Arizona: Hualapai


The Hualapai People occupy a 1-million-acre reservation in northwestern Arizona, on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. The reservation’s topography varies from rolling grassland to forest and the rugged canyons of the Colorado River.  

The Hualapai (sometimes spelled Walapai) descended from the Hohokam culture and were called the “pine tree folk” or “people of the tall pines.” It is estimated that there were 700 Hualapai in 1680.  
Like the Yavapai and Havasupai, the Hualapai have occupied north-central Arizona for nearly 800 years. There are many similarities to the Yuman dialect that all three peoples use. 
The Hualapai roamed over a large area north of the Mohave Desert to the Grand Canyon. Once they acquired horses from the Spanish, they were able to extend their range. These tribes subsisted primarily as hunters and gatherers. They acquired some knowledge of agriculture and cultivated gardens but were not considered successful agronomists. 

The Grand Canyon always provided important sources for eating, medicine and utilitarian purposes. The major wild foods are derived from cactus fruit and the seeds of various grasses. They also used metates and mano stones. 
The Hualapai had little contact with Western civilization until the 1840s when trappers and prospectors moved into their territory. The Hualapai initially resisted but realized it was in their best interest to accommodate the intruders. Miners used them as a source of cheap labor, and White ranchers moved in and took over most of their territory. 

“In 1867, the Band of Indians consisted of over 1,500 people, between 400 and 500 fighting men; they were a wild, capable, implacable foe…They were relentlessly pursued by me for two years, and in 1869, surrendered and asked for peace; several of their prominent men were sent to San Francisco in irons and remained for months as prisoners on Alcatraz and Angel Islands…They were thoroughly subdued, and…sent to the Colorado River Reservation; being Mountain Indians they died there very rapidly; they sent word to General (George) Crook that they did not want to fight, but that they could not live there, that they would rather die fighting on their native mountains than sicken and die as they were doing on the river bottom.” — Lieutenant Colonel William Price, United States Army  


Logging and ranching make up a healthy part of the reservation’s economy today.  

Today, more than 2,300 members are enrolled and more than 1,600 people live in the Haulapai community. They have access to a convenience store, gas station and deli. The tribe operates Grand Canyon West, a major tourist location. Other principal economic activities include cattle ranching, logging/timber sales. and arts and crafts. The major jobs are tribal, state and federal government and schools. The average annual income is $43,000 with a joblessness rate of 13%. About 32% of residents live below poverty level.