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ETHNONYMS: Coconino, Kanina, Kokonino, Nation of the Willows, Supai

A Yuman-speaking American Indian group, the Havasupai, both past and present, have been located in Cataract Canyon in northwestern Arizona. Except in modern times, the Havasupai have never numbered more than about three hundred people.

In 1880 the U.S. government established a reservation for the Havasupai, but subsequently much of the land set aside was transferred to the Navajo, Hopi, and Whites. In 1974 some of this land was restored to the Havasupai. In 1980 those living on the 3,058-acre Havasupai Reservation in Cataract Canyon numbered 267.

The Havasupai were agriculturalists who cultivated maize, beans, squash and melons in irrigated fields. In addition, women gathered pine nuts, mesquite pods, honey, berries, and other wild foods and men hunted rabbits, antelope, deer, and mountain sheep. During the growing season from April to October the Havasupai settled alongside their fields at the canyon bottom and then after harvest ascended to the top of the canyon and followed a more nomadic hunting and gathering pattern of life. Trade with the Hopi, Walapai, Navajo, and Mohave were also an important part of their economy.

The Havasupai lived in bands composed of related but autonomous families and were led by a head chief, whose position tended to be inherited patrilineally and was filled by an individual of demonstrated bravery and wisdom. Religious leadership was provided by several types of shamans who were believed to have received special powers in their dreams. The Havasupai were strongly influenced by the Hopi, and this was especially evident in their religious ceremonies, which focused on planting and rain and involved prayer sticks and masked dancers.


Euler, Robert C. (1980). Grand Canyon Indians. Dillon: Western Montana College Foundation.

Hirst, Stephen (1976). Life in a Narrow Place. New York: David McKay.

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