Exploring Arizona's Native American heritage:
Today, Native American cultures are as essential to the character of Arizona as are the Grand Canyon and the golf courses of Phoenix and Tucson. The Navajo, the Hopi, the Apache, the Maricopa, the Tohono O'odham, the Hualapai, the Havasupai. These are just some of the Indian tribes that claim the deserts, mountains, and high plains of Arizona as their homelands. If you're interested in learning more about the state's original inhabitants, there are plenty of places where you can study tribal cultures and crafts. If it's ancient Indian ruins that most interest you, see the "How to Ruin a Good Vacation" itinerary.
The best place to begin an exploration of Arizona's native cultures is at Phoenix's Heard Museum. Within this nationally recognized museum, you'll find not only archaeological artifacts but also contemporary art. Together these collections chronicle the past and the present of the state's many tribes. Numerous festivals and demonstrations are also held here throughout the year.
Ancient petroglyph imagery has become ubiquitous in contemporary southwestern art and jewelry and on T-shirts and souvenirs. However, if you want to see the genuine artifact, visit the Deer Valley Rock Art Center, where you can see hundreds of petroglyphs, some of which date back 5,000 years. This center is located in the northwest corner of the Phoenix metro area.
Indian ruins abound throughout the state, and, in the middle of Phoenix, you can visit the ancient Pueblo Grande Museum & Cultural Park. Not far away, at the Desert Botanical Garden, you can also learn about the many plants traditionally utilized by Arizona tribes. You might even be able to try your hand at grinding some mesquite beans with a stone mortar and pestle.