Arizona Indian Tribes

Arizona Indian Tribes make up 6.6% of Arizona’s population. The name “Arizona” is from the Tohono O’odham word Arizonac, later shortened to Al Shon by the spanish.

The Tohono O’odham translate this as ‘Place of Little Spring.’ The first Europeans to reach what is now Arizona encountered the Hopi, Papago, and Pima Indians.

The Apache did not move into the area until the 16th century.

There are 21 indian tribes in Arizona. Nineteen of these Arizona Indian tribes are federally recognized. Arizona state has the second highest total native american population in the United States.

Over 1/4 of the area of the state is reservation land. Nineteen tribes are members of the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona.

The ancient Arizona peoples, the Pre-Pueblos, commonly known as the Anazasi, settled in the high country. They built 800 room buildings and are known for their basketmaking.

The early Hohokam were gatherers, who then evolved into farmers. In farming, they dug the first irrigation canals in Arizona, some of which are still in existence today.

(Federal List Last Updated 5/16/16)

(Not recognized by the Federal Governemnt)



  • American Cherokee Confederacy
  • Arizona Cherokee Pioneers
  • Barrio Pascua – a village of Yaqui on the Arizona-Mexico border region.
  • San Juan S. Paiute
  • The United Cherokee Nation (UCN) – Western National Office. Also in Georgia.

There are many supposed Cherokee Clans organized in these areas, often calling themselves as “Cherokee Nation of …. Alabama, Alaska, Alberta, Arizona,Georgia, Nevada, Arkansas, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Connecticut, Cyprus, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Illinois (Chicago and Metropolis branches), Minnesota and Wyoming.


When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century they found the distribution of native peoples largely as it is today. The tribes native to Arizona are divided into three groups: the Uto-Aztecan, the Athapascan, and the Yuman.

Many other tribes can be found here, but they moved to Arizona from other locations. These include the Paiute from Utah and the Yaqui from Mexico.

Among the Uto-Aztecan tribes are the Hopi, the Pima, and the Papago.

The Hopi are a peace-loving people who have kept their culture intact due in large part to living in an isolated area.

The Pima and Papago are believed to be descendants of Hohokam farmers. The name Papago means “bean people”; however, in 1986, the Papago changed their name to Tohono O’odham, meaning “people of the desert.”

The Athapascans include the Apache and Navajo.

The Apache tribes include the Chiricahua, the Mescalero, the San Carlos, the Cibecue, and the White Mountain Apache.

Among their membership were famous chiefs such as Cochise, Victorio, Nana, and Geronimo. The Navajo live in northeastern Arizona. The entire Navajo reservation is located in parts of four states. Their tribal headquarters are located in Window Rock, Arizona.

Many early Spanish explorers asked the native people what they called themselves. In one case, the native thought the Spanish were asking the name of the chief’s son and so answered “Yuma.”

Thus the Yumans were misnamed, but the name carried forward. Among the Yumans are the Mohave, the Quechan, the Cocopah, the Maricopa, the Yavapai, the Hualapai, and the Havasupai.


Sobaipuri Indians of the Upper San Pedro River Valley, southeastern Arizona. Also called: Rsársavinâ, Pima name, signifying “spotted.”

Halchidhoma – belonged to the Yuman branch of the Hokan linguistic stock and are said to have spoken the same language as the Yuma tribe and to have been closely connected also with the Maricopa. Located at various points on the Colorado River near the mouth of the Gila. (See also California.)

Halyikwamai, also spelled Jallicumay, Quigyuma, Tlalliguamayas, Kikima – belonged to the Yuman linguistic stock, their dialect being reported as close to Cocopa and Kohuana. Located at various points on the Colorado River below the mouth of the Gila.

Kohuana, also known as Cajuenche, Cawina, and Quokim – Belonged to the Yuman branch of the Hokan linguistic stock, spoke the Cocopa dialect, and were also closely connected with the Halyikwamai.

Located on the east bank of the Colorado River below the mouth of the Gila, next to the Halyikwamai, and into southern California, next to the eastern Diegueno.

Pima, signifying “no” in the Nevome dialect and incorrectly applied through misunderstanding by the early missionaries. Also called: Â’-â’tam, own name, signifying “people,” or, to distinguish them from the Papago, Â’-â’tam â’kimûlt, “river people.”

Nashteíse, Apache name, signifying “live in mud houses.” Painyá, probably name given by Havasupai. Saikiné, Apache name, signifying “living in sand (adobe) houses,” also applied to Papago and Maricopa. Tex-pas, Maricopa name. Tihokahana, Yavapai name. Widshi iti’kapa, Tonto-Yuma name.

The Pima gave their name to the Piman linguistic stock of Powell, which is now recognized to be a subdivision of the great Uto-Aztecan stock, also including the Nahuatlan and Shoshonean families.

The tribes connected most intimately with the Pima were the Papago and the Quahatika, and after them the so-called Pima Bajo or Nevome of México.They were located in the valleys of the Gila and Salt Rivers.

Quahatika, also spelled Kohátk.The Quahatika belonged to the Piman division of the Uto-Aztecan stock, and were most closely related to the Pima, of which tribe they are said to have been a branch.They lived in the desert of southern Arizona, 50 miles south of the Gila River.

Sobaipuri, also called Rsársavinâ, Pima name, signifying “spotted.” The Sobaipuri were intimately connected with, if not a part of, the Papago, of the Piman division of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic stock.

They lived in the main and tributary valleys of the San Pedro and Santa Cruz Rivers, between the mouth of the San Pedro River and the ruins of Casa Grande, and possibly eastward of this area in southern Arizona.

Walapai. From the native word Xawálapáiya, “pine-tree folk” (fide J. P. Harrington). Also called: E-pa, by A. Hrdlicka (information, 1906), given as their own name. Gualiba, by Garcés in 1776 (Diary, p. 404, 1906); Yavapai name. Hawálapai, by Curtis (1907-9, vol. 2, p. 116). Jaguallapai, by Garcés in 1776 (Diary, p. 308, 1900). Matáveke-Paya, by Corbusier MS. p. 27. Meaning “people to the north” (?); Yavapai name. Oohp, by Ten Kate (1885, p. 160), Pima name. Páxuádo ámeti, by Gatschet (1886, p. 86), meaning “people far down the river.”

Yavapai name. Setá Koxniname, by Ten Kate (1884, p. 9), Hopi name. Täbkepáya—Gatschet (1883, p. 124), Yavapai name; abbreviated from Matáveke-Paya. Tiqui-Llapais, by Domenech (1860, vol. 1, p. 444). The Walapai belonged to the Yuman branch of the Hokan linguistic stock and were connected especially closely with the Havasupai, the Yavapai apparently standing next.

They were located on the middle course of the Colorado River, above the Mohave Indians, between Sacramento Wash and National Canyon and inland, extending south almost to Bill Williams Fork.

There were a number of subdivisions, including the Mata’va-kopai (north people) (the northwestern division);Soto’lve-kopai (west people) (the Cerbat Mountains and the country west to the Colorado); Ko’o’u-kopai (mesa people) (north central section);Nyav-kopai (east people) (east of the point where Truxton Canyon begins to cut its way down to Hualpai Valley); Hakia’ tce-pai (?) or Talta’l-kuwa (cane?) (about the Mohon Mountains); Kwe’va-kopai (south people); and the Hua’la-pai, Howa’laa-pai (pine people) (at the northern end of the Hualpai Mountains, extending in a rough half-circle from east to west.)

Yuma. Said to be an old Pima and Papago term for this tribe and in some cases the Kamia and Maricopa also (Forde, 1931). Also called: Cetguanes, by Venegas (1759). Chirumas, an alternative name given by Orozco y Berra (1964). Club Indians, by Emory (1848). Cuchan, or, strictly, Kwitcyána, own name. Dil-zhay’s, Apache name for this tribe and the Tonto and Mohave, signifying “red soil with red ants” (White, MS.) Garroteros, by Emory (1848). Guichyana, Chemehuevi name. Hatilshe’, same as Dil-zhay’s. Húkwats, Paiute name, signifying “weavers.” Kún, said to be Apache name for this tribe and the Tulkepaia. Wamakava, applied by Havasupai to Mohave and perhaps to this tribe also.

The Yuma were one of the chief tribes of the old Yuman linguistic stock, to which they have given their name, but their closest immediate relatives were the Maricopa and Halchidhoma.

The Yuman stock is now considered a part of the larger Hokan family.

They lived on both sides of the Colorado River next above the Cocopa, or about 50 or 60 miles from the mouth of the river, at and below the junction of the Gila River, Fort Yuma being in about the center of their territory. (See also California.)


25,000 BC – Indigenous cultures in Arizona, but they probably lived in the region as early as 25,000 B.C.

2000 BC – Indians introduce agriculture to Arizona.

1200 AD – Hopi village of Oraibi is founded. May be oldest American town where people have continuously lived.

500 AD–1450 – A later culture, the Hohokam (A.D. 500–1450), were pit dwellers who constructed extensive irrigation systems.

11th and 14th century -The Pueblo flourished in Arizona between the 11th and 14th century and built many of the elaborate cliff dwellings that still stand. The Apache and Navajo came to the area in c.1300 from Canada.


Anasazi – Four Corners area
Hohokam, or Ho:-ho:gam – As far north as the Valley of the Sun and as far south as Mexico.
Sinagua – Area around present-day Flagstaff.

The land that is present-day Arizona is one of the oldest inhabited areas in the United States. Arizona’s history began more than 12,000 years ago.

Little is known of the early people in Arizona as they left no written word.

Historians assume the first inhabitants came from Asia across a long land bridge in the Bering Strait created by receding polar ice.

Native Americas inhabited the area that is now Arizona many thousands of years before Europeans came to the region. The earliest settlements were those of the Hohokam, Anasazi, and Mogollon.

The Cochise people lived in this region from about 5,000 years ago to the early part of the first century. They were hunters, gatherers, and farmers who grew an early form of maize (corn) along with beans and squash. The Anasazi inhabited the high plateau region of northwestern Arizona. Their name was Navajo for “those who lived before.”

The tribe is the first known to abandon a nomadic lifestyle to build multi-room houses into caves. They also built circular buildings, or kiva, for ceremonial purposes.

Canyon de Chelly is the home of the Anasazi White House ruins. The Sinagua (without water) people descended from the main Anasazi tribe.

The people of the mountains in eastern Arizona were named Mogollon after an early Spanish colonial Governor of New Mexico, Juan Ignacia Mogollon.

The Mogollon were likely descendants of the Cochise, although their culture was more complex than the Cochise.

The Hohokam, a name derived from the Pima language meaning “ancient ones,” were farmers. They constructed an elaborate irrigation canal system as early as 500 A.D.

The Casa Grande ruins are monuments to the Hohokam way of life. The Anasazi and the Hohokam tribes reached the height of their civilization between 1100 and 1300 A.D. but by 1400 A.D., the Mogollon, Anasazi, and Hohokam no longer existed.

The disappearance of these people remains a mystery, but speculation of a prolonged drought may have reduced food supplies and dried farmland.


Sources of records on US Indian tribes

Arizona Native American Boarding Schools

Arizona Tribal Colleges


Article Index:

Places to visit native american culture exhibits in Arizona

Here is a list of places to visit in Arizona to learn about native american culture.

Visiting the Hopi Tribe

Hopi Villages are found at both the base and the top of the three mesas dominating the landscape. These mesas project to the north from the enormous Black Mesa formation like fingers on a giant hand.In addition to the mesas and villages, the Hopi people are internationally acclaimed as artisans.

Yavapai Nation offers cultural tour of tribal lands

The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation is offering a cultural heritage tour
through tribal lands.

Called “The Yavapai Experience,” the tour is being offered through one of
the nation’s commercial ventures, Fort McDowell Adventures.