Experiencing Native Cultures in Arizona

Arizona has a long and storied history, and a large portion of what we know about life in the Southwest before immigrants and settlers moved here from the east comes from the Native cultures that lived in Arizona. In fact, native peoples have lived throughout Arizona for at least 12,000 years.

Arizona is home to twenty-two native tribes, and each one, with their own cultural traditions and histories, have shaped not only the landscape of Arizona, and have strongly influenced the regions they live in, the non-native peoples who made their way to Arizona.

Even the name ‘Arizona’ comes to us thanks to native tribes. Translated from the original Tohono O’odham language, the name ‘Arizona’ means “little spring.”

Native American tribes in Arizona include recognizable tribal names like the Apache, the Hopi, and the Navajo, but also include lesser-known tribes like the Akimel O’odham (or Pima), the Yavapai, and the Yuma as well.

Each of the twenty-one tribes in Arizona has their own reservation in the state, and those reservations span from the northern Arizona areas like Flagstaff and Sedona through the southern areas of Tucson and down through the Mexico border.

Many of the tribes still in existence today are descended from the original inhabitants of Arizona, while others can trace their lineage to Spanish explorers who arrived in the Southwest in the 1500s. Tribes including the Hopi, Zuni, and Puebloans share an ancestor in the Anasazi, the prehistoric civilization who lived in the Four Corners region of the Southwest.

Though Arizona’s native populations only account for 6% of Arizona’s inhabitants are from Native American tribes, though the reservation lands themselves cover nearly one quarter of the entire state of Arizona!

When visitors come to Arizona, they often seek to jump head-first into the natural beauty of the land, and more often than not, learn about the tribal cultures that inhabited these lands too. The native tribes of Arizona are distinctly tied to the land itself, and there are many artifacts, museums, and public viewing options inside of tribal reservations where visitors can view ancient hieroglyphs, sacred spaces, and artifacts from thousands of years ago.

If you visit the northern Sedona/Flagstaff area of Arizona, you may want to put a tour the Navajo Reservation on your must-do list. Navajo lands offer an unbelievable opportunity for photographers, nature lovers, adventurers, and anyone interested in exciting trails and stunning natural rock formations.

To the Southeast of the Navajo Reservation lies the Fort Apache Reservation, home of the White Mountain Apache Tribe. The Fort Apache Reservation is a hunter’s and outdoorsmen’s dream, and the native population is

Monument Valley Tribal Park, Antelope Canyon Tribal Park, and Canyon de Chelly National Monument are all open to the public for exploration. Hunting and fishing are available on the reservation with professional native guides whose families have hunted on these same lands for thousands of years. The reservation also offers a lot of skiing opportunities including Sunrise Park Resort, one of Arizona’s premiere ski destinations.

When visiting Southern Arizona areas like Tucson, the Tohono O’odham Reservation, be sure to check out San Xavier del Bac Mission, founded by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692 and still in operation today, Desert Diamond Casinos three locations and booming entertainment lineup, and the Tohono O’odham Nation Cultural Center and Museum which offers cultural exhibitions, educational programs, and tons of interesting artifacts.

No matter where you go in Arizona, you are surrounded by the history of the native tribes that helped not only form, but maintain Arizona’s natural beauty and landscape. Today, those same tribes continue their cultural traditions, and help to connect us all with the past, present, and future of Arizona.  [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"99","attributes":{"class":"media-image aligncenter size-full wp-image-880","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","width":"1000","height":"666","alt":"shutterstock_54754639"}}]]