Published on August 29, 2013 by Amy
The Hualapai (also referred to as “Walapai”) Reservation is located in the western Grand Canyon corridor. This area comprises a million acres adjacent to 108 miles of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. The Hualapai Reservation was founded in 1883 by an Executive Order. The city of Peach Springs is the tribal capital. According to the 2003 census, the total population of the Hualapai Indian Reservation is 1,491 members.
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Known as the “Hwal’bay” which means “people of the tall pines,” the Hualapai derived their name as a result of their habitation in the pine covered mountains of northwestern Arizona. The Hualapai are the successors of a group of people identified as the Cerbat. Initially, they subsisted in groups made up of fourteen clusters. Not only are they culturally related to the Havasupai people, but their language is similar to that of the Havasupai as well.
Archaeological evidence demonstrates that the ancient Pai lived near the Willow Beach bank near Hoover Dam. This evidence can be traced to 600 A.D. The Pai regarded themselves as one indigenous group and as the sole humans in earth.
All the family members resided in the same house. During summers people cooked outside and in winters, inside their houses. Usually the whole family ate breakfast together before sunrise, and then they ventured out to do their daily work. The women devoted themselves to the task of gathering seeds and berries, whereas the men and the older boys went for hunting. Fathers were in charge of educating the boys, and they instructed them on how to hunt animals.
Trading was inter-tribal in nature. The Hualapai traded agricultural products for meat with the Mohave Indians. The Hualapai bartered beads, horses, beadwork, and shells in return for Navajo or Hopi blankets. Sometimes Paiutes and Utes supplied the Hualapai with guns and horses.
In the earlier times as well as the present, personal property has been owned by both men and women. Blankets, baskets, and utensils belong to women; whereas weapons, horses, and buckskins are owned by men.
The economic activities of the Hualapai included herding cattle and also cultivating crops such as squash, peaches, corn, and beans. Meat was obtained through hunting. Apart from farming, the Hualapai also collected walnuts, grapes, acorns, squawberries, and mesquite beans. Substantial vegetable food was obtained from the cactus family. However, water resources proved insufficient for agricultural activities. Very few families grew crops regularly. There were no ceremonies associated with planting. Besides agriculture, trading was also part of the Hualapai economic life.
Unlike the present time, the Hualapai did not have a commonly acknowledged chief for the whole tribe. They had numerous small chieftains. The numerous chieftains were expected to possess two important qualities – an assertive personality and persuasive speaking. After the initial inauguration of chieftainship, the position was bequeathed to the successors of the chief.
According to scholars, the Europeans were the first Anglos to encounter the Pai people. Written records highlight that the initial contact occurred between the Hualapai and the Europeans, when Father Garces crossed Hualapai territories in 1776. The Hualapai traded goods with the Spanish, leading to a decline in the production of Pai handicrafts as the Hualapai eventually began using Spanish goods instead of producing their own.
The Spanish considered all the Pais as belonging to one group. After their invasion of the Southwest, the Anglo-Americans considered the Pai as belonging to two different groups: the Hualapai and Havasupai. Except for the religious conversion efforts of the Franciscan missionaries among the Hopis as well as Fray Francisco Graces’ journey to Oraibi on the Hopi Mesas and his travel through the Mohave County, the Spanish did not infiltrate into the Pai territories. After the U.S. government gained control of the Southwest the Pai began to feel the effects of western-style colonization.
White settlers began to infiltrate into the Hualapai territories upon the discovery of gold and silver along the lower reaches of the Colorado River. In order to resolve the conflict between the Hualapai and the white settlers, the U.S. government decided to set up a reservation system for the Hualapai. Through the Executive Order of 1883, the Hualapai Reservation was legally established. However, ten years prior to that order white cattlemen had already gained Peach Springs by means of occupancy rights. Not only did the cattlemen acquire Peach Springs, but they also sold the Peach Springs water supply to the Santa Fe Railroad.