Grand Canyon Human History

Human History

People have lived here for a very long time and Indian history goes back at least 4,000 years. The earliest known residents made distinctive willow twig figures of deer or sheep (some with miniature spears piercing them) that were found in caves in the Redwall Limestone in the 1930s. Anthropologists believe that the effigies were made as part of a ritual ceremony that was carried out before a hunt, to ask for the blessings of the animal spirits before taking their lives. The figurines were constructed by splitting willow twigs with a stone blade. The two halves of the split twig were then wrapped and twisted around each other to make the desired shape. Sometimes the finished piece was pierced with another piece of wood symbolizing that the animal had been struck by a spear or arrow, and killed. We call these people the Pinto Basin-Desert Culture and little else is known of them.

The Anasazi (ancestral Puebloans) moved into the Canyon about 500 AD. They made baskets and sandals and hunted deer, sheep and rabbits. They gathered pinon nuts and agave stalks. Eventually they made pottery, stored their food in granaries and lived in above-ground masonry dwellings. They built checkdams and irrigation structures and grew corn, beans and squash. More than 2,000 Anasazi sites have been recorded here and archaeologists continue to find more.

The Cohonina, originally from what is now west-central Arizona, settled on the South Rim around 700 AD but by 1150, a prolonged drought caused both the Anasazi and the Cohonina to abandon the area.The Cerbat migrated to the South Rim about 150 years later from the deserts of the lower Colorado River and lived in rock shelters and brush wickiups. They were the ancestors of the Pai people, the Havasupai and Hualapai, two tribes that live in the western end of the Grand Canyon today. These modern tribes had historical and agricultural ties to the area which became Grand Canyon National Park.

In 1540, the Spanish entered the area when Francisco Vasquez de Coronadodispatched one of his officers, Don Pedro de Tovar, to explore the Hopi villages in search of the legendary Seven Cities of Cibola (Gold) and report back to him in Zuni, New Mexico. When de Tovar returned, he spoke of a great river that the Hopis had described to him. Coronado sent Don Lopez de Cardenas to find the river and his expedition brought white explorers to the Grand Canyon for the first time. The Spaniards spent three days searching for a way to the river which they never found.

In 1776, during the American war for independence, a Franciscan padre named Francisco Tomas Garces traveled alone into Havasupai and Hopi country to spread the Word of God and, in the same year, Domínquez and Escalante (also Franciscan fathers) began their journey from Santa Fe in search of an overland route between New Mexico and California. They never saw the the Grand Canyon but they helped pioneer a route across the region that others followed.

Mountain men – fur trappers and traders – followed the Spanish and the US military followed them. In 1857, Lieutenant Joseph Ives and his party headed upstream in a steamboat to test the Colorado River’s navigability. He was accompanied by John Newberry, the first geologist to study the Canyon. At Black Canyon, near the spot where Hoover Dam stands today, the steamboat struck a rock and was abandoned. The party had traveled 350 miles.

The Ives party continued to explore on foot but Ives was pessimistic about the Grand Canyon's prospects. "Ours has been the first, and will doubtless be the last, party of whites to visit this profitless locality. It seems intended by nature that the Colorado River, along the greater portion of its lonely and majestic way, shall be forever unvisited and undisturbed."

John Wesley Powell was the most famous geologist to visit the Canyon. In 1869, Powell and nine men left Green River, Wyoming in four wooden boats and began their historic journey down the uncharted stretch of the Colorado. The one-armed Civil War veteran climbed cliffs, took scientific measurements and made maps. He returned in 1871 for another trip down the river and wrote a classic journal along the way. His expeditions filled in one of the last remaining blank spots on the map of the United States.

After Powell successful river expeditions, many others attempted to run the Grand Canyon but most of their efforts were ill-fated. Robert Brewster Stanton’s expedition hoped to determine the feasibility of constructing a railroad along the bottom. He lacked equipment, was not well-organized and three members of his party drowned.

We have an unknown distance yet to run; an unknown river yet to explore. What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls rise over the river, we know not. Ah, well! We may conjecture many things. The men talk as cheerfully as ever; jests are bandied about freely this morning; but to me the cheer is somber and the jests are ghastly.John Wesley Powell Exploration of the Colorado River and Its Canyons

Adventurers came next. Men like John Hance, William Bass and Pete Berry to mine copper and asbestos. Mining and transporting ore was difficult and Grand Canyon mining was never very successful. But, some of the miners saw greater potential in visitors and were responsible for the first tourist facilities like Bass Camp and Berry Grand View Hotel. Artists and writers spread the word.Grand View Hotel.JPG (20594 bytes)

On September 18,1901, the first train arrived at the South Rim. The journey from Williams took three hours and passengers paid $7.50 for the roundtrip fare. In 1905, at a cost of $250,000, the Santa Fe Railway opened the El Tovar Hotel to provide overnight accommodations for visitors. Hopi House, Babbitt’s Store and Verkamp’s Curios followed and the Grand Canyon became a destination for tourists.

President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed it a national monument in 1908 and President Woodrow Wilson made it a national park in 1919. President Gerald Ford signed an act in 1975 which almost doubled the size of the park. On January 11, 2000, President Bill Clinton created the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument adjacent to its North Rim.

The Kolb Brothers

This place exerts a magnetic spell. The sky is there above it, but not of it. Its being is apart; its climate; its light; its own. The beams of the sun come into it like visitors. Its own winds blow through it, not those of outside, where we live. The River streams down its mysterious reaches, hurrying ceaselessly; sometimes a smooth sliding lap, sometimes a falling, broken wilderness of billows and whirlpools. Above stand its walls, rising through space upon space of silence. They glow, they gloom, they shine." – Ellsworth L. Kolb

In 1911, Ellsworth and Emery Kolb floated down the Colorado and made the first film of the Grand Canyon, a flickering sepia-toned feature of the Inner Gorge, rapids and all. It took six weeks to reach the Bright Angel Trail from their starting point on the Green River. After a brief stop, they continued on to Needles, California where their fantastic voyage ended several weeks later.

The Kolbs arrived from Pennsylvania in 1901 and set-up a makeshift photography studio on the edge of the South Rim. They planned to take photos of tourists on the Bright Angel Trail. When they were refused permission to build by the United States forester who controlled the Canyon at that time, they struck a deal with Ralph Cameron to construct a tent studio on his land. Ralph and his brother Niles controlled the Bright Angel Trail and charged a $1.00 toll to hikers and mule riders who wanted to use it. Eventually, the Kolbs convinced Cameron to give them a piece of his land where they constructed the studio you see today.

The brothers took photographs of mule riders at the trailhead as they began their descent down the trail. Then they hiked down to Indian Gardens where fresh water was available to process the film. Emery developed the photographs and ran back up the trail to meet the returning mule riders.

Emory and Ellsworth eventually parted after a disagreement over marketing the film of their Grand Canyon river voyage and never reconciled. They tossed a coin to determine the fate of the photography business and studio. Ellsworth lost and moved to California. Emory lived on to the ripe old age of 95 and is buried in the Grand Canyon Pioneers Cemetery. He tookhislast raft trip down the river two years before his death.

Today, the Grand Canyon Association manages the old Kolb Brothers Studio where you'll find exhibits and a good bookstore. Fred Harvey

Fred Harvey immigrated from London, England and followed the railroad west to Topeka, Kansas. He eventually came to be known as the "Civilizer of the West." In partnership with the Santa Fe Railway, he introduced many tourists to the American Southwest.

His first restaurant was the lunchroom in the Santa Fe Railway’s Topeka, Kansas depot. Eventually he built a world-famous collection of hotels, restaurants, dining cars, newsstands and other hospitality enterprises. He helped make travel in the United States safe, comfortable and fun and set a standard of excellence by consistently providing fine food in an elegant setting in each and every Harvey House. His most famous establishment was the Grand Canyon's El Tovar Hotel.

Using the railway's ice cars, he brought fresh fish, fruits, vegetables and even ice cream from his own dairies to every stop on the rail line. Spring water was shipped to areas where local water supplies were unsatisfactory and menus were arranged to allow passengers to have different foods at every stop along their route. Before Harvey, railroad food was usually bad and sometimes dangerous.

Employing many Native American artists, Harvey actively collected fine pottery, basketry, textiles, kachina dolls, and beadwork, which were sold to major collectors and American and European museums. His company helped create an image of the Southwest that still endures.

He employed fine architects including Charles Whittlesey, who designed the El Tovar, and Mary Colter, the Grand Canyonbest known architect. She designed Hopi House, Hermit Rest, the Lookout Studio, Desert View Watchtower and Phantom Ranch& cabins. She also designed Harvey Houses and hotels along the Santa Fe Railway route west including the Alvarado in Albuquerque, New Mexico and recently renovated La Posada in Winslow, Arizona.

The Harvey Girls were an important part of Hospitality by Harvey. They were women who were recruited via newspaper ads from towns and cities across the United States. Harvey sought young women of good moral character with at least an eighth grade education who displayed good manners, clear speech and a neat appearance to work in his restaurants.

Each Harvey Girl was given a six-month contract and a rail pass to get to their company-chosen destination. While under their initial contract, each agreed not to marry and to abide by all Harvey rules. They worked from morning until night, seven days a week. In return, each girl was given a room and board, $30.00 a month in spending money, and, once a year, a rail pass which would take them anywhere the Santa Fe Railway went.

A Harvey Girl's work day revolved around the arrival and departure of the trains. Busboys would sound a dinner gong as passengers were arriving at the station and then lead them into the dining room where the Harvey Girls took over. The number of passengers expected for dinner had been telegraphed ahead so that adequate preparations could be made. The menu was fixed and the price was $0.75 per person. For drinks, each diner had a choice of coffee, tea, milk or iced tea. The beverage choice was relayed to the drink server by the position of the cup and saucer in front of each patron.

Many Harvey Girls worked for the Fred Harvey Company for decades. Others stayed on in the Southwest after their contracts had expired often marrying ranchers, miners or railroad men from the Santa Fe. Since they needed to work, they were often seen as socially inferior and morally suspect by many of their early 20th century eastern counterparts . Nevertheless, many became founding members of the small communities which sprang up along the rails. These women and the Santa Fe Railway served as links between America and its expanding frontier.

Xanterra Parks and Resorts handles hospitality at the Canyon today and they do a good job under difficult conditions. The El Tovar Hotel is where they shine right down to the "Harvey Girl" who places a card with this following message on every bed, every night.

Indian Americans

The Haualapai, Havasupai, Hopi, Kaibab-Paiute and Navajo tribes all have an interest in the Canyon and control land in and around it. Recently, these tribes have had an opportunity to participate in discussions regarding the future of the park. This represents a major change and a significant improvement over past practices when the Indian residents of the area were largely ignored and often mistreated.

The Hualapai are developing Grand Canyon West at the western end of the Grand Canyon and hope to create a major tourist destination. They sell permits to hunters, campers and Colorado River runners and make fine baskets. This remote area is still relatively unvisited.

The Havasupai are often referred to as "The People of the Blue Green Water." The name also means "The People Who Live at the Place Which is Green." Like the Hualapai, they live at the western end of the Canyon where their remote home alongside Havasu Creek has been a tourist destination for years. It is world-famous for the hospitality of the Havasupai people and it mineral-laden turquoise waters and waterfalls. Ride a mile down the trail to the peaceful village of Supai. The tribe is known for basketry and beadwork and their most famous annual event is the Peach Festival in August.

The creation of Grand Canyon National Park protected the land but prevented the Havasupai from using their traditional inner-canyon lands for agriculture. One of the Havasupai men who farmed at Indian Gardens on the Bright Angel Trail was known as Captain Burro. When he was forced from his home in 1928, he looked back from the rim and wept. He died the next year, his wife died one year later.

Hopi reservation is east of the Canyon. The Hopi are traditional people and their reservation is concentrated in small villages on and at the base of Black Mesa. They are expert dry-farmers who grow corn and other foods. The Hopi are surrounded by the vast Navajo reservation and bitterness between the two tribes regarding ancestral rights to specific lands lingers despite the official resolution of the issue. The Hopi are renowned for their fine silverwork, pottery and hand-carved katsina dolls. With New Mexico pueblo people, they are the descendents of the Hisatsinom, also known as the Anasazi. Visit www.nau.edu/~hcpo-p/ to learn more about the Hopi. For more information, contact the Second Mesa Cultural Center at (520) 734-2401.The Kaibab-Paiute are also basketmakers and they live north of the Canyon adjacent on the Arizona Strip, adjacent to Pipe Springs National Monument. The remote and rugged Arizona Strip is now part of the newly created Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. Contact the Kaibab Paiute Tribe Cultural Office at (520) 643-6041.

The Navajo Reservation is located east of the Canyon. With 16-million acres, it is the largest of any North American tribe. The Navajo are famous for fine rugs and silver and turquoise jewelry. Like the Hopi, they are also known for their enduring culture. Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly, Rainbow Bridge and Window Rock are some of Navajoland’s attractions.Visit www.navajo.org to learn more about the Navajo.

Rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon is a terrific way to see it and a good choice for people who aren’t ready to hike it. Like the mule trip down the Bright Angel Trail, it is the experience of a lifetime.

Map of Arizona.jpg (55174 bytes)

Map of Arizona


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Map of the reservations and Four Corners 


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