People have lived at Grand Canyon for thousands of years. Throughout time, they found shelter, food, and water to survive. Artifacts, objects left behind from past cultures, give scientists clues about how people lived in the past. People still visit, work, and live at Grand Canyon today.
Studying Ancient Cultures
Archaeologists study clues from past cultures. At Grand Canyon, they have found ancient pottery, stone houses, tools, and other artifacts that tell a story about people who lived there long ago.
The lives of prehistoric people at Grand Canyon were different than our lives today. Drinking water did not come from a faucet. Grocery stores did not exist.
Prehistoric people used objects from nature to collect food and and water, and to make clothing, shelter, and tools. They found everything they needed at the canyon.
Located three miles west of Desert View, Tusayan Ruin provides a look into the lives of the ancestral Puebloan people who called Grand Canyon "home" 800 years ago.
2 minutes, 46 seconds
Basketmakers, 1,300 to 3,000 years ago
Basketmakers wove baskets and shoes from the fibers of yucca plants. They lived in rock shelters and pithouses partly dug into the ground. Basketmakers were the first farmers in the Southwest. They hunted bighorn sheep, grew corn, and collected pine nuts.
Archaic, 3,000 to 9,000 years ago
Archaic people hunted and gathered plants. They made stone tools and rock paintings called pictographs. Hunters sculpted twigs into animal shapes, called split-twig figurines, and left them in Grand Canyon caves.
Paleo-Indians, 9,000 to 13,000 years ago
The earliest humans known to migrate through Grand Canyon, Paleo-Indians, used spears with sharp tips called Clovis and Folsom points to hunt Ice Age animals, like saber-toothed cats and wooly mammoths.
Some of the oldest and longest lasting images that humans made in the Southwest are mysterious markings and pictures picked or painted on cliffs, alcoves, and boulders. These images are generally referred to as Rock Art, but are more a type of communication than art. Perhaps they should be called Rock Writings instead, as they communicate culturally significant ideas and messages.
3 minutes, 54 seconds
The Tribes of Today
Natives American culture thrives in and around Grand Canyon today. While the lives of today's tribes are much different than those of their ancestors, traditions have been passed down from generation to generation. The tribes enjoy parts of modern culture, and they have kept many of their traditions alive, such as ceremonies, music, food, and crafts. Together with the National Park Service, they help to care for Grand Canyon.
The Havasupai live in the last remaining tribal village inside the canyon. Navajo, Southern Paiute, and Hualapai communities lie along the edge, or rim, of the canyon. Hopi, Zuni, and Apache also live nearby. These people still consider Grand Canyon a sacred place.
The Desert View area has been used as a gathering place for thousands of years. Visitors can see a glimpse of the ancient past at the Tusayan Ruin and Museum. The Desert View Watchtower, is modeled after the architecture of the Ancestral Puebloan people of the Colorado Plateau. Today Desert View represents the physical and cultural gateway from Grand Canyon National Park to the Navajo and Hopi reservations.
Life at the canyon changed a lot within the next few hundred years. Ancient tribes gradually moved away, but continued to visit. Many modern-day Native American tribes descended from those ancient tribes and still consider the canyon important to them today.
With help from Native Americans, Europeans began to explore the canyon in 1540. They did not settle there because they found it hard to survive.
In the late 1800s, prospectors came to search for gold and copper. They found copper, but most of them decided to make a living from tourism (people visiting the canyon) instead.
Park ranger Patrick Gamman joins ranger Nicole DeLuca for a visit to the final resting place for many of Grand Canyon's earliest pioneers.
5 minutes, 47 seconds
The first European-American settlers built homes, roads, stores, camps, and trails on the South Rim. Visitors came a long way to see the canyon, often traveling for days by horse and buggy.
Life became easier when the railroad arrived in 1901. The train carried water, food, supplies, and people.
The Making of a National Park
Many people have worked to protect Grand Canyon, including U.S. Presidents and workers in the U.S. Government and United Nations. President Benjamin Harrison first protected the canyon in 1893 by renaming it Grand Canyon Forest Reserve. In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt visited the canyon. He designated it a national monument in 1908. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson made Grand Canyon a national park to protect the land and the resources within it, managed by the National Park Service. The United Nations declared the park a World Heritage Site in 1979. This name has helped the canyon become famous worldwide.
Today, more than 6 million visitors a year make their way to Grand Canyon, and in turn, become part of Grand Canyon's history books.
Photographers Emery and Ellsworth Kolb helped turn the Grand Canyon into a national icon. They built Kolb Studio, one of the earliest tourist destinations on the South Rim. The brothers began to take photographs of the mule riders from a small toll shack on the Bright Angel Trail. The toll shack would later become today's five story home, theater and photo studio built right on the edge of the canyon! The studio was used to document the trips of visitors and create imagery of Grand Canyon for 75 years.