In 1911, U.S. President William Taft designated funding and land for religious missionaries to operate schools in Tohono O’odham territory (formerly known as the Papago Tribe), including one at present-day Sells, Arizona, then called Indian Oasis.

William taft

William taft

Wells to provide water were built and the O’odham named the site Komckud E-wa’osidk, translated as Turtle Wedged (oral histories say that the people living in the area observed a turtle stuck in the rocks of one of the wells and so it became the place name in the custom of many O’odham sites where a significant or unusual event occurred and was memorialized).

indian oasis early 1900s

indian oasis early 1900s

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson created the Tohono O’odham Reservation by executive order and a Bureau of Indian Affairs office was established for local services. By March 1, 1919, the site name was changed to Sells in honor of then U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Cato Sells. From then on O’odham people relocated to the area for the centralized services.

Woodrow wilson

Woodrow wilson

cato sells

cato sells


In 1935, the reservation Districts were created by the reservation leaders under the Wheeler-Howard Act, better known as the Indian Reorganization Act, which established the tribal government within Sells and thus creating the Sells District, the tribal capital of the Tohono O’odham Nation. Land for the District was designated via grazing fencing and included the long-established communities that now form and uphold the District.

Wheeler-Howard or indian reorganization Act

Wheeler-Howard or indian reorganization Act

Sources: Erickson, Winston P. Sharing The Desert: The Tohono O’odham in History. The University of Arizona Press, 1994. Print. Allen, Paul L. “How The Villages Got Their Names” Tucson Citizen, June 29, 1994.

Sells District Historic Figures

Sells District Chairpersons

Martin Pancho Kawulk (1979-87) Nicholas Lewis Ge Oidag (1987) Sylvester Listo, Rincon North Communities (1988-91)
Norbert G. Manuel Komckud E-Wa’osidk (1991-07)
Marlene Saraficio, Iron Stand North Communities (2007)
Barbara Havier Ge Oidag (2007-13)
Delmarie M. Delores                  Kawulk (2013-19) Juan Buendia Komckud E-Wa’osidk (2019-Present)

Tohono O'odham Nation Chairpersons

Jose Ignacio (1937-40, 1945-46)
Eugene Johnson (1963-64)
Robert Mackett (1965-67)
Jacob Escalante                    Komckud E-Wa'osidk (1974-75)
Sylvester Listo                          Rincon North Communities (1993-95)

Tohono O'odham Legislative Council Chairperson

Evelyn Juan-Manuel                    Ge Oidag  (2005-06)

Miss Papago/Tohono O'odham Nation

Gwen Bahyesva                    Komckud E-Wa’osidk (1966)
Marlene Saraficio, Iron Stand North Communities (1979)
Kimberly Mull, Ge Oidag (1980)
Mali:ya Juan, Ge Oidag (2005)
Courtney Green                    Komckud E-wa'osidk (2014)

Tohono O'odham Nation Youth Council Presidents

Dunston Ned, Ge Oidag (2006-08)
Ivan Lewis                              Komckud E-wa'osidk (2010-12)

Tohono O'odham Nation Rodeo Queens

Raylene Norris                      Komckud E-wa'osidk (1991-92)
Mashawna Garcia, Kawulk
Alicia Guerra                                San Luis North Communities (2008)
Princella Garcia, Kawulk (2013)
Lori'ell Reyes                                St. James Ranch (2017)

Sells District Veterans

Ge Oidag:

Floyd J. Antone USMC
Francisco Antone USMC
Timothy M. Antone USCG
Frank Delores USMC
Joe Fernando USN
Joaquin Geronimo USA
Joseph T. Joaquin USMC
Roger Johnson USMC
Christopher J. Lewis USA
Harry Lewis USN
James Lewis USA
Stanley F. Lewis USA
Johnny J. Listo USA
Danny Lopez USMC
Marcine Ann Lopez USA
Tony J. Lopez USAAC (USAF)
Salinus J. Manuel USA
Joseph J. Miguel AZNG
Francisco Pancho USA
Andrew Patricio, Sr. USA
Alex Ramirez USAF
Jim S. Ramon USA
Idaleen Reyes USA
Augustine Sacramento USMC
Delores I. Stevens USA
Francisco Stevens USA
Fred Stevens, Sr. USMC
Flynn Stevens USA
Raymond Stevens USA
Pat Stevens USA
Tony Stevens USA


David Casillas USMC
Joseph A. Garcia USA
Fernando Miguel USA
Alexander Pancho USA
Clement Pancho
Manuel M. Pancho USA
Reynaldo W. Pancho USA
Celestino Ramon
Alexander Thomas USA
Peter Thomas USA
Solanus Valenzuela USA
Vincent Valenzuela USMC 

No:ligk (North Communities):

John Johnson USA/AZNG
Juan V. Jose USA
Philbert M. Jose, Sr. USA
Delsen Liston USMC
Justin Manuel USMC
Leon Molisto USMC
Lawrence Saraficio USN



Rincon (North Communities):

Enos Listo USA
John Listo USA
Sylvester J. Listo USA
Carmen Miller USA
Ralph Murietta USA

San Luis (North Communities):

Lucy Guerra USA
Leonard Santos USA

Komckud E-Wa'osidk:

Julius Anguiano USMC
Elsworth Antone USA
Kenneth D. Antone USA
Edward Bahyesva USMC/ AZNG
Alex Bailey USA
Alejandrina Casteneda USA
Ricardo A. Casteneda USMC
Augustine J. Chico USA/USAF    Harold J. Cypriano USMC
Andrew I. Enos USMC
Anthony Escalante, Sr. USA
Fred Escalante, Sr. USA Fred Escalante, Jr. USA
Raymond Escalante USA/AZNG
Richard Escalante USA
Augustine L. Galvez USA
Minerva K. Garcia USMC
Steven Garcia USA
Alexander J. Gonzales USMC
Matilda Holbrook USA
Theodore Ignacio USA
Rosleen Johnson USA
Jonny L. Juan USAF                    Phillip A. Lewis USMC                  Ralph T. Maldonado USMC
Lawrence P. Matthews USMC
Howard Mendez USN
Juanita Mendez USMC
Leland Mendez USMC
Marie Mendez USA
Sherman Mendez USN
Phillip L. Miguel USMC
Doreen Montana USMC
Louie Montana USA
Lupe Montana USA
Sandra Montana USMC
Adrian Morrow USMC                  Albert F. Noriego USA
Ralph M. Parvello USA
Michael J. Ruiz USN                  Michael J. Siquieros USA
Alexander Valenzuela USMC
Gregory Valenzuela USA
Michael Wilson USAF
Alfred Wilson, Sr. USA                  Alfredo Zazueta USN/USA