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Scottsdale Celebrates and Embraces its Native Roots

Since Scottsdale was founded in the late 1800s, the city has treasured a close relationship with its American Indian roots. Arizona is home to 22 American Indian tribes, the largest of which are the Navajo and Tohono O’odham nations. Although each tribe is unique in terms of its traditions, all are proudly united by their heritage, which plays an influential role in Arizona’s past and current development. From shopping for American Indian art and artifacts to visiting museums and nearby communities, American Indian cultural activities flourish in Scottsdale, a community that celebrates and embraces its historic past.

COMBINING TRADITION WITH ECONOMIC GROWTH

Two American Indian tribes, the Pima and Maricopa, comprise the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community (SRP-MIC). At Talking Stick: A Cultural and Entertainment Destination Area, past and present are stitched together and put on display in the nation’s successful business ventures, including Talking Stick Resort. The resort’s cultural center also showcases a 100-piece collection of pottery and distinguished artwork from the two tribes, and is home to a permanent exhibition of historic photographs that date as far back as 1880.

Besides these tributes to Pima and Maricopa history, Talking Stick Resort’s amenities include a rejuvenating open-air spa, numerous restaurants, a coffee shop, cigar and wine bar, and an upscale dining experience on the top level complete with 360-degree views of Scottsdale and its surrounding Sonoran Desert. A showroom for live entertainment seats more than 2,000 people and a separate venue is an ideal destination for gaming. With adherence to the culture of the SRP-MIC, this resort features cultural significance in the design and exhibits throughout the property. And located adjacent to the resort is Talking Stick Golf Club, a top golf destination managed by Arnold Palmer Golf Management that offers two courses designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.

In 2011, SRP-MIC partnered with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies to build a new baseball stadium for Cactus League Spring Training. Salt River Fields at Talking Stick is the first Major League Baseball spring training facility to be built on reservation land in the United States. The multipurpose complex includes an 11,000-seat stadium, 12 practice fields, league clubhouses and team training facilities.

New to the area in 2016 is the Odysea Aquarium, which is coined as the largest aquarium in the Southwest. It promises a high-tech, high-entertainment, oceanic adventure with more than 500 species of marine life in a 16-acre complex. The aquarium will join the likes of other attractions at OdySea in the Desert, including Butterfly Wonderland, the largest butterfly atrium in North America, as well as Octane Raceway, an indoor and outdoor kart racing venue, and Topgolf Scottsdale at Riverwalk, which hosts a variety a variety of golf games using microchip golf balls.  

Down the road from OdySea in the Desert, visitors can delve into the heritage of the ancient Hohokam tribe at the Huhugam Ki Museum. Its collection of baskets, pottery, photos and articles tell the story of the people who have inhabited the land. If you time it right, you might just see a demonstration of Pima basketry or Maricopa pottery in progress.  

Just east of Scottsdale lies the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, a parcel of land that formerly was the ancestral territory of the once nomadic Yavapai people, who hunted and gathered food in a vast area of Arizona's desert lowlands. Today, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation is home to the We-Ko-Pa Resort & Conference Center (www.wekoparesort.com). The resort incorporates the We-Ko-Pa name, meaning “Four Peaks” in Yavapai to complement the spectacular mountain scenery around the resort.

Ahnala, the onsite restaurant, is made of concrete obtained from the Yavapai’s very own sand and gravel operation, and Yavapai school children created glass windows that are part of a mural inside. Many different areas of the resort contain the pattern of traditional Yavapai basket weaves, including the resort’s china, wallpaper and carpet in the guestrooms. The windows are even offset and spaced unevenly, reflecting this same weave.

An abundance of outdoor activities surround We-Ko-Pa Resort. Play a round of golf on one of We-Ko-Pa Golf Club’s (www.wekopa.com) 18-hole award-winning courses. The Saguaro Course, also designed by Coore and Crenshaw, was named “The Best Course You Can Play” by Golf Magazine. When finished, head to Fort McDowell Adventures (www.fortmcdowelladventures.com) for cowboy games, rodeos, horseback riding or a Jeep, Segway or Tomcar tour through the historic scenery of the community. There’s even an authentic Southwestern cattle drive for the truly adventurous! Fort McDowell Adventures also offers The Yavapai Experience. This one-of-a-kind cultural heritage tour shares the story of the Yavapai people with visitors on ancestral land during a hike led by a professional guide with opportunities to meet Yavapai tribal members. The tour is available to groups with a minimum of 10 people, and reservations with Fort McDowell Adventures are required.

EXPERIENCE NATIVE CULTURE THROUGH THE ARTS

Internationally acclaimed Heard Museum in nearby Phoenix is one of the best places to experience the varied cultures and art of American Indians in the Southwest. In particular, the museum’s exhibit, “HOME: Native People in the Southwest” is a must-see. This exhibition focuses on the importance of family, community, land and language in American Indian culture. Also visit “Remembering Our Indian School Days: The Boarding School Experience,” an ongoing, powerful exhibit with first-person recollections and memorabilia from boarding schools American Indian children were forced to attend.

At the Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park, visitors experience American Indian architecture by walking through a Hohokam Indian ruin and exploring the archaeological site’s interpretive trail. Inside the museum, walk through reconstructed homes at the Hohokam Houses exhibit and view a recreation of the Hohokam’s canal system, which served as the original groundwork for the Scottsdale area’s canal system of today.

Every January through March, the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall in downtown comes alive with American Indian music, dance, art and traditional foods as part of Native Trails, presented by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and produced by the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. These free noontime festivals dedicated to exploring the rich and varied cultures of American Indian tribes include musical performances with traditional instruments such as flutes, gourds and drums, while the tribal dances are performed by members of various regional tribes.

Scottsdale is one of the best places in the country to buy authentic American Indian jewelry and crafts. View artists at work and buy directly from American Indians at family owned Chief Dodge Indian Jewelry & Fine Arts or browse through large selections of the finest handmade goods from renowned artisans at Territorial Indian Arts. At the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort &Spa at Gainey Ranch, guests can consult with Native American jewelry artists and purchase one-of-kind pieces in silver overlay, sand-casting and repousse jewelry during holidays.

CULTURAL CONSERVATION

For a real hands-on experience with Native culture, visit the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort’s Native American Learning Center. The center is designed to provide an environment that engages, educates and also entertains resort guests and visitors. The experience highlights day-to-day life on the Hopi and Navajo nations. Learn about American Indian history, culture and teachings through display featuring jewelry textiles, pottery, and ceremonial Katsina dolls and carvings. The resort also has an art collection highlighted by a life-size bronze gahn dancer and Cliff Dweller, a sculpture rendered in papier-mâché over cedar wood by Clyde Connell that evokes the imagery of the Southwest. Explore American Indian culture further through song and dance during Friday night performances in the Fountain Court.

PAMPER YOURSELF WITH INDIGENOUS INGREDIENTS

Centuries ago, American Indians used local plants, cacti and herbs in their healing practices as they believed these fruits of the Earth possessed special energies. Today, many Scottsdale spas incorporate this use of indigenous elements into their treatments. Well & Being Spa at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess offers the Havasupai Falls Rejuvenation, a tempting two-hour experience. Named after the American Indian tribe located in Northwestern Arizona, it begins with a body exfoliation of ultra-fine desert salts infused with indigenous essential oils and warm bath of herbal foaming bath salts. An application of rich jojoba body butter follows to prepare the skin for a massage with hot riverbed stones.

The Adobe Clay Purification Treatmentat The Spa at Camelback Inn uses pure red adobe clay and herbs found in the Arizona desert, such as sage and juniper. A Southwestern-inspired soap and cactus fiber cloth is used during a Vichy shower to remove the clay.

Spa at Boulders Resort & Spa offers multiple treatments originating from American Indian healing practices, including its signature Turquoise Wrap, which is based on the belief that turquoise is a protective stone and creates a sense of peace and well-being.

Traditionally used to heal the farmer, hunter and weary traveler, the Peaceful Healingmassage therapy at Talking Stick Resort fills raw Pima cotton poultices with steaming desert herbs to bring on a state of rest. Rhythmic pressure is applied along energy pathways of the body, offering renewed feelings of vitality and balance, finished off with a soothing massage of warm reviving oils.