Desert View Inter-tribal Cultural Heritage Site

Enriching community, celebrating cultural heritage

 

Who are the traditionally associated tribes of Grand Canyon?

People have been living in and exploring Grand Canyon for thousands of years, forging human connections to this incredible landscape. Traces of dwellings, garden sites, food storage areas, and artifacts can be found from Ancestral Puebloan people who lived in and around the canyon.

Modern tribes still consider Grand Canyon their homeland. There are eleven current tribes that have historic and cultural ties to the lands and resources found within Grand Canyon National Park.

Havasupai Tribe - Arizona

Today, most of the Havasupai people, or the Havasu ‘Baaja, live in Supai, a tributary canyon to Grand Canyon. But historically, they lived across a broader expanse, as far south as Bill Williams Mountain and east to the Little Colorado River. They moved up and down the vertical layers of the Grand Canyon, depending on seasons. During the fall and winter, they lived on the Colorado Plateau (the level of the Canyon’s rim), hunting and gathering food.

For decades, the Havasupais were restricted to a 518-acre reservation in Havasu Canyon, part of their ancestral home. In 1975, Congress returned 185,000 acres of canyon and rim territory to the Havasupai Tribe. During the decades from the creation of the small Havasupai Reservation in 1882 and the enlargement in 1975, the Havasupai had to adjust the way they used their environment. More and more, they counted on farming, wage labor, and tourism for survival.

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If you would like to learn more about the Havasupai Tribe, read I am the Grand Canyon by Stephen Hirst.

This information is taken from Arizona State University’s website “Nature, Culture and History at the Grand Canyon.”

Hopi Tribe - Arizona

The Hopi tribe is one of the most sequestered indigenous groups in the United States, living on the southern escarpments of Black Mesa in eastern Arizona. Their village of Oraibi is considered the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States, with documented evidence of occupation dating to A.D. 1150.

The Hopi, like many indigenous peoples of the United States, equate special meaning to certain geographic places. Hopi mythology tells of how two brothers, Pokanghoya and Polongahoya, tossed lightning bolts and piled mud to build the Grand Canyon and the river that cuts through it. They created Tokonave (Navajo Mountain) and Neuvatikyaovi (San Francisco Peaks), as well as salt beds in eastern New Mexico. Down through the centuries, Hopi people made annual pilgrimages to the sipapuni for yellow clay, then on to a Grand Canyon cave along the Colorado River to gather salt.

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This information is taken from Arizona State University’s website “Nature, Culture and History at the Grand Canyon,” written by Patricia Biggs.

Hualapai Tribe - Arizona

The Hualapais connect their emergence into this world to the Grand Canyon. Tribal legend tells that the people came into this world from Spirit Mountain (near present-day Bullhead City) and lived on the banks of the Colorado River, eventually migrating to the Colorado Plateau. Their traditional lands extended over about six million acres, from the Colorado River on the west and north, east to the San Francisco Peaks, and south to Bill Williams Mountain. 

Today the Hualapai Nation covers about one million acres, with 108 miles of Colorado River frontage extending from Lake Mead in the west to the boundary of the HavasupaReservation in the east. The Hualapais’ seal depicts purplish canyonlands in the middle, a testament to the historical importance of Grand Canyon.

The Hualapais have a tourist destination known as Grand Canyon West, visited by about 40,000 people annually. In March 2007, the tribe opened the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass-bottomed walkway that juts 70 feet out from the canyon rim. Visitors can look down to see the Colorado River almost 4,000 feet beneath their feet. 

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This information is taken from Arizona State University’s website “Nature, Culture and History at the Grand Canyon,” written by Patricia Biggs.

Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians - Arizona

The Paiutes, like other Native Americans whose history and culture is linked to the Grand Canyon, had lived in a larger area before Anglos settled into their homeland. The Paiutes’ traditional lands extended north and west of the Colorado River into what today is California, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona, from about A.D. 1300 until their removal to reservations in the late 1800s.*

Thriving from plant and animal life, the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians are greatly affected by the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam, built in 1963. After it was originally built, the dam flooded impacted culturally rich sites and plant life.

Today, centered around tourism and livestock, the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians are located on the northernmost strip of Arizona bordered by Utah, located about 50 miles north of Grand Canyon. Their tribe is governed by a seven-person council, there to help with economic growth and social services like healthcare, housing assistance, and counseling. 

*This information is taken from Arizona State University’s website “Nature, Culture and History at the Grand Canyon,” written by Patricia Biggs. Information was also taken from University of Arizona and Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians site.

Las Vegas Band of Paiute Indians - Nevada

The Paiutes, like other Native Americans whose history and culture is linked to the Grand Canyon, had lived in a larger area before Anglos settled into their homeland. The Paiutes’ traditional lands extended north and west of the Colorado River into what today is California, Utah, Nevada, and Arizona, from about A.D. 1300 until their removal to reservations in the late 1800s.*

Two groups of federally recognized Southern Paiute bands live in Nevada: the Moapa Band of Paiutes and the Las Vegas Paiute Band.

Paiute ancestors were known to occupy part of the Colorado River throughout most of Southeastern Nevada in Southern California and Utah. The land they occupied was known for its harsh, barren, and arid climate. 

Today, the Las Vegas Band of Paiute Indians are on Snow Mountain Reservation, located eighteen miles northwest of downtown Las Vegas. They operate a golf resort and cigarette business ranking "as the largest single retailer of cigarettes in the United States and is among the top-ten non-gaming businesses in Nevada" (LV Paiutes).  

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*This information is taken from Arizona State University’s website “Nature, Culture and History at the Grand Canyon,” written by Patricia Biggs. Information was also taken Las Vegas Band of Paiute Indians website.

Moapa Band of Paiute Indians - Nevada

Two groups of federally recognized Southern Paiute bands live in Nevada: the Moapa Band of Paiutes and the Las Vegas Paiute Band. Moapa valley, originally a flood plain of the Muddy River that drains into Lake Mead, was used for farming and agriculture. Prior to the 1800s, the Moapa Paiutes were culturally well-adapted people who combined farming with hunting and gathering. They used the resources of the land with great ingenuity.

Most of the domestic objects of our ancestors were various forms of intricately designed basketry, including water jars, winnowing and parching trays, cradle boards, cooking baskets, and seed beaters. They had great skill in the use of animal skins and plants. Their knowledge of nutritional and medicinal uses of plants was extensive. 

Today, the Southern Paiutes operate the Moapa Paiute Travel Plaza with a 10,000 square foot firework facility. 

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This information is taken from the Moapa Band of Paiutes.

Navajo Nation - Arizona

East of Grand Canyon, in a land of stark beauty, broad skies, and little rain lies the Navajo Nation. Its people, the Diné (pronounced Dee-nay), are known for their beautiful woolen blankets, clay pottery, and silver-and-turquoise jewelry, often made the same way their ancestors made them. The Navajo Nation today is the largest Native American tribe in both population and geographical size. At 27,000 square miles, the reservation is larger than 10 of the 50 states in the Union. The reservation is primarily in northern Arizona, stretching west to Grand Canyon National Park, north into Utah, and east into New Mexico. 

Historically, the Navajos are among the tribes with links to the Grand Canyon. The earliest tree-ring date from a Navajo hogan ruin is 1541 in northern New Mexico, and it is believed they traveled west from there. Archaeological evidence places them in the Grand Canyon area by the late 1600s. Although there is little documentation of the Diné living in the Grand Canyon, their oral history has many references to the canyon and the Colorado River that flows through its inner gorge. The powerful, relentless river is revered as a life force and considered a protector of the Navajo people.

Navajo culture today is a blend of old traditions adapted with new technologies and practices, an adaptability that traces to early times and is reflected in their mythology. Navajo oral history tells of their travels as semi-nomadic hunters and gathers, and of the turkey who gave them corn.

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This information is taken from Arizona State University’s website “Nature, Culture and History at the Grand Canyon,” written by Patricia Biggs.

Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah - Utah

The Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, or “PITU” as it is often called, was created on April 3, 1980, by an act of Congress, which resulted in the Restoration Act (public law 96-227). The name PAIUTE has been translated to mean either “Water Utes” or “True Utes” alluding to their past union as one people with that Tribe. The Tribe consists of five constituent bands: Cedar, Indian Peaks, Kanosh, Koosharem, and Shivwits. These five Bands have independent identities as communities that date back hundreds of years.

The Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah is engaged in the long, slow climb back from near destruction by the invasion of European settlers and Mormon Pioneers. Their numbers, once in the thousands, dwindled to less than 800. Various US Government movements only made things worse.

Today the tribe is located on a reservation in Southwestern Utah and keeps their culture alive through beadwork and interpretive dancers.

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This information is taken from the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah.

San Juan Southern Paiute - Arizona

The San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe's territory is located in northern Arizona and southern Utah. In Utah, their Tribal Members reside in and around the communities of Navajo Mountain, White Mesa, and Blanding, Utah. In Arizona, their Tribal Members reside in and around the communities of Hidden Springs, Rough Rock, Willow Springs, Tuba City and Cow Springs. Paiute Canyon, which is in both Arizona and Utah, is also included in their traditional territory.

Federally recognized as a tribe in 1989, the San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe is known for their unique language and basket making. They have a shared territory connection with the Navajo, and neighbor Hopi tribes. Although the tribe does not have a reservation that is all their own, they are in treaty with the Navajo Nation. 

The tribe is governed by seven council members, who make decisions on behalf of the tribe and help grow opportunities while protecting the tribe's rich history.

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This information is taken from the San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe.

Pueblo of Zuni – New Mexico

The Zunis, now living mainly in western New Mexico, are another contemporary tribe with a historic link to the Grand Canyon. According to Zuni mythology, their place of origin was Chimik’yana’kya dey’a, known to modern hikers as Ribbon Falls on Bright Angel Creek, which flows to the Colorado River from the north rim wall of the Grand Canyon. Today, hikers descending the North Kaibab Trail often take a side hike to enjoy the cooling water of Ribbon Falls.

The Zunis lived in the Southwest in what is now the Zuni River Valley for thousands of years. Hundreds of years ago the Zunis, like the Hopis, began building pueblos, multi-storied homes fitted together that perhaps inspired modern-day condominiums. The Zuni farmed and hunted small game and became artisans of jewelry, pottery, fetish carving, and painting. It is through that artwork that contemporary Zunis pay tribute to their culture and history.

Today, about 12,000 Zunis live mainly at Zuni Pueblo, a 420,000-acre reservation south of Gallup on the Arizona-New Mexico line. They also own land in Apache County, Arizona, and Catron County, New Mexico. Respectful tourists are welcome to visit.

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This information is taken from Arizona State University’s website “Nature, Culture and History at the Grand Canyon,” written by Patricia Biggs.

Yavapai-Apache Nation - Arizona

The Yavapai-Apache Nation is centered on a reservation of more than 1,600 acres in the Verde Valley, 55 miles south of Flagstaff. The nation is actually a combination of two distinct tribes, the Yavapais and Tonto Apaches, each of which has their own dialect, history, and culture. Both tribes lived in the Verde Valley for centuries, with the Yavapais mostly to the west of the Verde River and the Tonto Apaches to the east. The two tribes often overlapped on this land, sharing resources and intermarrying.

For centuries Yavapai and Apache families and bands subsisted by hunting, gathering, and small-scale horticulture. They were deeply rooted to particular places based on their clan affiliations, even though they moved seasonally over a wide area to harvest wild plant and animals. They planted crops such as corn and melons in familiar places they would return to year after year, while ranging widely to hunt deer and collect agave, pinyon pine nuts, and other wild plant foods. The Yavapais and Apaches often traveled to the Grand Canyon in summer and fall when edible plants like pinyon nuts were abundant.

Under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the federal government officially recognized the Yavapai Apache Tribe. In 1992 the tribe’s governing body created a revised tribal constitution that designated them as the Yavapai-Apache Nation. Today, around 2,000 Yavapai-Apache live on the Camp Verde Reservation, which consists of several parcels of land amounting to about 600 acres nestled within the Coconino National Forest. The reservation features many streams with rich flood plain soil deposits which supports tribal agriculture. Some of the goods produced include beef and dairy cattle, fruit, and irrigated crops such as hay and grains. There are also several tribal owned and operated enterprises including a construction company, convenience store, and RV park. However, most people are reliant on jobs funded by revenue from the tribal-owned Cliff Castle Casino.

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This information is taken from Arizona State University’s website “Nature, Culture and History at the Grand Canyon,” written by Sarah Bohl Gerke.

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What's planned

We have a comprehensive transformation planned for Desert View. View renderings and examples of what's happening. 

Cultural Demonstration Series

Connect with tribal artisans from Grand Canyon’s traditionally associated tribes to learn about their history through crafts.

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