The Grand Canyon wasn’t always the hot tourist destination it is now. Formed by the Colorado River over millions and millions of years, the canyon has actually been inhabited for thousands of years by several tribes of Native Americans. These Native Americans not only made their home near the Grand Canyon, but many regarded the canyon as a holy site, many making pilgrimages just to see the Grand Canyon in person. It goes without saying that these very same Native Americans provided a wealth of culture, art, music, and history to the Grand Canyon area, and your chance to experience all of it firsthand is here.
On April 4th and 5th, the Grand Canyon National Park welcomed Tony and Ola Eriacho, the first demonstrators of the second annual Desert View Cultural Demonstration Series, a series of presentations given by local Native Americans who share their skills as silversmiths, weavers, potters, and jewelers. Jewelers by trade, the Eriachos encourage awareness and appreciation of Native American culture and create their authentic pieces with the traditional materials of the Pueblo of Zuni.
But the Pueblo of Zuni isn’t the only tribe associated with the Grand Canyon. As a matter of fact, 11 different tribes have spent their share of time at the canyon, creating a wealth of cultural diversity and development, and as new artisans and speakers make their presentations, visitors will be able to hear the stories of many different groups.
With so many speakers scheduled to give their own cultural demonstrations, there are plenty of chances to see one of the presentations yourself. Coming up on May 9th and 10th are two presentations to be made by Henry Nez, a Navajo silversmith who will be demonstrating the authentic processes and techniques he uses in his silverwork.
Other demonstrations dates have been scheduled, each featuring a different speaker from one of the 11 Grand Canyon Native American tribes. Each presentation will be conducted at the Desert View Watchtower on the Grand Canyon South Rim.
– June 6th-7th
– June 13th-14th
– June 17th-18th
– July 25th-26th
– August 1st-2nd
– September 5th-6th
So why is the Grand Canyon National Park arranging all of these presentations? So many park visitors take the canyon’s beautiful vistas for granted. Many thank Theodore Roosevelt for his love of the canyon and his essential work in preserving it, but Native Americans were the canyon area’s sole inhabitants for thousands of years. Their cultural background, reverence for nature, and protection of the canyon’s environment helped make the canyon what it is today. If not for the environmental forethought of the 11 Native American tribes that have inhabited the Grand Canyon area, Teddy Roosevelt may not have found the canyon in its pristine and beautiful state, and may not have been so inclined to protect it for us to see today.
What are your favorite facets of Native American culture? What presentations would you like to see at the Grand Canyon? Let us know in the comments section below, and take a look around the site to learn more about America’s greatest landmark.