Amy Smith Cocopah Family Album Series

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Amparo "Amy" Smith, a Cocopah Indian woman who is now married and living in San Diego County, was born and raised on the Colorado River in the rural Cucapa Indian village of El Mayor in Baja California, Mexico, the Colorado River Delta region.

The Cocopah Cucapa Native Americans are of the Yuman Indian family, and are one of the Colorado River Indian tribes who are indigenous to Southern California, southwest Arizona, and northern Baja CALIF, Mexico.

Amy is the little Indian girl pictured on the right playing in the Colorado River mud with her little sister and black cat, circa 1980. The young Indian girls moved to the United States several years later and attended English schools, but returned to the river many times after that visiting Cucapa relatives in El Mayor, Wishpa Mountain area.

This historical family picture was used in a Kalim Smith production for his UCSD movie documentary, Right of Passage, A Nation Divided.

Personal notes from a young Cocopah woman:

I vividly remember the day my mother took this picture of me and my baby sister playing in the mud of the Colorado River in Wishpa.

My sister and I were playing tug of war with a long piece of cloth at the river's edge. Our cloth toy got away from us and began drifting in the current, and my little sister went out in the water after it.

I went right in after her and we both got caught in the current and were dragged down under the water.

I remember the underwater scenery...seeing the weeds and plants floating by, and I saw my sisters hair waving slowly around in the underwater current (we both had long hair below our waist).

The whole time this was going on we were both drowning, but that's how I was able to eventually get a hold of my sister, by her long hair.

My mother, who grew up on the river, was close by looked up to see we were gone, and she instinctively jumped into the river and began looking for us under the water.

She eventually got a hold of my sister's hair, and pulled both of us back to shore that way (I was also holding onto my sister's hair).

My sister and I would have drowned that day if it wasn't for my mother's sharp eyes and swift reaction.

-Amparo "Amy" Smith, young Cocopah mother, 2006

Ethnographic art photography and design by G BALLARD, San Diego

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