The pre-colonial Indians of the American Southwest included the Mogollon, Hohokam, Anasazi (or "Cliff Dwellers"), and the Anasazi's Pueblo descendents. Some historians refer collectively to their mutual forebearers as the Paleo-Indians. A few scholars also believe that the Paleo-Indians arrived in the area between 10,000 and 9,000 b.c..
The Southwestern Indians began farming around 1500 b.c.. They grew corn, beans, and squash, and raised turkeys. Farming was difficult in the arid region, so they developed ways of irrigating the land. The Hohokam built a system of canals to carry water to their crops. The Anasazi developed techniques for dry farming. By 900 ad the various farming cultures were flourishing.
As settlers the Southwestern Indians crafted various conveniences for themselves—housewares, permanent homes, and roads. The Mogollon were skilled potters who made smooth clay pots and bowls, which they fired and painted with geometric designs and figures of animals and humans. The Hohokam were accomplished weavers of cotton cloth. The Anasazi produced various kinds of wicker containers and muralists. Southwestern Indians were also capable builders. They did not have beasts of burden; transportation was on foot, therefore, The Southwestern Indians built extensive road systems. They applied their construction skills to homebuilding as well. Living quarters were usually built above-ground using masonry techniques. Anasazi homes were carved out of the sides of cliffs and the walls of canyons.
The Apache and Navajo—descendants of the Anasazi—are also grouped as Southwestern Indians. These north woods groups arrived in the Southwest later and were very different from the earlier arrivals: they were predominately hunters and gatherers. They lived in tepees or brush shelters, and were fierce fighters who even raided the Pueblo settlements they encountered. By the time the Spaniards arrived (around 1540) both the Navajo and Apache were living in the Southwest. Unlike the Apache, Navajos adopted many Pueblo practices and also learned new ways from the Europeans.
When the Spaniards came to the region they unleashed drastic changes in the lives of Southwestern Indians. The Spaniards brought with them the first horses, mules, cattle, sheep, and hogs ever seen in the region. Intent on converting the native inhabitants to Christianity, the Spaniards established missions across the region. But the arrival of the Europeans also preceded the decline of Southwestern Indian culture. Combined with drought, the arrival of Europeans was responsible for the decline of the Southwestern Indian cultures by 1600. Many were killed in rebellions, others were subjugated, and some fled the region.
See also: Anasazi, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Paleo-Indians, Pueblo Indians, Southwestern Indians, Utah