10 Native American museums and festivals in Arizona

Jerry Hunt (Diné) dances at the World Championship

A visit to Arizona isn’t complete without taking a day or two to learn about Native American history and culture. The Grand Canyon State is home to many Native-American tribes, each with its own unique story. Here are few places where you can learn about them.

This museum was created with the help of Navajo scholars. A visit will teach you about the land, language and history of the Navajo people. The museum also features a traditional Navajo hogan (home) and stories of creation, which will be explained to you by your escort.

Details: 10 N. Main St., Tuba City. 928-412-0297, www.discovernavajo.com/museums.aspx.

Once you’re finished at the Navajo Interactive Museum, head next door to the Navajo Code Talkers Museum. If you’re a World War II history buff you’ll love the seeing the gear and tools these soldiers used, as well as learning about the victory stories and Code Talker transcripts.

Details: 10 N. Main St., Tuba City. 928-412-0297, www.discovernavajo.com/museums.aspx.

This museum, constructed of adobe and desert plants, is a great place to learn about the history and culture of the O’odham and Piipaash tribes of the Salt River Valley. Along with the exhibits and displays, the museum occasionally offers demonstrations of Maricopa pottery and samples of seasonal traditional foods.  

Details: 10005 E. Osborn Road, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. 480-362-6320, www.srpmic-nsn.gov.

If you’re more interested in an immersive, extended stay you should plan a trip to the Hopi Cultural Center. Located on the Second Mesa in the Hopi Reservation, the center has a motel for visitors interested in an overnight visit. During your stay you can eat traditional food at the onsite restaurant and explore the villages.

Details: On State Route 264 on Second Mesa in northern Arizona. It’s about 56 miles east of Tuba City. 928-734-2401, hopiculturalcenter.com. 

This museum displays tribal crafts, exhibits and photographs of the Ak-Chin people. If you’re wondering when is the best time to visit, the museum host two annual celebrations: the Him-Dak celebration in April and the Native American Recognition Day Celebration in September.

Details: 47685 W. Eco-Museum Road, Maricopa. 520-568-1350, www.ak-chin.nsn.us.

The Heard Museum is internationally recognized for its collection of Native American art. It also hosts festivals, markets and educational programming based around Native-American culture. The hoop-dancing competition every February is a popular display of this intricate performance art. Starting this October, check out an exhibit of jewelry by Verma Nequatewa, a leading Native American lapidary artist. It runs through March 10, 2019.

Details: 2301 N. Central Ave., Phoenix. 602-252-8848, heard.org.

Pueblo Grande is a prehistoric archaeological site once inhabited by the Hohokam people who built extensive canals to farm the Salt and Gila river valleys. The park features three galleries of exhibits and an outdoor trail that will take you through the remains of a Hohokam platform, ball pit and replicated homes.

Details: 4619 E. Washington St., Phoenix. 602-495-0901, phoenix.gov.

3 events to check out

Hopi and Navajo cultural festivals

The Museum of Northern Arizona throws annual festivals to celebrate the culture of the Zuni, Hopi and Navajo people. At each festival, dozens of artists, dancers and presenters participate in demonstrations and performances. Visitors can enjoy music and dance, purchase art and jewelry, sample traditional foods and hear lectures on history and heritage. The Zuni festival is in May, the Hopi festival is in July and the Navajo festival is in August.

Details: 3101 N. Fort Valley Road, Flagstaff. 928-774-5213, musnaz.org.

Sponsored by the Tohono O’odham tribe, the annual pow wow takes place in the third weekend of March. The event is Tucson’s largest gathering of Native American singers, dancers and artists.

Details: San Xavier del Bac, 1950 W. San Xavier Road, Tucson. 520-573-4014, crazycrow.com.

At 93 years, the White Mountain Apache Tribal Fair & Rodeo is Native Arizona’s longest running rodeo. It takes place on Labor Day weekend and includes cultural performances, Native American country bands and rodeo contests.

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