Grand Canyon Tribes
Grand Canyon tribes hold a special place in the history of the area. If you review the old pictures on display of the Grand Canyon, you will find that the canyon looks about the same geographically. This special place in Arizona has also been home to a number of Native Americans and Grand Canyon tribes. One picture, featured in the archives of the Library of Congress, shows a Hopi tribe member meditating at the canyon’s edge. This picture was taken during the early 1900s. Pictures also show Navajo people, who lived in hogans near the El Tovar hotel.
Currently, six tribes still live inside or around the Grand Canyon. This area serves as a spiritual and sacred place to tribes, all which makes a Grand Canyon bus trip all the more interesting. The six Grand Canyon tribes that inhabit the area include the following:
1. The Hualapai Tribe
This tribe has lived in the area for hundreds of years and contains about 2,300 members today. The name “Hualapai” translates to the phrase “people of the pines,” which refers to the pinyon-juniper forest that the tribe once inhabited during the fall and winter. During these times, they would gather pinyon nuts and hunt game. Many Grand Canyon tribes have names that translate to reflect the areas and land they inhabited.
The tribe’s reservation is located on the West Rim of the canyon, and is composed of approximately one million acres. The Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass-tiered cantilever bridge, is situated on Hualapai land. The tribe’s headquarters is located in Peach Springs, Arizona, where members operate a whitewater trip business and a hotel.
2. The Havasupai
“Havasupai,” when translated, means “people of blue-green waters” – a reference to the cascades in Havasu Canyon, or the tribe’s home. This Grand Canyon tribes headquarters, Supai, is located eight miles beneath the Western Rim. All supplies and mail are transported by helicopter, hiking, or by mules. In former times, the Havasupai farmed land in the Havasu Canyon during the summer. They also gathered food or hunted along the rim at other times of the year. About 400 people live in the area now.
The Navajo people also call the canyon home. You will learn a great deal about these occupants on a Grand Canyon bus trip and tour. Former hunters and gatherers, the Navajo learned how to farm from local Pueblo tribes, and later managed livestock. In the early days, the tribe lived in octagonal dwellings called hogans. Their nation is located in the states of Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico, and consists of about 16 million acres. Today, the Navajo oversee industries, such as tourism, ranching, and mining. They are also well-known for producing native art, or making pottery, rugs, or turquoise and silver jewelry.
The Paiute make up two groups, which speak similar languages. These groups include the Northern Paiute and Southern Paiute. The Southern Paiute people live in the areas around the canyon in Northern Arizona. Paiute means “the people” while the Paiute name for “canyon” is “Kaibab,”, which translates to “mountain turned upside down. The name, “Kaibab” is also the moniker for Paiutes who reside near the North Rim of the canyon.
5. The Zuni
The Zuni people are a Puebloan tribe who formerly lived in most of the southwestern US. Today, about 12,000 tribe members reside on the Zuni Pueblo, which is located beside the Zuni River, near Gallup, New Mexico. The Grand Canyon has served as a sacred place for the Zuni who consider Thunder River Falls and Ribbons Falls to be especially spiritual locations.
6. The Hopi
The Hopi live in an area that is surrounded by the Navajo reservation in northern Arizona. The tribe’s village of Oraibi has the distinction of being the oldest inhabited Native American village in the US. It was established in 1150 AD. Today, about 7,000 Hopi people reside in the area.
They are known as farmers and crafters of Kachina dolls, jewelry, and pottery. The Sipapu, a place situated deep inside the canyon, is where the Hopi believe their ancestors came from – part of the tribe’s spiritual and religious life. Tour guides on Grand Canyon bus trips can give you further insights about the Hopi and other Grand Canyon tribes.