Arizona Indian Communities | Heard Museum

Arizona Indian Communities

Arizona is home to 22 tribes, each with its own rich history, culture, language and land base. In the last decade, the Heard Museum has worked to develop professional relationships with American Indian tribes. The relationships are based on mutual trust and active participation, and have repositioned the Heard away from the traditional museum role as a professional observer of “the other.” With the offices of the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona across Central Avenue from the museum, the Heard is uniquely positioned to continue working closely with Arizona’s American Indian tribes. Use the links below as tool in planning a trip. As always, we encourage visitors to call the tribe’s cultural center, tourism or information office before scheduling a visit.

Ak-Chin Indian Community

The Ak-Chin Indian Community is located 58 miles south of Phoenix in the northwestern part of Pinal County. The Ak-Chin people, who are part of the O’odham culture, have lived in this area for countless generations.Today, Ak-Chin is a tight-knit community of more than 600 members. The local tribal economy is growing beyond its traditional farming tradition to include the Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino and Conference Center, Ultra Star Multi-tainment Center, an industrial park and other enterprises to come.

Cocopah Indian Tribe

The Cocopah Indian Reservation, home to about 900 members, is located approximately 13 miles south of Yuma and 180 miles from both San Diego and Phoenix. The reservation was established by Executive Order No. 2711 in 1917 and is bounded by the Colorado River.  It is divided into three parcels: East, West and North Cocopah. In 1985, an additional 4,200 acres of land was added to the reservation.

The tribe operates a casino and conference center, the Cocopah RV & Golf Resort and the Cocopah Museum, which has exhibits on tribal history, culture and veterans. Like other Colorado River and Central Arizona tribes, the Cocopah Tribe is part of the Yuman language family, which includes Yavapai, Havasupai, Hualapai, Maricopa, Quechan, Mojave, Kumayaay, Ipai and Pai Pai tribes.

Colorado River Indian Tribes

The Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT) reservation is located in western Arizona at Parker, 189 miles from Phoenix. The reservation was established March 3, 1865. Tribal land spans the Colorado River with land in two counties in California and Arizona. CRIT members include Mojave and Chemehuevi peoples who are indigenous to the Colorado River region and California’s Mohave Desert as well as Navajos and Hopis who were resettled on the reservation in the 1940s and ’50s. Agriculture and tourism are the principal industries.

Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation

Located in Maricopa County, the Fort McDowell Reservation lies approximately 23 miles northeast of Phoenix. The reservation was designated in 1903 when the kwevikopaya, or Southeastern Yavapai, who lived in the Mazatzal-Four Peak and Superstition Mountain region, were granted 24,680 acres of the old Fort McDowell Military Reserve. Fort McDowell is also the birthplace of one of the first known advocates of human rights, Dr. Carlos Montezuma (Wassaja).

Today, tourism, a sand and gravel operation and agriculture form the basis of Fort McDowell’s economy. Fort Dowell works with its neighbors in the surrounding communities of Rio Verde, Fountain Hills, Mesa, Scottsdale and Phoenix. Visit Fort McDowell Destination for information on the many attractions the community has to offer.

Fort Mojave Indian Tribe

One of two Arizona tribes that hold lands in three states, the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, or “People Along the Water,” have lands in Arizona, California and Nevada, all along the Colorado River. It is home to about 1,500 people who depend mostly upon agriculture and tourism for the basis of the Fort Mojave economy. Tribal businesses include the Avi Hotel & Casino, C-Plus Convenience Store/Gas Station & Discount Cigarettes, JB’s Restaurant and Mojave Resort Golf. Big-game hunting is also a popular attraction.

Fort Yuma Quechan Tribe

Home of the Quechan (pronounced Kwhu-tsan) Indians, Fort Yuma-Quechan Reservation is situated along both sides of the Colorado River near Yuma, Arizona. The reservation borders the states of Arizona, California, Baja California and Mexico, and it encompasses 45,000 acres.  Interstate 8 bisects it on the south. The tribe operates the Quechan Resort and Paradise Casinos along with five trailer and RV parks, a small grocery store, museum, bingo hall, utility company and a fish and game department.

Gila River Indian Community

The Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) is comprised of two tribes, the Pima and the Maricopa.  Tribal lands are located in south-central Arizona. The 372,000-acre reservation lies south of Phoenix, Tempe and Chandler. It was established by an act of Congress in 1859 and today is home to 11,550 people. Tribal administrative offices and departments are located in Sacaton. Agriculture, tourism, industrial parks and other tribal enterprises provide employment for both tribal members and non-tribal members.

Havasupai Tribe

Related to the Yuman, the Havasupai have from the beginning inhabited the Grand Canyon and its environs. By 1919 with the establishment of the Grand Canyon National Park, the tribe was restricted to 518 acres, 5 miles wide and 12 miles long, in a side canyon.  The tribe has since had 188,077 acres of their former homelands returned to them, which makes up their reservation today.

The Havasupai Reservation is located in Coconino County, at the southwest corner of the Grand Canyon National Park. To reach the reservation, visitors must follow an eight-mile hiking or horseback trail to Supai village. With a population of around 700 people, Havasu (Cataract) Canyon, is now the permanent home of the Havasupai Indian Tribe.

Hopi Tribe

The Hopi people trace their history in Arizona to more than 2,000 years, but their history as a people goes back many more thousands of years, making the Hopi one of the oldest living cultures in documented history.  A deeply religious people, they live by the ethics of peace and goodwill. The Hopi Reservation, in northeastern Arizona, occupies part of Navajo and Coconino counties and encompasses approximately 1,542,306 acres. Throughout the Hopi Reservation, every village is an autonomous government.  However, the Hopi Tribal Council makes laws for the tribe and sets policies to oversee tribal business. In addition to the scenery and arts and crafts, visitors are welcome to attend public ceremonies to observe dances.  Social and katsina dances are performed today as they have been for centuries. While on Hopi photographing, recording or sketching of villages and ceremonies are strictly prohibited. Although visitors are welcome to tour the various Hopi villages, not all villages are open to the public for ceremonies.  It is advisable to check with the individual villages Community Development offices before proceeding into any of the villages to attend dances. For more information on Hopi culture and visitor information, visit the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office.

Hualapai Tribe

The Hualapai live on a reservation encompassing a million acres along 108 miles of the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon on a middle section of the river corridor they call “Hakataya” or “the backbone of the river.” The reservation was created in 1883 by Executive Order and Peach Springs, 50 miles east of Kingman on Historic Route 66, is the tribal capital.  The Hualapai Tribe, which has approximately 1,500 members, occupies part of three northern Arizona counties: Coconino, Yavapai and Mohave. Tribal businesses include Grand Canyon West and the Grand Canyon Skywalk.

Kaibab Paiute Tribe

The Kaibab-Paiute Reservation, on the Utah border, covers 120,431 acres of plateau and desert grassland. Situated along Kanab Creek in northern Arizona, the reservation is surrounded by small communities including Fredonia, one mile to the east, and Kanab, seven miles to the northeast. The Kaibab-Paiute are a member of the Southern Paiute Nation that lives along the southern Great Basin and San Juan-Colorado River drainage.  The 240 members of the Kaibab-Paiute Tribe speak a Uto-Aztecan language, in addition to English. Attractions include Pipe Spring National Monument.

Navajo Nation

The vast Navajo Nation extends into the states of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Approximately the size the state of West Virginia, it contains more than 27,000 square miles, making it the largest reservation in the United States.  Approximately 230,000 members are enrolled in Navajo Nation, of which 168,996 reside on the reservation. The Navajo Nation offers a wide spectrum of cultural events throughout the year, including traditional song and dance contests and inter-tribal pow-wows.  It is home to the “World’s Largest American Indian Fair,” the Navajo Nation Fair, among other celebrations. Also, visitors can visit Canyon de Chelly National Monument, the Hubbell Tradiing Post, Lake Powell, Monument Valley and many other attractions. Visit the Navajo Nation’s tourism site for more information.

Pascua Yaqui Tribe

Descendants of the ancient Toltecs who once ranged from northwestern Mexico upwards to southern Colorado and California, the Pascua Yaqui migrated to the United States in the late 19th century. Today, many Yaquis live in a village called Pascua Village, which was annexed into the City of Tucson in 1952.  Another group resides in Guadalupe, close to Tempe and Phoenix. Pascua Yaqui Tribal lands are located on 222 acres in southeastern Arizona, approximately 15 miles southwest of Tucson.  Congress formally established the reservation in 1964. The Pascua Yaqui Association, a non-profit Arizona corporation, was formed to receive the deed for the land from the government. In 1978, the Yaquis waged a long and difficult battle to secure federal recognition for their tribe.  An additional 690 acres of land was acquired in 1982 and, in 1988, the first constitution was approved. Today the tribe numbers approximately 9,021 people.

Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community

Consisting of 52,600 acres, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community is located 15 miles northeast of Phoenix adjacent to Scottsdale, Tempe, Fountain Hills and Mesa. The community is home to nearly 6,000 enrolled members who represent two pre-American sovereign Indian tribes: the Pima (Akimel Au-authm or “River People”) and Maricopa (Xalychidom Pipaash or “People who live toward the water”). Created by Executive Order on June 14, 1879, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community has dedicated its resources to finding its way successfully through the maze of urban pressures.  Respectful of the land, the community maintains 19,000 of its acres as natural preserve.

San Carlos Apache Tribe

The San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation spans Gila, Graham and Pinal Counties in southeastern Arizona, and stretches over a landscape that ranges from alpine meadows to desert.  Encompassing 1,834,781 acres, the San Carlos Apache Reservation was established by executive order on November 9, 1871. Over one-third of the community’s land is forested (175,000 acres) or wooded (665,000 acres). As a result, the reservation is a habitat for many wildlife species including elk, mule deer, turkeys, black bears and mountain lions.  The Apaches are believed to be descendants of the Athabascan family who migrated to the Southwest in the 10th century.

San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe

The San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe is a small, recently-recognized tribe of approximately 250 members.  The San Juan Southern Paiutes lived for the last several hundred years in territory east of the Grand Canyon, bounded by the San Juan and Colorado Rivers, with the Navajo and Hopi Tribes as their neighbors.  They share a common heritage with the Southern Paiutes of northern Arizona, Utah, Nevada and California. Many San Juan Paiute tribal members reside in several distinct communities on the Navajo Reservation, primarily in northern Arizona and southeastern Utah. The largest of these communities are located at Willow Springs, near Tuba City, Arizona, and at Paiute Canyon/Navajo Mountain on the Arizona and Utah border. A spokesperson and a tribal assembly that meets regularly govern the Tribe. San Juan Paiute basketweavers are renowned for their artistry, and many Navajos purchase wedding baskets from their Paiute neighbors.

Tohono O’Odham Nation

The Tohono O’Odham Nation is comparable in size to the state of Connecticut.  With its four non-contiguous segments, the tribal lands total more than 2.8 million acres.  Located within the Sonoran Desert in south central Arizona, the capital of the Tohono O’odham Nation is Sells, the largest community. The “main” and largest reservation contains more than 2.7 million acres.  Boundaries begin south of Casa Grande and encompass parts of Pinal and Pima counties before continuing south into Mexico. . The population is approximately 22,000 people. Attractions include San Xavier Mission, the Tohono O’odham Cultural Center and Kitt Peak National Observatory.

Tonto Apache Tribe

The Tonto Apache Tribe is located adjacent to the town of Payson (originally named Te-go-suk – “Place of the Yellow Water”), in northwestern Gila County.  The reservation is approximately 95 miles northeast of Phoenix and 100 miles southeast of Flagstaff, Arizona. Consisting of 85 acres, it is the smallest land base reservation in the state of Arizona.  With a total population of approximately 100 members, nearly all live on the reservation.  One-third of the tribal members are under the age of 16. Because of Tonto Apache Tribe’s small land base, the tribe’s principal economic ventures include the Mazatzal Casino & Resort, a gas station and a drive-in fast food enterprise.

White Mountain Apache Tribe

The White Mountain Apache tribe is located in the east central region of Arizona, 194 miles northeast of Phoenix.  Located in Apache, Gila and Navajo counties, the White Mountain Apaches reside on 1.6 million acres at its ancestral homeland on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. The Fort Apache Indian Reservation was established by Executive Order on November 9, 1891.  It is now known as the White Mountain Apache Reservation and stretches over a terrain that ranges from 11,000 feet in the mountains to 3,000 feet at the Salt River Canyon. Originally, the reservation included the San Carlos Apache Reservation, which was separated by an act of Congress in 1897. White Mountain Apache Tribe is renowned for its big game hunting, Sunrise Ski Park, and abundant recreational areas.

Yavapai-Apache Nation

The Yavapai-Apache Reservation is located in central Yavapai County, in an area referred to as the Verde Valley.  Two distinct tribal people, the Northwest Yavape’ people (Yavapai) and Dilzhe’e (Tonto Apache) people of the Verde Valley share a dual history and culture, as well as a common community and political organization. Yet, the two cultures still remain distinct, with separate identities and histories stretching independently into the past, according to the Nation’s Web site.The reservation is located 95 miles north of Phoenix and 55 miles south of Flagstaff. The reservation was established in 1871.  However, in 1875 it was abandoned when the people were moved against their will to the San Carlos Apache Reservation.  A migration back to their traditional homeland, the Verde Valley, began immediately after 1900.  A reservation area was re-established in 1909.

Yavapai-Prescott Tribe

The Yavapai-Prescott Indian Reservation consists of 1,409 acres that are adjacent to the city of Prescott, Arizona, in central Yavapai County. Positioned at a crossroads for commerce, this reservation is intersected by U.S. Highway 89, State Highway 69, and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. According to the 1994 Bureau of Indian Affairs report, approximately 140 members belong to the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe. Tribal enterprises include the Prescott Resort, Frontier Shopping Center, Bucky’s Casino and an industrial park.

Pueblo of Zuni

The Zuni Pueblo is nestled in a scenic valley, surrounded by the enchanting mesas, located about 150 miles west of Albuquerque. The main reservation, is located in the McKinley and Cibola counties in the western part of New Mexico. The estimated number of acres encompasses about 450,000 acres. The tribe has land holdings in Catron County, New Mexico and Apache County, Arizona, which are not adjoining to the main reservation. Zuni jewelers are known worldwide for their intricate inlay work and no visit to Zuni Village is complete without visiting both the many trading posts in town and the Zuni Mission.

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