Native American Culture at the Grand Canyon

February 22, 2013 by

Local Recommendations, Sightseeing, Things to Do

havasu falls

Havasu Falls. Photo Courtesy of Bill Stanley via Flickr.

While the Grand Canyon in Arizona is a worthwhile attraction for hikers, photographers and those who want to experience a stunning and rare landscape, it’s also a destination rich in Native American culture. Today, there are three tribes that live in and around the Grand Canyon, including the Havasupai who live in one of the canyon sides, the Hualapai who live near the West rim and the Navajo who live on the outskirts.

The Havasupai offer several tourist options. Start with the Havasu Falls, a crystal blue waterfall gushing against vibrant red rocks that is often touted as one of the Grand Canyons most scenic spots. Located in the Havasupai Indian Reservation, the attraction is about a 10-mile hike from the Hualapai Hilltop, so camping or staying at the Havasupai Lodge is recommended. Reservations are required for both accommodation options. Nearby the village of Supai features Havasupai Indians selling souvenirs and typical foods. Fun fact: On their reservation you can find the only place left in the country where U.S. Mail is delivered by horseback. Another interesting way to see the Havasupai Reservation is via helicopter. There is a service which operated several days per week, and while their main focus is serving the tribe, if there is time and space they will allow tourists.

The Hualapai on the western side of the Grand Canyon are the ones who developed the tourist attraction the Grand Canyon Skywalk—which takes you 4,000 feet above the canyon floor—and other visitor attractions such as a native village, western town, helicopter ride from the rim to the river and a one-day rafting tour. You can stay in The Hualapai Lodge, which is rich in Hualapai culture with traditional artwork and performance.

And for a glimpse into ancient Pueblo Indian life from 800 years ago to present in the Grand Canyon, explore the free-to-enter Tusayan Museum and Ruins. While the museum allows you to browse artifacts, traditional handicrafts and original 4,000-year-old split-twig figurines, the ruins themselves are 800 years old and give evidence of a the culture and village that once resided on the land. The village of Tusayan itself was built in 1185 AD, and guided ranger tours are available. Another option is to walk along the trail that leads from the museum into part of the ruins.

-Jessica Festa

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