New Cultural Center and Book to Document the History of Arizona’s Hualapai Tribe

Earlier this year, the Hualapai Native American tribe celebrated the opening of a cultural center in the Hualapai Nation’s capital, Peach Springs, Arizona. Several hundred people were in attendance, including guests from other Native American tribes. Dancing, drumming, and singing accompanied the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The center will be a place that preserves the Hualapai culture, and educates the Hualapai and visitors alike about the tribe’s unique history. The two-story building features a library, laboratory space, and office space and is open weekdays, 8 a.m. through 5 p.m.

The cultural center “reinforces being productive, teaching language, cultural arts, and having facilities for children to learn traditional practices,” said Director of the Hualapai Department of Culture Loretta Jackson-Kelly. “We want to carry on this momentum of instilling in our children their cultural identity. … We still survive,” she said, “Our aspirations for the future include taking the past and filtering it through today.”

The Hualapai people also collaborated with author Jeffrey Shepherd to draft the first public history of the tribe to be published in 30 years. “We Are an Indian Nation” was more than 10 years in the making. Shepherd joined the Hualapai Nation in May to celebrate the book’s release with a lecture, reading, and book-signing at the Hualapai Cultural Center. Over the process of researching and writing the book, Shepherd says he and Hualapai developed a shared story. “Somewhere between my own archival research, interviews with and input from Hualapais, and numerous outside reviewers, the narrative that has emerged is both mine and theirs,” he says. “Although no single book could come close to representing the full history and the achievements of this community, I hope that the book provides at least a glimpse into the voices and agency of the Hualapai people.”

Tourism is the Hualapai’s primary source of jobs and revenue, through which they hope to reverse the problems brought on by more than a century of social and economic hardship. They run the Grand Canyon Resort Corporation, which includes Grand Canyon West, the Hualapai River Runners whitewater rafting tours, and the Hualapai Lodge. These operations have helped fund a Boys and Girls Club, a Head Start program, and other social services for the Hualapai tribe.

 

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