Eagle Dancer at Hopi Festival photo © Museum of Northern Arizona
Arizona Unique Cultures in Northern Arizona
By far the biggest of all five reservations, the Navajo Nation has a population of over 250,000 and covers more than 27,000 square miles, extending into Utah and New Mexico. The Navajo refer to themselves as the Dine, or "the people," on a reservation that includes the unparalleled beauty of Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly and Chaco Canyon. The reservation was created in 1868 and would later be expanded to encompass a land surrounded by cardinal points: four mountains sacred to the tribe.
Nampeyo pot photo © Museum of Northern Arizona
Located within the Navajo Nation, the Hopi reservation has twelve villages that sit on three mesas, and a history that dates back to 500 A.D. The Hopi are the direct descendants of Hisatsinom, or San Juan Anasazi Basketmakers, who once occupied the pueblos of the Southwest. Having inhabited this high and dry area since the 12th century, the Hopi have developed a unique agriculture practice, "dry farming." Instead of plowing their fields, Hopi traditional farmers place "wind breakers" in the fields at selected intervals to retain soil, snow and moisture. They also have perfected special techniques to plant seeds in arid fields. As a result, they succeed in raising corn, beans, squash, melons and other crops in a landscape that appears inhospitable to farming.
For over 1,000 years the Havasupai, meaning the "people of the blue-green waters," have lived in the Grand Canyon, farming during the summer months and hunting on nearby plateaus during the winter. Today, tourism is the primary economic staple for the reservation, with Havasu Canyon attracting approximately 12,000 outdoor enthusiasts per year. The largest city, Supai, is accessed by a hiking trail only, and is the first stop for many of the visitors as they descend the canyon filled with awe-inspiring water falls formed by travertine formations — a result of the calcium in the blue-green water that begins from a spring.
The Kaibab Paiute
The Kaibab Paiute Indian Reservation, situated along Kanab Creek in northern Arizona, is surrounded by small communities including Fredonia, Kanab and Colorado City. Most of the reservation land is undeveloped; its economy centers largely around tourism and the livestock industry. The reservation is surrounded by a wonderland of historic recreation and geological sights. Pipe Spring National Monument is adjacent to Tribal Headquarters, and Steamboat Rock is also situated on the reservation. Just a couple of hours drive away are the North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Utah State Park and other scenic attractions.
The Hualapai is an English translation of Hwal'bay, meaning "People of the Tall Pine." The Hualapai reservation encompasses a million acres along 108 miles of the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon. The Hwal`bay call this middle river corridor "Hakataya" or "the backbone of the river." The Hualapai are descendants from one people, a group known archaeologically as the Cerbat. Culturally, the Hualapai consider themselves as part of the "Pai" meaning "the people." The earliest physical remains of the Pai were found along the Willow Beach bank near the Hoover Dam in the 1960s and dates back as early as A.D. 600.