|Author Liz Fichera delves deeply into the cultures of native american tribes for her historical romance Captive Spirit. Now she shares how she brings the mystery of the Hohokam people to life in her new release. And don't miss the *Web Exclusive* review of Captive Spirit.|
Trivia likes to lodge itself in my brain and never leave. I can remember the most obscure facts and anecdotes. Whenever my friends and family play Trivial Pursuit or Jeopardy I’m suddenly popular, but if you’re ever stranded in Phoenix, Arizona, and happen to ask me for simple directions to a grocery store or gas station, I will most assuredly disappoint you with a blank stare.
I forget where I was when I learned about the Hohokam Indians but I most definitely remembered the history behind Phoenix’s original inhabitants. It stuck in my brain like a seed. And it’s also what inspired my historical romance novel, Captive Spirit.
You see, around 300 BC, people from the ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures traveled north to settle in the desert valleys formed by the slow moving Gila and Salt Rivers in what is now known as Arizona. They existed peacefully as farmers and master canal builders until around 1500 A.D. when their population vanished for reasons unknown. The Pima Indians called these people Hohokam, “Those Who Have Gone.”
The rock carvings above are Hohokam petroglyphs.
How cool is that?!
There are about a million stories woven into that fact alone begging to be written. Why would a thriving population in the rugged Sonoran Desert — with upwards of around 50,000 people at its peak — all of a sudden vanish into thin air? Why would people abandon masterfully built canals, some reaching 10 miles long and still in existence today, and plentiful crops like cotton, corn, beans, and squash? The Hohokam Indians abandoned their pithouses, their ball courts, their ceremonial burial grounds, their whole lives. Why?
Of course, there are all sorts of theories — famine, war, internal strife, drought, disease, floods, climatic changes, migration with other tribes — but no one can say with certainty what happened to the Hohokam Indians. None or all of these theories could be correct and are still under investigation to this day. Arizona is home to the Phoenix Heard Museum. The Heard has one of the world’s most comprehensive Native American history collections and it’s where I spent much time researching the historic details for Captive Spirit, as many that can be found for the Hohokam Indians.
It’s generally believed that the Pima and the Tohono O’odham are descendants of the Hohokam, although the Hopi from northern Arizona and the Yuman from the south also claim some linkages.
One thing is certain: No one knows for sure what happened to the vanishing Hohokam. And so the mystery continues, teasing storytellers like me.
- Liz Fichera
Want to learn more about the Hohokum people and Captive Spirit? You can visit Liz Fichera at her website. There you can read the first chapter of Captive Spirit and see more photos of the Sonoran Desert and Hohokam petroglyphs in the novel's book trailer.