Before all the houses, restaurants, shopping, museums and parks of Tempe and the sprawling Phoenix Metro Valley, Native American tribes had made Arizona their home for thousands of years. Their rich history and culture can be found woven throughout every region in the state. Whether you are a visitor to Tempe or have lived in the area for years, don’t miss out on visiting these wonderful Native American tribal lands, fascinating museums and ancient ruins of the original inhabitants of Arizona.
Hike up “A” Mountain for views of ancient Hohokam petroglyphs
Located on the southeast corner of Mill Avenue and Rio Salado Parkway, “A” Mountain is situated adjacent to Arizona State University and Downtown Tempe.
“A” Mountain, officially named Hayden Butte Preserve Park, is not only a great spot for hiking and enjoying views of Tempe, but also a chance to get a glimpse into Native American history. The butte is culturally-significant to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, which considers the butte to be a sacred place and a link to its ancestors. Hikers and explorers alike can view hundreds of rock art images, that were made by the Hohokam between A.D. 750 and 1450. Many of the petroglyphs can be easily seen from the trails on the south side of the mountain.
Exploring the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community
To get there from Tempe – Just 15 minutes north of Tempe, take the 101 N freeway and exit east on Indian School Rd. The community is located just east of Scottsdale.
Learn about the traditions, culture and history of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community by visiting the Huhugam Ki Museum. The museum highlights several pieces of history for both the O’odham (Pima) and Piipaash (Maricopa) tribes that live in this community. It’s located on the main tribal campus, at 10005 E. Osborn Rd., Scottsdale, AZ 85256. Open Tuesday-Friday 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free.
For authentic food of the community, plan a lunch stop at The Stand. The Stand is located just off the corner of Alma School and Indian School (not to be confused with the burger-and-taco joint of the same name on 36th Street and Indian School). The fry bread and tortillas are both made in-house, and are beyond delicious. Featuring outdoor seating on old tree stumps, friendly owners and authentic food of the tribe, this is a “can’t miss” spot. Open weekdays for lunch.
Exploring the Gila River Indian Community
To get there from Tempe – Take I-10 east about 15 minutes, and exit at Queen Creek Road heading west (right). Drive about one-half mile to Maricopa Road and turn right.
Plan a visit to the Huhugam Heritage Center to learn about the Gila River Indian Community (CURRENTLY CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS). The museum highlights the ancestral, historic and current cultures of the Gila River Indian Community, made up of two tribes – the Akimel O’otham (Pima) and the Pee Posh (Maricopa). View an outstanding collection of nearly 500 O’odham baskets, an exquisite Pee Posh pottery collection and arts and crafts museum collections. The museum is located at 21359 S. Maricopa Rd., Chandler, AZ 85226. Museum hours are Wednesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Another way to experience the culture of the Gila River Indian Community is to take a trail ride at KOLI Equestrian Center. A native American-owned enterprise, the guides at KOLI will tell you about their tribe’s history and our desert environment while you take a relaxing horseback ride. Visit their website to book your trail ride.
Plan a visit to the Heard Museum
2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85004 | (602) 252-8840
Founded in 1929, the Heard Museum has grown in size to become recognized internationally for the quality of its collections, its educational programming and its festivals. Focused on accurately portraying Native arts and cultures, the Heard combines the stories of American Indian people through art, including a variety of paintings, drawings, prints, photography and sculpture. Make sure to stop into The Heard Museum Shops, featuring pieces from hundreds of artists. Museum hours are Monday-Saturday from 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
Visit the Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park
4619 E. Washington St., Phoenix, AZ 85034 | (602) 495-0901
For a prehistoric taste of Native American history in Phoenix, visit the Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park. A visit today consists of walking on a short trail around the prehistoric remains of the Hohokam people’s ball court and platform mound. It’s truly fascinating to see the actual building sites of this early Native American community. Inside the museum’s welcome center, view an award-winning introductory video on the Hohokam people and the Pueblo Grande village site and visit the galleries exploring the Hohokam culture. Museum hours are Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m. and Sundays 1:00-4:45 p.m.
Visit the Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West
3830 N. Marshall Way, Scottsdale, AZ 85251 | (490) 686-9539
Plan a visit to the Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West in Scottsdale, just 15 minutes north of Downtown Tempe. See the West from a whole new perspective at this Smithsonian Affiliate destination. Guests can explore a variety of permanent and rotating exhibits highlighting the regional history of the area. Western and Native American art and artifacts connect visitors to the west – past, present and future.
Hours: 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sundays; Closed Mondays
Discover the past at the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
1100 W. Ruins Dr., Coolidge, AZ 85128 | (520) 723-3172
To get there from Tempe – Go south on I-10, take the Coolidge exit and follow the signs to the park entrance.
One of the largest prehistoric structures ever built in North America, the Casa Grande ruins purpose still remain a mystery today. Just 45 minutes from Tempe, the “Casa Grande” is believed to have been inhabited by the Hohokam from 1350 C.E. to 1450 C.E. The self-guided tour is a short walk around the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument featuring informational signage along the way. One hour guided tours are offered from late November through early April. It is recommended to call the day of your visit for tour schedules. The Casa Grande Ruins National Monument is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. – closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Plan a trip to northern Arizona to explore Navajo Nation
To get there from Tempe – Drive north for approximately 3 1/2 to 4 hours to Navajo Nation
In just under four hours, visitors can explore the wonders of the Navajo Nation. The current Navajo Nation extends into Arizona, New Mexico and parts of Utah. Discover the awe-inspiring beauty of the area by visiting Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly National Monument. View itinerary ideas on how to best explore the area. Learn about the tribe’s rich history by visiting one of the museums: the Navajo Interactive Museum in Tuba City (10 Main St., Tuba City, AZ 86045) and the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock (Highway 264 and Loop Rd., Window Rock, AZ 86515).
Visit the Hopi Reservation, located in northern Arizona
To get there from Tempe – Drive north for approximately 4 hours, through Navajo Nation, to the Hopi Reservation
Plan to visit the Hopi Cultural Center first, AZ-264, Second Mesa, AZ 86043, to start your journey. The Hopi Reservation encompasses approximately 1.5 million acres offering panoramic views of the surrounding low-altitude desert. Experience the rich history, culture, art and food of the Hopi people by scheduling a tour through the First Mesa Consolidated Villages. Call Marilyn June, the General Manager, directly to schedule your tour at (928) 734-2401, and be sure to read through these guidelines before your visit to make it an enjoyable experience.
To learn more about neighboring Native American communities and historical spots, visit www.tempetourism.com/discover-tempe/native-american-communities/.