The Havasupai people (Havasupai: Havsuw’ Baaja) are an American Indian tribe who have lived in the Grand Canyon for at least the past 800 years.[1] Havasu means “blue-green water” and pai “people”.[2]
Located primarily in an area known as Cataract Canyon, this Yuman-speaking population once laid claim to an area the size of Delaware.[3] In 1882, however, the tribe was forced by the federal government to abandon all but 518 acres of its land. A silver rush and the Santa Fe Railroad in effect destroyed the fertile land. Furthermore, the inception of the Grand Canyon as a national park in 1919 pushed the Havasupai to the brink, as their land was consistently being used by the National Park Service. Throughout the 20th century, the tribe used the US judicial system to fight for the restoration of the land. In 1975, the tribe succeeded in regaining approximately 185,000 acres of their ancestral land with the passage of the Grand Canyon National Park Enlargement Act.[4]
As a means of survival, the tribe has turned to tourism, attracting thousands of people annually to its streams and waterfalls.