Grand Classroom

Native Americans were the first to enjoy the canyon, inhabiting the areas surrounding it. The Anasazi, ancestral to the Pueblo, established themselves at Grand Canyon by A.D. 500. They lived in semi-subterranean dwellings. By around A.D. 1000, they had developed a communal culture that can best be seen through the ruins at Tusayan Pueblo. Eventually, drought forced the Pueblo to move and after another century and a half, another native group, the Cerbat, moved into the area and their descendants, the Hualapai and the Havasupai tribes still inhabit the region today. The most recent indigenous group to occupy the Grand Canyon area is the Navajo who settled in the area around the beginning of the 15th century. Their resourcefulness and willingness to adapt allowed them to endure years of conflicts with European settlers and other native tribes. Today they occupy a reservation adjacent to Grand Canyon.

Europeans entered the Grand Canyon region as early as the 1540s when members of Francisco de Coronado’s expedition scoured the area in search of riches to return to Spain. The first American to explore the region was an army Lieutenant named Joseph Ives who, upon surveying the area, deemed it unprofitable and useless. However, it was another army officer, Major John Wesley Powell who braved the Colorado River with his expedition and is credited with truly discovering the Canyon. Powell later went on to found the United States Geological Survey.

Grand Canyon grew in popularity as prospectors staked claims there hoping to mine riches many others found in the west. The hostile environment and little true success forced many of them to leave, but their stories and descriptions helped pave the way for tourism to flourish in the area. One such tourist was Theodore Roosevelt who, thanks to the 1906 Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities, changed Grand Canyon’s status to national monument in 1908. By 1919, Congress upgraded that status to allow Grand Canyon to become the United States seventeenth national park.

By 1979, Grand Canyon became recognized as a World Heritage Site, marking its inimitable status among world landmarks. Today, Grand Canyon offers a variety of tourist activities, attracting visitors from all over the world. It is home to a distinct blend of history and culture, as well as the habitat for extraordinary array of plants and animals.

More information:

Annerino, John; People of legend; Native Americans of the Southwest. San Francisco: Sierra Clubb Books, 122 pp.

Atencio, Ernest; 1996; 17.32; Havasupai traditional and historical use of the Grand Canyon village area; literature review and annotated bibliography. Report prepared for Grand Canyon/Havasupai Oral History Project, Grand Canyon National Park, 38 pp. + unpaginated appendices A-N.

Parker, Kathleene; 1991; 17.311The only true people; a history of the Native Americans of the Colorado Plateau. Thunder Mesa Publishing, 84 pp. Mon. 8: 6-14

How the Canyon Became Grand : A Short History / Stephen J. Pyne. New York: Viking, 1998.

John Wesley Powell : Voyage of Discovery / text by Dan Murphy ; photography by Gary Ladd. Las Vegas, NV: KC Publications, c1991.