that there were only three groups of large Pleistocene felines in North America: pumas (mountain lions), jaguars, and the so-called American lion. This last species, Panthera atrox, Simpson believes to be more accurately a giant jaguar, an extinct species related to but clearly distinct from Panthera onca. However, the published literature leads to considerable confusion as to the exact identity of what might be called the true jaguar. Panthera atrox, an animal perhaps two or three times the size of its smaller cousin, coexisted with and was probably hunted by Paleo-Indians. This fact is strongly suggested by finds...

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the author.

... En los Estados Unidos, se han encontrado restos de jaguares del Pleistoceno en Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Nebraska, Washington y Oregon (Kurten 1980, Antón y Turner 1997. Las culturas ancestrales, siguiendo estos gatos desde Asia, formaron un fuerte lazo cultural y espiritual con el jaguar, especialmente en Centro y Sudamérica (Benson 1998), y también en Norteamérica (ver revisión de Merriam 1919, Pavlik 2003. ...
... Existen varios registros de jaguares en el Área Secundaria Fronteriza (Brown 1983, Brown y López-González 2000. Grupos de nativos americanos provenientes de esta área dan nombres específicos a los jaguares (Daggett y Henning 1974, Brown y López-González 2001, Pavlik 2003, algunos de los cuales pueden haber atacado asentamientos europeos durante el siglo XVI y XVII. El primer estudio científico en el área estuvo asociado a una investigación de rutas de trenes luego de la guerra entre México y Estados Unidos, realizado por Baird (1875), el cual observó un jaguar en el Valle de Santa Cruz. ...
Technical Report
Spanish version of team generated recommendations for survey and monitoring techniques for jaguars in the Mexico-United States Northwestern jaguar Recovery Unit (NRU). Includes descriptions of the NRU, discussions of presence-absence-occupancy, abundance and density, population genetics, demographic parameters, and spatial ecology, data capture and curation in the NRU, and recommendations, with focus on the NRU but general utility range wide.
... Jaguars have long been documented in the Borderlands Secondary Area (Brown 1983, Brown and López-González 2000. Native American groups from this area have specific names for jaguars (Daggett and Henning 1974, Brown and López-González 2001, Pavlik 2003, some of which may predate European settlement during the 16 th and 17 th century. The first scientific survey in the area was associated with the survey of rail routes after the Mexican-American War by Baird (1857), who observed a jaguar in the Santa Cruz Valley. ...
Technical Report
Team generated recommendations for survey and monitoring techniques for jaguars in the Mexico-United States Northwestern jaguar Recovery Unit (NRU), with descriptions of the NRU, discussions of presence-absence and occupancy, abundance and density, population genetics, demographic parameters and spatial ecology, data capture and curation in the NRU, and recommendations. Focus on NRU - general utility range wide
Chapter
T his creation myth, told by the Maya in Belize to anthropologist J. Eric Thompson in 1930 and relayed in greater detail in my first book, Jaguar, is an elegantly simple depiction of how the Mayan people of this region explained their relationship to both this powerful predator and the evolutionary forces (or God) that put them there. Despite the Maya having no knowledge of the actual events that took place millions of years earlier, this particular Mayan story is surprisingly accurate, placing the jaguar on earth initially dominant to humans until humans learned ways, through weapons and tools, to control the jaguar. While there are numerous versions of the Mayan creation myth, much of the source material came from the Popol Vuh, or “Book of Council,” dating from the sixteenth century and found in the Guatemalan highlands, which clearly states that plants and animals were on the earth first, and helped the Creator bring humanity into existence.
Technical Report
Action oriented literature review of jaguar survey and monitoring techniques and methods with sections on survey designs and statistical analyses, field techniques, population genetics, jaguar capture and handling, ecological factors in human-jaguar conflicts and co-existence
Technical Report
spanish version of an action oriented literature review of jaguar survey and monitoring techniques and methods with sections on survey designs and statistical analyses, field techniques, population genetics, jaguar capture and handling, and ecological factors in human-jaguar conflicts and co-existance
Article
Jaguar imagery is one of the most frequently encountered features of Pre‐Columbian Mesoamerican symbolism. However, despite its appearance in art and iconography over a period of some three thousand years, most previous interpretations have tended to assert rather than prove its significance. In this paper an attempt is made to locate such imagery meaningfully in several categories of indigenous thought. Thus, this approach seeks to show how such symbolism is entrenched in Amerindian, Aztec and Maya conceptual systems, and how ‘constructions’ of the jaguar in classification led to the emically logical use of its verbal and artistic imagery in symbolic representations associated with warfare, and the display of elite status.