Monday, March 7, 2016

Native Americans Of The Grand Canyon

By Kristy McCaffrey

Havasupai Indians
The Havasupai Indians have lived in the Grand Canyon for the past 800 years. Known as the Blue Water People, they’ve turned their land—consisting of richly colored waters and awe-inspiring waterfalls—into a famous tourist attraction that draws thousands of people each year. They live primarily above and inside the southwest end of Grand Canyon in a place known as Cataract Canyon. In the 1700’s they had little contact with the Spanish, and during the U.S. westward expansion the same was also true with white people, but this changed when silver was discovered in 1870 within Cataract Canyon. Relations with other Native American tribes have been generally mixed, but they have maintained a strong bond with the Hopi people.

Havasu Falls, near Supai, Arizona -- the only town within
the Grand Canyon.
Today the town of Supai, located at the bottom of Grand Canyon, is the capital of the Havasupai Indian Reservation. It is home to around 500 of the tribe members and is one of the most remote cities in the U.S. It can be accessed by taking the old Route 66 about 60 miles to the trailhead. An 8-mile hike leads to the town of 136 houses, a café, a general store, a tourist office, a post office, a school, and several churches.

The Hualapai Indians live along a stretch of the southern rim of Grand Canyon. Their reservation was created in 1883 and they’re closely related to the Havasupai Indians. They traditionally lived in wikiups, structures formed from cedar boughs.

The Grand Canyon Skywalk (in the distance on the left).
The Grand Canyon Skywalk, built in 2007, is owned by the Hualapai Indian Tribe. It’s a transparent, horseshoe-shaped cantilever bridge on the edge of a side canyon of the Grand Canyon. This tourist attraction, easily accessed from Las Vegas, offers views from an elevation of 4,770 feet. While this attraction has caused some controversy regarding over-development, the skywalk brings in much needed revenue for the reservation.

This is reportedly the original Hopi sipapu.
The Hopi Indians, while not based in Grand Canyon proper, consider the area sacred and home to the original sipapu. In Hopi mythology this is the entrance through which the Hopi entered this world from the previous one. The Hopis construct kivas—underground chambers used for religious ceremonies—with a small hole in the floor at the north end to symbolize the sipapu. It’s considered bad luck, especially for white people, to trek to the original opening (located off the Little Colorado River, a tributary connected to Grand Canyon). For those who attempt it, stories abound of ensuing misfortune.

Kristy McCaffrey has been writing since she was very young, but it wasn’t until she was a stay-at-home mom that she considered becoming published. She’s the author of several historical western romances, all set in the American southwest. She lives in the Arizona desert with her husband, two chocolate labs, and whichever of their four teenaged children happen to be in residence. 

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