What is the Hualapai Tribe?

Heather Phillips

The Hualapai Tribe is a group of Native Americans who historically inhabited the lower Colorado River Valley in the United States. They traditionally spoke Yuman, and are related to other Pai Indian groups, such as the Havusapai and the Hopi. The Hualapai still occupy some of their ancestral lands today, and their reservation consists of approximately one million acres (4046.8 m2) of land along the Grand Canyon.

The Hualapai Tribe is native to Arizona, which is located in the American West.
The Hualapai Tribe is native to Arizona, which is located in the American West.

Prior to the arrival of gold prospectors in the mid-1800s, the Hualapai and Havasupai tribes were one group. As non-native people arrived, the Hualapai tribe began to live apart from the Havasupai. The Hualapai fought for their lands and lost. They were forcibly moved to a camp at La Paz, Arizona, where many of them died. After agreeing to give in to the demands of the non-native immigrants, they were allowed to return home.

Attractions the Hualapai offer to tourists include helicopter rides.
Attractions the Hualapai offer to tourists include helicopter rides.

The Hualapai reservation was established in 1883. It is located within the lands that were traditionally inhabited by the tribe. The geography is varied, with forests, grasslands, and canyons. Altitudes of the Hualapai lands reach as high as 7,300 ft (2, 225 m) at Aubrey Cliffs, and as low as 1,500 ft (457 m) at the Colorado River.

Historically, the Hualapai tribe lived in wickiups, which were similar to wigwams. These structures were circular, and framed by driving young saplings into the ground and bending and securing them together at the top, often with yucca leaf strands. They were thatched and covered with brush or, sometimes, adobe.

People of the Hualapai tribe generally farmed, hunted, and gathered edible wild plants for their subsistence. Rabbit, deer, and bighorn sheep were plentiful in their lands. Some of the edible wild plants they ate included agave and cactus fruits.

Today the Hualapai tribe makes a living primarily by capitalizing on the Grand Canyon tourism industry. At Grand Canyon West, within the Hualapai reservation lands, the tribe has built a glass skywalk, 4,000 ft (1,219 m) above the Colorado River. Visitors can walk onto it from the rim of the canyon. Other attractions the Hualapai offer to tourists include helicopter rides and boat tours. They also offer big game hunting, fishing, and rafting.

The main town and capital of the Hualapai tribe reservation is Peach Springs, Arizona. It is so named due to the peach trees that grow by springs near the town. The famed Route 66 travels through Peach Springs. Its name was appropriated in the Pixar Animation Studios' movie, Cars, in which is was called "Radiator Springs."

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