The Hualapai Nation: Survival and Thrive at Grand Canyon West
The Hualapai Nation: How These Indigenous People Survived and Thrive at Grand Canyon West
Unlike the National Park on the South rim, Grand Canyon West is not federal land — it is situated upon the Hualapai Reservation. While the views are breathtaking, it’s the history of its people, their courage, and resilience that truly ignite the spirit. Before you step on the reservation, consider the past that brought these proud People of the Tall Pines to offer their culture to you as a way to connect and understand America’s Indigenous people.
Many generations ago, the Hualapai’s ancestral homelands consisted of 10 million acres of land — ancestral homelands the tribe has sought to maintain and protect since time immemorial. The traditional lands begin at the Little Colorado River, continuing downstream through the entire Grand Canyon, with the lower 108 miles of the Grand Canyon the Hualapai Reservation.
The lands they hunted, traded, and lived on supported four tribes comprising of the Hualapai Nation (pai means people): The Hualapai, people of the tall pines; Yavapai, people of the sun; Havasupai, people of the blue-green water; and the Paiai, the people of Hualapai, who escaped the Calvary in the 1870s into Mexico. Through the years, the tribes faced many enemies: the Spaniards who took their gold, the Calvary who wanted all the land for expansion, and settlers, ranchers, and missionaries encroaching on the Hualapai Homeland. When natural resources like copper, gold, and uranium were discovered, and the big steam engines required more and more water to operate, the government took land and water rights away from the tribe and forced them onto reservations.
Tourism and the Tribe
Contrary to some common misperceptions, the Hualapai are not in any way subsidized by the United States Government. Out of 23 Arizona tribes, this sovereign nation is the only one to enter the tourism industry approximately 33 years ago with a small casino. With its close proximity to Las Vegas, the Hualapai soon realized tourists didn’t want to come there to gamble — they wanted to go to experience their lands.
The Hualapai Reservation has the only road in and out of the west rim of the Grand Canyon. This route is used to not only bring visitors to Skywalk, Eagle Point, Guano Point, and the Colorado River, it’s how they haul water from 200 miles away for use on the property. The wells here were exhausted many years ago. Not to mention, electricity is produced from generators since there are no main power lines out to, or on, Grand Canyon West.