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Native American Lifeways

Where to experience Native American lifeways
Archaeological sites with interpretive trails and outdoor exhibits include Romero Ruin at Catalina State Park, and in Tucson at the Hardy Site at Fort Lowell Park, Julian Wash Cultural Park, Vista del Rio Archaeology Park, and Tucson Origins Heritage Park.

Lectures and other local events related to the ancient cultures of this region are held during Arizona Archaeology Month. Tohono O'odham baskets and other crafts can be purchased at the San Xavier del Bac Market and the annual Southwest Indian Art Fair at the Arizona State Museum.

Corn, tepary beans, squashes, and other traditional Native crops can be purchased at the San Xavier District Co-op Farm. Native American dancing, drumming, and singing are showcased at the American Indian Heritage Powwow and Craft Fair, Indian America New Years Competition Powwow, Native American Heritage Month Powwow, and Wa:k Powwow.

The Yaqui Easter Ceremonies in the Old Pascua neighborhood in Tucson feature a week of public events that include masked dancers and traditional music.

  Photo courtesy of Murray Bolesta/
Photo courtesy of Murray Bolesta/

Check out our Heritage Experiences map to see where else you can experience Native American lifeways in the Santa Cruz Valley.   
Click here for heritage day trip itineraries!

Native American Lifeways

A series of prehistoric cultures flourished in this region between the end of the last Ice Age and the beginning of Spanish Colonial activities in the late 1600s. These prehistoric peoples were the area’s original farmers and created the first canals, pottery, and villages in the Southwest. This valley has been part of the territory of the Tohono O'odham (People of the Desert) since prehistoric times, and groups of the Yaqui (Yoeme) tribe of western Mexico arrived here in several waves beginning in the early 1800s.

In and around Tucson, artifacts and exhibits about prehistoric cultures of the Santa Cruz Valley can be found at the Arizona State Museum and the Arizona Historical Society Museum.

None of the existing National Heritage Areas have a theme related to Native American history and cultural traditions. Such a theme is central to the long history of this region, and is unique among National Heritage Areas. Like many regions of the western U.S., the Santa Cruz Valley has vibrant Native American communities with deep roots in the region. Celebration of the cultural contributions of Native Americans to the story of this nation is very appropriate and overdue, and the proposed Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area provides an opportunity. 

Read about the Native American Lifeways theme in the feasibility study.


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