Hualapai Indian Tribe of Arizona

Published on October 26, 2010 by John

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Ta’thamiche, a Hualapai

The name of the Hualapai, pronounced WAH-lah-pie and sometimes spelled Walapai, means “pine tree people”, after a kind of small pine—the piñon—growing in their homeland. The Hualapai, along with their kinsmen the HAVASUPAI and YAVAPAI, are often described as Upland Yumans (or as the Pai) to distinguish them from the River Yumans living to their south, such as the MOJAVE and YUMA (QUECHAN). These various Yuman-speaking peoples lived along the Colorado River in territory now part of western Arizona and southeastern California. All the Yumans are classified by scholars as SOUTHWEST INDIANS.

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The Hualapai occupied the middle course of the Colorado River in northwestern Arizona between the Mojave and Havasupai territory. Most of their mountainous homeland, unlike that of their neighbors, was not farmable. As a result, other than occasional farming, the tribe depended on wild plant foods, such as piñon nuts, as well as various animals, such as deer, antelope, and rabbits, plus some fish. They often had to wander far from the river in small bands to find enough to eat. They lived in domed huts of poles, brush, thatch, and earth, as well as more temporary brush wickiups similar to those of the APACHE, who lived to their southeast. Hualapai crafted simple clothing out of buckskin or bark. Men usually wore shorts and breechcloths; women wore skirts or aprons. In cold weather both men and women used blankets made from rabbit skins and wrap around robes. The Hualapai religion centered on an unseen world of gods and demons. Hualapai shamans supposedly took their power from dreams. Through a combination of singing, shaking a gourd rattle, pretending to suck out disease through a tube, and applying various herbs, they tried to cure the sick. The Hualapai had extensive trade contacts with the Mojave and HOPI, but were traditional enemies of the Yavapai.

The Spanish, exploring out of Mexico, reached the Hualapai homeland in the 1500s—probably Hernando de Alarcón in 1540 and definitely Marcos Farfán de los Godos in 1598. Then in 1776, Francisco Garcés made contact with the tribe. But the Spanish and subsequently the Mexicans never settled Hualapai country to the extent they did other parts of the Southwest and California. The pace of change quickened for the Hualapai after the Mexican Cession of 1848. A growing number of Euroamericans entered their domain, many to develop mining in the region. Hualapai found work in the mines, but suffered cruel and exploitative treatment by the mine owners, which led to outbreaks of violence. In retaliation, non-Indian miners and troops sent into support them destroyed Hualapai homes and crops. In 1874, the Hualapai were interned among the Mojave. After two years, they were allowed to return to their homelands, where, in 1883, they were granted their own reservation.

The Hualapai Reservation, a land of high plateaus and deep canyons, is located in northwestern Arizona, not far from the Grand Canyon, with tribal headquarters at Peach Springs. Tribal members support themselves through forestry, cattle ranching, farming, hunting, fishing, and Colorado River raft operations. There is some leasing of lands to non-Indians. The sale of Hualapai baskets also provides additional income to families. A recent project is the development of solar power, on a federal grant, at the Hualapai airport.

Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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