Archaeology and history
The Sobaipuri were present when the first Europeans visited the area in the middle 16th century, thereby playing an important role in European contact and later the
European colonization of Arizona. Marcos de Niza probably encountered this group along the San Pedro River in southeastern Arizona in 1539, although when Francisco Vázquez de Coronado followed less than a year later his party of explorers seems to have turned before reaching the Sobaipuri settlements (Seymour 2009a, 2011a). When Father Eusebio Kino first arrived in the area in 1691 he was greeted by leaders of this group. Headmen from San Cayetano del Tumacacori and perhaps other villages had come to Saric, Mexico from the north to ask that Kino visit them. Kino traveled north along the Santa Cruz River to San Cayetano de Tumacacori (later moved to the modern location of Tumacácori National Historical Park and renamed), where he found three native-made structures that had been constructed specially for him: a house, a kitchen, and one for saying mass (Bolton 1948). This visit to this first of the Spanish missions in the Sonoran Desert north of the current international border made this native Sobaipuri settlement the first mission in southern Arizona, or the first Jesuit mission in Arizona, but, contrary to popular notions, not the first mission in Arizona. This original native Sobaipuri settlement of San Cayetano del Tumacacori has been located archaeologically on the east side of the river (as shown on Kino's historic maps), providing evidence of a densely packed, well-planned, long-occupied village (Seymour 2007a, 2011a).
Kino then stopped by Guevavi (later referred to as Mission Los Santos Ángeles de Guevavi), which is located to the south along the Santa Cruz River. Here he later (1701) established a church which he ordered whitewashed. The location of this native settlement and this formal church has been identified (Seymour 1993, 1997, 2008b, 2011a). This native settlement later became the head mission for this region.
The Sobaipuris were initially friendly with their neighbors, including the Apache, Jocome, and Jano (Seymour 2007b, 2008a). They traded with one another and they were cited sometimes raiding together. They even intermarried, probably creating the unique character of the Sobaipuri. Later they sided with the Europeans which stressed their relationship with the unconverted tribes, because Sobaipuris then went into battle against the others.