The Hualapai People – The People of the Tall Trees – while once occupying up to 5 million acres south of the Colorado River, now reside on the Hualapai reservation: 1 million acres of land stretching 108 miles along the Colorado River and Grand Canyon. Tribal membership varies between 1500 and 2100 members who primarily live in Peach Springs, the capital of the Hualapai Reservation.
While the Hualapai Reservation was created in 1883, the Hualapai tribe was not formally recognized by the Indian Claims Commission until 1962 as a result of the tribe’s land claims suit against the federal government. Due to the environmental conditions of the area, the Hualapai tribe had a flexible organizational system. Three to four families of about 25 people formed camps, which then organized themselves into regional bands and subtribes, and camps would change membership as needed. While each regional band had rights to specific areas of the reservation, bands would often share resources and allow access to their territories to outside members.
Traditionally, the Hualapai were hunters and gatherers and would move camps according to availability of food sources. They would take up shelter in caves, rock shelters, brush shades, wickiups, and in the winter they would make thatched winter houses, sometimes covered with juniper bark. Material goods were kept to a minimum as they would frequently move camp sites. While they did have ceramic pots, which were highly valued, they primarily relied on baskets from plant products. Jewelry was minimal – some people had shell necklaces from the Mohave area.
The winter camps were the largest camp sites as the tribe members would share responsibilities for hunting deer, bighorn sheep, antelope, and rabbits and gathering pinyon seeds. This would also allow for a centralized location for storied foods. In the spring, camps would break up and move to the foothills to gather agave and follow the game. Early summer they would proceed to the valley floors, again following the game and gathering seeds. By late summer, they move back up in elevation harvesting the fruits from the saguaro and prickly pear cacti and the yucca plant. Then in fall, they would move towards the mountains and plateaus to gather pinyon, walnuts, and juniper berries. The Hualapai people did attempt to grow corn, beans, and squash near reliable water sources, but the arid conditions of the Hualapai Reservation made agricultural practices difficult. They tended to rely on hunting and gathering as their primary food source.
The Hualapai Nation opened its land to visitors in 1988, and is now relies on tourism as its primary revenue source. Other industries include cattle ranching, timber sales, and arts and crafts. Funds from tourism are used for most community projects, including the Hualapai Boys and Girls Club, their Head Start program, and their social services building. Tourists to this area can acquire hunting permits for bighorn sheep, trophy elk, antelope, and mountain lion. The area also boasts fishing, hiking, and camping facilities, and river rafting, in addition to access to the skywalk.