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Tucson Spotlight

Tucson's Native American Cultural Heritage

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Explore Native American Cultural Heritage
In Tucson & Southern Arizona

TUCSON, Ariz. - A rich tri-cultural heritage, stemming from ancient Native American, Hispanic, and Old West traditions, has helped shape Tucson into a vibrant modern Southwest community. The deepest-running of these roots are those of the ancient desert-dwelling Pima people, the first to inhabit the land that eventually became Tucson. or "the Old Pueblo".

Thousands of years ago, the Pima people expertly planted the Santa Cruz River floodplains with crops like beans, squash and corn. Today, their Tucson-area descendants (the Tohono O'odham or "Desert People" and Akimel O'odham or "River People") are expert desert-dwellers who continue to grow native crops and harvest local bear grass, yucca, and devil's claw to create beautiful hand-woven basketry.

Glimpse the traditions of these first inhabitants with a custom travel experience based on the attractions, museums, and shops below, or embark on a two-day journey using the Heritage and Culture itinerary on www.visitTucson.org/visitor/daytrips.

ATTRACTIONS & MUSEUMS

Amerind Foundation

2100 N. Amerind Road

Dragoon, AZ 85609

Phone: 520-586-3666

Email: kpeitsmeyer@amerind.org

Website: www.amerind.org

Located in Texas Canyon, in southeastern Arizona's Little Dragoon Mountains, the Amerind Foundation and Museum contains one of the country's finest private collections of Native American art and artifacts. Founded in 1937 to promote knowledge and understanding of the Native Peoples of the Americas through research, education and conservation, the Amerind regularly hosts American Indian artists who demonstrate their skills and special events that present issues from a Native American perspective. The museum's Fulton-Hayden Memorial Art Gallery features works on Western themes.

 

Arizona State Museum

University of Arizona

1013 E. University Boulevard

Tucson, AZ 85721

Phone:  520-621-6302

Email: dfl@email.arizona.edu

Website: www.statemuseum.arizona.edu/

Arizona State Museum (ASM) is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution and is the oldest, largest anthropology museum in the American Southwest, established in 1893. ASM introduces visitors to the native cultures of the American Southwest and is renowned for excellence in preserving, interpreting, and presenting the material culture of this region. The museum holds one of the nation's top Navajo textile collections, including one of the largest Navajo rugs ever woven, as well as the world's largest whole-vessel collection of Southwest Indian pottery (20,000 specimens), and more than 150,000 catalogued archaeological and ethnographic artifacts.

 

Desert Diamond Casino Hotel

7350 S Nogales Highway

Operated by the Tohono O'odham Gaming Enterprise

Phone:  520-294-7777

Email: rstoner@desertdiamondcasino.com

Website:  http://www.desertdiamondhotel.com

Tucson's Desert Diamond Casino, Southern Arizona's first casino hotel is located minutes from Tucson International Airport. The casino complex features more than 170,000-square-foot of gaming fun, with  1,089 slot machines, 24 Blackjack tables, 25 poker tables, a 500-seat Bingo Hall and a 35-seat Keno area.  Non-smokers can enjoy fresh air in the smoke-free gaming area. The hotel boasts a premium steakhouse, a buffet restaurant, the 200-seat Monsoon Nightclub featuring monthly live acts, and a fast food venue. The hotel includes an outdoor pool, fitness center, four meeting rooms and a banquet hall that accommodates up to 400 people and is equipped with state-of-the-art audio/video technology.

 

Fort Bowie National Historic Site

3203 S. Old Fort Bowie Road

Bowie, AZ 85605

Phone: 520-847-2500

Email: FOBO_Operations@nps.gov

Website: www.nps.gov/fobo

For more than 30 years, Fort Bowie and Apache Pass were the focal point of military operations in the Southwestern United States, eventually culminating in the surrender of Geronimo in 1886 and the banishment of the Chiricahua Indians to Florida and Alabama. It was at the site of the Bascom Affair, a wagon-train massacre, and the battle of Apache Pass where a large force of Chiricahua Apaches under Mangus Colorados and Cochise fought the California volunteers. Along the three-mile round-trip hike around the site, visitors can see several important landmarks, including the remains of the Butterfield Stage Station; the Post Cemetery; a replica of a Chiricahua Apache Camp; and Apache Spring, which still provides water to the Fort area.

 

Mission San Xavier del Bac

1950 W. San Xavier Road

Tucson, AZ 85746

Phone: (520) 294-2624

Website:  www.sanxaviermission.org

Known as "The White Dove of the Desert," Mission San Xavier del Bac is located nine miles south of downtown Tucson in the Santa Cruz Valley on the Tohono O'odham Reservation. Acclaimed as the finest example of mission architecture in the United States, the San Xavier Mission was sited by the famed Jesuit missionary and explorer Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, who first visited Bac - "place where the water appears" - in 1692. The foundation for the first Bac church, located two miles north of the present Mission, was laid in 1700. The present church - an active parish - was built from 1783-1797, and is currently open every day of the year, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mass is celebrated here on weekends.

 

Native Seeds/SEARCH

3061 N. Campbell Avenue

Tucson, AZ  85719

(520) 622-5561

Email: info@nativeseeds.org

Website: www.NativeSeeds.org

Native Seeds/SEARCH is a non-profit organization that seeks to preserve the crop seeds that connect Native American cultures to their lands. Through seed conservation and community interaction, Native Seeds works to protect crop biodiversity and to celebrate cultural diversity. The organization's Seed Bank warehouse stores the seeds of crops and wild plants traditionally used by native cultures of the U.S. Southwest and northwestern Mexico as food, fiber and dyes, for use by future generations.

 

Tohono O'odham Nation Cultural Center & Museum

Fresnal Canyon Road

Topawa, Arizona

Phone: 520-383-0201

Email: tohono@mindspring.com

Website: www.tonation-nsn.gov/cultural_center_museum.aspx

The Tohono O'odham Nation Cultural Center and Museum is located 70 miles from Tucson in a Sonoran Desert landscape with the sacred Baboquivari Peak as a backdrop.  The facility is the only one of its kind open to the public in the Tohono O'odham Nation. The museum features an extensive collection of basketry, pottery, and historic and contemporary photos. Two climate-controlled repositories feature a 1,800-square-foot archival repository for maps, photos and manuscripts, and an artifact repository for archaeological, art and ethnographic collections. An eight-foot glass window engraved with the man-in-the-maze design is a feature of the Elder Center on the property. A retail store includes one-of-a-kind works by traditional and modern Tohono O'odham artists.

 

NATIVE AMERICAN FINE ART & CRAFTWORKS

Feast your senses on Tucson's Native American heritage, and take home a reminder of your visit, too! Most galleries specializing in Native American fine art and craftworks offer items for sale. Below are a few of Tucson's best spots for admiring and selecting a memento of local Native American culture.

Bahti Indian Arts

4330 N. Campbell Avenue, Suite 73

Tucson, AZ 85718

Phone: 520-577-0290

Website: www.bahti.com

Bahti Indian Arts is owned and run by Mark Bahti, son of Tom Bahti, the man who literally wrote the book on American Indian art. Since 1952 his store has sold high-quality jewelry, pottery, rugs, art and more. In 1966 Tom authored the first general introduction to the work of artists of the region. Entitled Southwest Indian Arts and Crafts, it was the first of a trilogy of books - Southwest Indian Tribes and Southwest Indian Ceremonials, which together have sold over a million copies, and were revised and expanded by his son Mark in 1977. Mark took over upon Tom's death in 1972 and continues to run the store working with many of the artists and craftspeople that traded with his father. Today, Bahti Indian Arts offers an array of authentic Native American items, including katsinas, baskets, fetishes, and pottery.

 

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun

6300 N. Swan Road 

Tucson, AZ  85718

Phone: 520-299-9191

Email: lance@degrazia.org

Website:  degrazia.org

Tucson's legendary landmark of art and architecture, created by Ted DeGrazia, features Southwestern-themed paintings, ceramics, bronzes, serigraphs, lithographs and more by the world-acclaimed artist Ted DeGrazia (1909-1982). Explore the 13-room adobe gallery, Gallery in the Sun, and cactus courtyard on DeGrazia's 10-acre Santa Catalina foothills retreat.

 

Gallery West

6420 N. Campbell Avenue

Tucson, AZ 85718

Phone: 520-529-7002

Email: gallerywest@aol.com

Website:  www.indianartwest.com

Located in the posh foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains just north of Tucson, Gallery West specializes in very high-end Native American artifacts (mostly pre-1940s) such as New Mexico Pueblo pots, Apache and Pima baskets, 19th-century Plains Indian beadwork, Navajo weavings and katsinas.  Beautiful and authentic contemporary and vintage jewelry can also be found at this Tucson treasure.

 

Grey Dog Trading Company

 

Phone:  520-881-6888

Email: greydog@greydogtrading.com

Website: www.greydogtrading.com

The selections displayed in this gallery reflect the owners' love of high-quality, handmade Native American art focusing primarily on southwestern tribes, including Hopi, Zuni, Navajo, Santa Clara, and Santo Domingo, among others. Visitors find exceptional Hopi kachina dolls by artists such as Dennis Tewa, Ros George, Robert Albert, Arthur Holmes, Jr. and Brian Honyouti. The store carries exclusively Zuni fetishes, and includes the names and family associations of all the carvers. Famous Navajo weaver Barbara Teller Ornelas shows her fine tapestries at Grey Dog, and the store also shows hand-coiled pottery by a range of talented artists including Alice Cling and the Folwell/Naranjo family as well as many noted miniaturists. The Navajo and Pueblo jewelry is carefully selected for originality and beauty.

 

Indian Village

Conveniently located in the colorful La Placita Plaza in downtown Tucson, Indian Village is a third-generation business serving the Old Pueblo for more than 30 years. Indian Village offers Native American jewelry, arts and crafts, and Southwestern souvenirs. Visitors are sure to find perfect gift or collectible.

 

Mac's Indian Jewelry

2400 E. Grant Road

Tucson, AZ 85719

Phone: 520-327-3306

Email:  macsindian2@aol.com

Website: www.macsindianjewelry.com

Mac's Indian Jewelry is a family-owned and -operated business that has served the Tucson area for more than 30 years. Mac's takes pride in not only the quality of its products, but also in the very personal service they offer their customers. A silversmith is frequently on duty, working at the shop.

 

Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery

7000 E. Tanque Verde, Suite 16

Tucson, AZ 85715

Toll-free Phone: 800-422-9382

Email: art@medicinemangallery.com

Website: www.medicinemangallery.com

Mark Sublette's Medicine Man Gallery specializes in the life work of famed western painter Maynard Dixon as well as antique American Indian art, early Western paintings and contemporary works, including Taos Society Founders, Maria Martinez, Native American antiquities, and nationally acclaimed Southwestern contemporary painters and sculptors, including works by Cowboy Artists of America.

 

Morning Star Traders

2020 E. Speedway Boulevard

Tucson, AZ 85719

Phone: 520-881-2112

Email: morningstar@theriver.com

Website: www.morningstartraders.com

Morning Star Traders is one of the oldest dealers of antique American Indian art in Tucson. Morning Star Traders is centrally located near the University of Arizona, just east of Campbell Avenue on Speedway Boulevard. The store boasts a large stock of antique and contemporary Southwestern jewelry, American Indian pots, rugs, blankets, baskets, and artwork.

 

Steve Getzwiller's Nizhoni Ranch Gallery

51 E. Pinto Trail

Sonoita, AZ 85637

Phone:  520-455-5020

Email: getzwiller@gmail.com

Website: www.navajorug.com

Nizhoni means "beautiful place" in Navajo.  The Gallery offers the finest in contemporary and historic Navajo weaving and other select American Indian art forms, including baskets, pottery, katsinas, jewelry and more. Steve Getzwiller is a leading authority on Navajo textiles. He has been a collector, trader and collaborative innovator of Navajo weaving for more than 35 years. Visit the Gallery's website to view representation of available weavings.

 

CELEBRATIONS OF NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURAL HERITAGE

American Indian Exposition - February

Organizer: North American Indian Information and Trade Center

Location: Flamingo Hotel Ballroom, 1300 N Stone Ave. Tucson, AZ 85705

Phone: 520-622-4900

Website: www.usaindianinfo.org

The American Indian Exposition is part of the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase. This "gem show" is a marketplace of merchandise created by Native American artists that normally includes everything from jewelry, basketry, pottery, blankets and paintings, to musical instruments (such as flutes and drums), masks, and all sizes of dream catchers. Prices range from a few dollars for a child's flute to thousands of dollars for a bronze sculpture. There are daily demonstrations by artists who make and sell their work on site, social dancing exhibitions and live music on weekends, and food vendors. This event occurs on the last Sunday of January through the second Sunday of February.

 

Southwest Indian Art Fair - February

Organizer: Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona

Location: Arizona State Museum, 1013 E. University Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85721

Phone: 520-621-4523

Website: www.statemuseum.arizona.edu/events/swiaf/index.shtml

The Southwest Indian Art Fair is presented by Arizona State Museum, the oldest and largest anthropology museum in the Southwest, established in 1893. This fair takes place under tents on the museum's grounds and is geared for serious shoppers and collectors of high-quality artworks. Shoppers can meet and buy directly from 200 of the finest Native American artists in the region. The merchandise includes pottery, Hopi kachina dolls, paintings, jewelry, baskets, rugs, blankets and much more. There are also artist demonstrations (such as a Navajo blanket weaver), traditional Native American foods, and music and dance performances. This event occurs in mid-February, around the same time as the Tucson Rodeo or La Fiesta de los Vaqueros.

 

Wa:k Powwow - March

Organizer: Tohono O'odham Nation

Location: Mission San Xavier del Bac, 1950 W. San Xavier Rd., Tucson, AZ 85734

Website: www.sanxaviermission.org

Native American dancing, drumming and singing are showcased at the Wa:k Powwow at Mission San Xavier del Bac. Although the Tohono O'odham Nation hosts the powwow, Native Americans from across the nation come to participate. Colorful costumes and headdresses, complete with delicate beadwork, feathers and hand stitching, adorn the many dancers competing for awards. Merchants sell traditional foods and crafts (the O'odham are well-known for their basket weaving). Photographs are generally not permitted during ceremonies; please ask for permission. This two-day event usually takes place in March and benefits the Tohono O'odham (Desert People) community at San Xavier, which has populated the Tucson area since prehistoric times.

 

Waila Festival - May

Organizer: Waila Committee and Arizona Historical Society

Location: Bear Down Field, University of Arizona Stadium, Tucson, AZ 85721

Phone: 520-628-5774

Admission: Free to public.

Website: www.arizonahistoricalsociety.org

The Arizona Historical Society normally presents the Waila Festival in May. This family-oriented festival celebrates the traditional, social dance music of the Tohono O'odham (Desert People) of Southern Arizona. Waila (pronounced why-la) music is a hybrid of popular European polka and waltzes with a variety of Mexican influences mixed in; it takes its name (waila) from the Spanish word for dance (baile). At the festival, spectators are invited to dance to toe-tapping waila (polka), chote (schottische), mazurka and cumbia tunes performed by O'odham bands. Traditional O'odham foods, such as cholla buds, red chile and tepary beans may be served.

 

Ha:san Bak, Saguaro Fruit Harvest Festival- July

Organizer: Colossal Cave Mountain Park

Location: La Posta Quemada Ranch, 16721 E. Old Spanish Trail, Vail, AZ 85641

Phone: 520-647-7121

Website: www.colossalcave.com

The Ha:san Bak Festival takes place between mid-June and the end of July, depending on the weather, when the ruby-red fruit of the saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea) ripens. Participants sample products made from saguaro fruit and learn about the cactus, its natural history, and uses by the Tohono O'odham (Desert People) of Southern Arizona. The festival normally includes an exhibition by rain dancers, basket-making demonstrations, and samples of freshly made saguaro syrup and other native foods. The saguaro cactus grows only in the Sonoran Desert region near the Arizona-Mexico border; harming one in any manner is illegal by state law in Arizona.

 

Children's Social Powwow - October

Organizer: Tucson Children's Museum

Location: Tucson Children's Museum, 200 S. 6th Ave., Tucson, AZ 85701

Phone: 520-792-9985

Website: http://www.tucsonchildrensmuseum.org

The Tucson Children's Museum hosts a powwow that it especially geared to children and their families. This one-day event provides fun, hands-on opportunities to learn about the diverse cultural traditions of Native American communities, both in Southern Arizona and across the United States. Children lead the celebration that includes exhibitions and contests of traditional dance, drumming, and inter-tribal singing by children wearing formal regalia. There are also various arts and crafts vendors and community information booths. Past powwows have included art workshops for children led by local Native American artists, hands-on activities promoting healthy lifestyles, and science and engineering activities.


Traditional American Indian Feast - October

Organizer: North American Indian Information and Trade Center

Location: San Xavier Plaza, 1959 San Xavier Rd., Tucson, Arizona 85734

Phone: 520-622-4900

Website: www.usaindianinfo.org

The Traditional Native American Indian Feast takes place under the stars at San Xavier Plaza on the first Saturday in October. The Feast features a banquet of unique foods, live entertainment by Native American dancers and musicians, a silent auction of arts and crafts, and a presentation of scholarships to promising youth. The program begins with a blessing ceremony, followed by a banquet of foods indigenous to distinct regions of the United States (buffalo and salmon from the Northwest; wild rice soup from the Great Lakes region; and cholla bud salad, prickly pear tea, saguaro cactus syrup, and Indian tamales from the Southwest). Seating is limited. Proceeds benefit a scholarship fund. 

 

Native American Heritage Month Social & Craft Market - November

Organizer: North American Indian Information and Trade Center

Location: Rillito Park Race Track, 4502 N 1st Ave. Tucson, AZ 85718

Phone: 520-622-4900

Website: www.usaindianinfo.org

On Thanksgiving weekend, native peoples from more than 50 North American tribes gather in Tucson for the Native American Heritage Month Social and Craft Market. This bustling outdoor event includes exhibitions and contests of both traditional and contemporary ceremonial dancing, drumming and music. Merchants offer native foods and artworks, including handmade baskets from local San Xavier Tohono O'odham weavers. Exhibits like the birds-of-prey display and tribal information center promote awareness of a rich past. Children's activities teach about aspects of native culture. Camera and video photography are allowed for personal use only.     

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VISIT TUCSON
Visit Tucson's mission is to drive economic development by connecting visitors with their ideal travel & meetings experiences in Tucson and Southern Arizona. Visit Tucson is financially supported by the City of Tucson, Pima County, the Town of Oro Valley and more than 500 individual and business partners. See how Tourism Powers Southern Arizona on visittucson.org/media/tourism-pays.

CONTACT:
Jessica Stephens, Director of Public Relations, Visit Tucson,
jstephens@visitTucson.org or 520-770-2143