The term Hualapai means “People of the Tall Pines” and is derived from Xawalapaiya or “pine tree people.” The Hualapai people live in the high desert and pinon-juniper forest south of the western Grand Canyon. Traditionally, they were a hunting and gathering people who farmed only isolated pockets of watered land. They spoke Pai, a language that is rooted in the Yuman-Cochimi families.
Hualapai family groups lived in scattered encampments of sturdy brush shelters in the winter months. From these camps, the men made hunting trips to catch antelope, deer, mountain sheep, coyotes, rabbits wild turkey and various other small animals. The bow and arrow was used to hunt larger game, while small game was caught with traps and snares. Rabbits were hunted in organized drives.
In the summer the families scattered, moving in small groups over a large territory to collect wild plant foods. Summer shelter consisted of light brush huts and shades. In April, Hualapai mescal collecting began, continuing into May. Through the summer months seeds fruits of various plants were collected as they became available. For example, sunflower seeds were gathered in July and August, mesquite seeds were collected in August, and yucca fruit was harvested in September. These plant foods, and dozens of others were procured in a seasonal cycle.
The Hualapai reservation was established by the U.S. government in 1883. It is located along 108 miles of the western Grand Canyon and Colorado River. The capital of the Hualapai Reservation is Peach Springs, Arizona. The Hualapai are governed by a nine person tribal council. Their economy is based on Grand Canyon tourism, timber cutting, and cattle ranching.
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