Tucson, Arizona offers travelers a unique opportunity to experience the deep-rooted Native American culture in the southwest. Engage with local artisans, savor culinary delights influenced by indigenous traditions, or learn about ancient traditions still in place today–expand your understanding of the Old Pueblo on your next visit with these activities. 


Who are Tucson’s Indigenous Communities?

The region’s first inhabitants settled in what we now call Tucson around 12,000 years ago, but it wasn’t until 300 to 1,500 AD that the Hohokam made Tucson the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in North America. Present-day inhabitants include the Tohono Oʼodham Nation and Pascua Yaqui Tribe, who have a long history with the Sonoran Desert. 

Two people tending to a garden bed surrounded by trees and bushes


Explore San Xavier del Bac Mission

Begin your cultural exploration by visiting the San Xavier Mission on the Tohono O’odham reservation. The Mission was created to serve the needs of the local community, the village of Wa:k (San Xavier District) on the Tohono O'odham reservation, as it still does today. Masses are held every day and visitors are welcome free of charge during open hours. 

Sunset at Mission San Xavier del Bac


For a more immersive experience, plan your trip during March, when the nation holds its annual Wa:k Pow Wow on church grounds. This event is the largest of its kind in the city and features arts and crafts, traditional foods, dancing, and more. Photographs are generally not permitted during sacred ceremonies, so be sure to ask for permission first.


Visit Tucson Museums

Visit the Yoemem Tekia Cultural Center & Museum to explore the history and culture of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe through art and artifact displays. Additionally, the Old Pascua Museum & Yaqui Culture Center offers a rich experience, inviting visitors to engage with the cultural traditions of these ancient people.

Just a 1.5 hour drive from downtown, visitors can explore the Tohono O'odham Nation Cultural Center & Museum. The permanent Tribal institution protects and preserves O’odham traditions and customs and works with elders within the community to promote understanding and respect for O’odham culture through educational programs and public outreach.

Though not exclusively a Native American museum, the Arizona State Museum at the University of Arizona is a key local authority with captivating exhibits featuring pottery and other indigenous artifacts. 


Take a Chance at the Casinos

For travelers seeking entertainment and a touch of luck, Tucson boasts two tribal-owned casinos that offer a unique gaming experience. Casino Del Sol Resort, Spa & Conference Center is operated by the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and offers fine dining at PY Steakhouse, entertainment at the 5,000-seat AVA Amphitheater, a top-notch golf experience at the Sewailo Golf Course, and a rejuvenating escape at the Hiapsi Spa and Fitness Center

Desert Diamond Casinos & Entertainment, owned by the Tohono O'odham Nation, features uncapped jackpots, poker, blackjack, high-stakes bingo, and slots. The casinos are also home to Monsoon Nightclub and a hotel where you can stay after a night of dancing.

Exterior of Tucson's Desert Diamond Casino. A long, curved building with desert landscaping lit with golden glowing lights against dark night sky


Take Home a Souvenir

Delve into the city's vibrant arts scene, where a variety of galleries and shops showcase authentic Native American crafts. 

Mac's Indian Jewelry presents exquisite pieces, from intricately designed silver bracelets to stunning turquoise necklaces, showcasing the artistry of Native American jewelry-making. La Zia Native Arts features a diverse collection, including traditional pottery, woven rugs, and contemporary Native American paintings, highlighting the cultural depth and artistic evolution of the region. At Morning Star Traders, authentic artifacts such as handcrafted textiles, pottery, and tribal art invite exploration, providing a comprehensive experience of the city's thriving Native American arts community. 


Culinary Adventures

Tucson's culinary landscape is deeply rooted in Native American traditions. In fact, Tucson earned the UNESCO City of Gastronomy designation due to its rich culinary narrative that focuses on heritage ingredients that recount a tale of early agriculture spanning over 4,000 years. 

Photo of hands holding a green pepper-like hooked fruit called a Devils Claw, a Native American harvest at Mission Garden


While many of the local restaurants feature these indigenous ingredients, Cafe Santa Rosa is the place to go for mouth-watering Native American Cuisine with a Tohono O'odham Influence. You can also find fry bread vendors outside the San Xavier mission. 


Learn About Ancient Traditions At Mission Garden

The historic Mission Garden, situated at the base of A Mountain in Tucson, serves as a representation of tribal communities across Southern Arizona. Recognized as Tucson's birthplace, this plot of land has witnessed cultivation for over 4,000 years. Functioning as a living agricultural museum, it embodies the food cultures of early nomadic tribes. Themed gardens within the museum showcase the food pathways and stewardship that sustained the region's original inhabitants. 

An indigenous family siiting and tending to a large patch of gourds. with one child holding a gourd up to his face. The 'A' on A mountain can be seen in the distance


Tucson beckons travelers to not merely visit but actively participate in the living story of Native American culture. Plan your visit today.