Cultural Time Period
PaleoIndian (10,000 – 8,000 BC)
Paleo-Indian ancestors may have traveled across the Bering Land Bridge
near present-day Alaska at an unspecified time and were some of the first
occupants of North America. During this time, people probably traveled in
groups gathering wild foods and hunting big-game animals, such as
mammoths. They killed their game with spears tipped with distinctive
long fluted projectile points called Clovis points. There are very few
visible remains of these people because most of their sites were either
places where they camped (in natural rock shelters or tents made of hides
or brush) or where they killed and processed game. Thus, these types of
archeological sites are not well preserved.
The base of a PaleoIndian Clovis point was found at a campsite in the
Virgin River Gorge and is the only documented PaleoIndian site in the
area. There have also been several unsubstantiated reports of other Clovis
Archaic (7,000 – 600 BC)
The Archaic time period was a time of change in people's adaptation to the
land. Many of the large game animals living in the area died or moved to
other areas. Because of this, people began to rely more extensively on the
wide variety of plant resources and smaller game. Instead of following
large game in their travels, the people moved according to seasonal
availability and ripeness of plants like ricegrass, prickly pear, and piñon
nuts. Smaller game animals, such as pronghorn, rabbits, and birds were
their primary (meat) protein sources. The tool kits of these people also
changed. The spears and points were smaller; and they began to use spear
throwers called atlatls. Artifact and site evidence indicates that people
routinely returned to the same areas year after year to gather and process
plant resources (like grinding seeds with manos and metates).
Archaic projectile points associated with open artifact scatters are the
primary evidence for Archaic hunters and gatherers, although there may
be some cave and shelter sites with Archaic remains still to be
investigated. Most of the better-documented sites from this time period
are from adjacent areas in the Grand Canyon NP and Glen Canyon NRA.
Here split twig figurines and Archaic-style projectile points attest to
substantial Archaic occupation. Based on artifacts found, riparian and
associated rich ecological zones in and near the Vermilion Cliffs, along the
Virgin and Paria rivers, and in Kanab Creek appear to have been densely
occupied during both the Archaic and Ancestral Puebloan periods,
representing the transition from hunting and gathering to farming
Ancestral Puebloan (600 BC – 1300 AD): The Ancestral Puebloan people occupied the southern part of the
Colorado Plateau. The westernmost branch of this group and the least studied and understood is the Virgin
Anasazi. The early half of the Ancestral Puebloan period is known as the Basketmaker period while the latter
half is known as the Puebloan period.
Basketmaker (600 BC – AD 700)
The Basketmaker time period was a time of rapid population growth in
the Southwest, primarily because of the introduction and development of
farming. Because farming requires planting, care, harvest, and storage of
products, people began to settle into more permanent structures, such as
pithouses. Pithouses are homes that were built into shallow or deep pits in
the ground, roofed with poles tied together, and covered with thick brush
and mud. These dwellings were located close to farm lands and contained
the tools and features necessary to plant, care for, harvest, cook, and store
domesticated corn, beans, squash, and wild plant foods. The term
Basketmaker was given to the people living during this time period
because of the finely woven baskets found at these types of sites. Their
baskets were used for cooking and storing harvested plant and farmed
products. Early forms of pottery also were developed during this time
Corn cultivation and settled village life began to occur by about 600 BC.
Pithouses and storage cists occur in small clusters in both the upland areas
and lower river valleys and creek side settings. Later in the period, the
Basketmaker group produced brown pottery containing olivine crystal
particles, a distinct pottery type for the Arizona Strip.
Puebloan (700-1300 AD)
The Puebloan time period saw the continued growth and development of
a culture based on farming. People began to construct above ground
masonry rooms or pueblos. These rooms were arranged like villages, with
storage rooms that housed surplus food, plazas, ceremonial subterranean
rooms sometimes referred to as kivas, and outer-lying field houses for
shelter and tool storage. During Pueblo times there was also an increase in
contact with other people living throughout the Southwest. This contact
was primarily in the form of trade - for information, pottery, food, and
The Puebloan occupation represents the later Ancestral Puebloan village
farmers. Sites include C-shaped villages, granaries, reservoirs, rock art,
trails, artifact scatters, and field houses. Kayenta Anasazi people migrated
to the area around 1050 AD, bringing with them distinct pottery and
architecture, including rectangular villages. By 1300 AD, archeological
evidence indicates that the Ancestral Puebloan people left, some migrating
to the south and east. Some of the living descendants of the Ancestral
Puebloan people can be found on the Hopi Mesas in northeastern Arizona.
Others may have migrated elsewhere or may be found in Southern Paiute
groups. Archeological evidence does not dispute the fact that some
Ancestral Puebloan may have intermarried with Southern Paiute or other
local groups during 1150 – 1300 AD.
American Indian Groups (1150 – 1850 AD)
The American Indian groups in the area when Euro-American settlers and
explorers arrived in the late 1700s and 1800s include the Southern Paiutes,
Havasupai, Hualapai, and Navajo or Diné. Linguistic evidence suggests
that the Southern Paiutes (Numic speakers) migrated into the area around
1150 AD from southern California and Nevada. Some archeologists
believe the Southern Paiute may be descended from the Ancestral
Puebloan peoples. By the time of contact with Spanish explorers in 1776
and later Mormon colonists in 1850, Southern Paiute groups occupied the
Navajo and Apache Indian groups (Athabaskan speakers) arrived from
western Canada into New Mexico around 1400 AD. They eventually
migrated westward, arriving in their present day locations in north central
Arizona and near the area by the time of the Long Walk in 1864. At that
time, many Navajos took refuge in the isolated, hidden canyons of
northern Arizona to avoid being taken to New Mexico.
Some Havasupai and Hualapai sites have been found on the extreme
southern end of the area. These “Pai” groups have occupied the Grand
Canyon region for thousands of years.
Resources of Traditional Importance to American Indians
Southern Paiute: Various Southern Paiute bands, some no longer existing,
occupied the area. Thirteen bands of the Southern Paiutes were originally
identified in the post contact period with an additional band added later.
These bands exist in contemporary times as eight federally recognized and
one unrecognized tribe. Linguistic evidence suggests they first arrived in
the area around AD 1150 and had contact with the Dominguez-Escalante
Expedition in 1776. Mormon settlers who arrived in 1852 also had contact
with the Southern Paiutes. The descendants of the 14 bands are now
scattered throughout central and southern Utah, northern Arizona,
southern Nevada, and in southern California. Members of all Southern
Paiute bands are related and trace their ancestry to family members who
once lived on the Arizona Strip. Today, the Kaibab Paiute tribe is the only
Southern Paiute band with reservation lands remaining on the Arizona
Strip. Members of the Southern Paiute bands still gather firewood, piñon
nuts, and plants in the area. The area contains sites considered sacred by
Southern Paiutes, including places where water, plants for medicinal and
other purposes, animals, and minerals are found.
Hualapai and Havasupai: The southern portions of the area were also
home to the Hualapai and Havasupai, although both groups generally
claim the Colorado River and areas south as their homeland. Both groups
retain some indigenous lands in the Grand Canyon at the Hualapai and
Havasupai Reservations south of the area.
Hopi: The area was once home to several Hopi clans, including the Spider,
Tobacco, Rabbit, Snake, Sand, Lizard and Sand Strip clans. Other clans
have migrated through the area and their descendants now live in villages
on the Hopi Reservation in northeastern Arizona. The clans migrated
through and lived in the area for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
Although the Hopi left the area by AD 1300, traditional use and sacred
Navajo or Diné: Navajos occasionally use the area but live primarily on the
eastern side of the Colorado River. Individuals from some of the closest
Navajo Chapters to the area (Bodaway/Gap, LeChee, Coppermine,
Cameron, Tuba City, and Coalmine Canyon) still cross the Colorado River
to run businesses such as selling items to tourists, and to gather firewood,
herbal plants, and piñon nuts. Some Navajos consider certain places in the
European and Euro-American (1776 AD – Present Day)
Spanish/Mexican Exploration and Trading (1776 – 1848)
The Dominguez-Escalante Expedition out of Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1776
is the earliest recorded European entry into the Arizona Strip. Spanish
Friars Dominguez and Escalante, attempting to find a route from Santa Fe,
New Mexico to Monterrey, California, abandoned the effort in central
Utah and traveled south entering the area on their way back to Santa Fe.
The expedition crossed through the area and documented an encounter
with Southern Paiutes at Coyote Spring, now within Vermilion. The Old
Spanish Trail also crosses the area and was used extensively by Mexican
and American traders between 1829 and 1848. The Spanish brought with
them a new religion (Catholicism), the art of silversmithing, and new
crops and domesticated animals including fruits such as apricots and
animals such as pigs, horses, sheep, goats, and oxen.
Colonization, Ranching, and Mining (1854 – Present Day)
Settlement of the Santa Clara Mission by Jacob Hamblin in 1854 initiated
Mormon colonization and exploration in southern Utah and northern
Arizona. William Maxwell established the first ranch on the Arizona Strip
at Short Creek in 1862. This is now Colorado City, AZ. The following year,
the communities of Pipe Spring and Millersburg (now Beaver Dam) were
both settled. The lands in the area were primarily used for grazing cattle
and later for grazing sheep.
The Marble Canyon area was settled by John D. Lee when he established
the ferry crossing of the Colorado River (Lees Ferry) and homesteaded at
Lonely Dell and Rachel’s (Jacobs) Pool in the early 1870s. With the
establishment of the Honeymoon Trail (Old Arizona Road) from Kanab
and the crossing at Lees Ferry, Mormon colonists were able to travel
across the area en route to other Mormon colonies in central and southern
Arizona and back to the Temple in St. George.
Construction of the first Mormon temple west of the Mississippi began in
St. George, Utah in 1871. Ponderosa pine logs for temple construction were
cut at Mt. Trumbull and hauled along the Temple Trail wagon road some
68 miles north to St. George.
Passage of the Homestead Dry Farming Act in 1909 and the Stock Raising
Homestead Act in 1916 encouraged additional farming and ranching in
the area at various locales including Cactus Flats, later known as Mt.
Trumbull, which was settled by Abraham Bundy and his son Roy in 1916.
Mining for copper, silver, and gold occurred in the area from the 1870s to
the 1940s primarily in the Grand Gulch area but also at Copper Mountain.
World War II began an era of uranium mining in the area. During the
1950s and again in the 1980s several uranium mines were opened and
operated on Kanab Plateau. World declines in the uranium market in the
late 1980s lowered uranium prices and the mining operations were put on
hold. In 2006, rising prices for uranium caused a resurgence of uranium
mining. Gypsum is presently mined south of St. George in the Arizona
Strip. Mining is not permitted within the Monument.(est. January 11, 2000)