PHOENIX (May 14, 2009) – Travelers today are searching for vacations that offer more than just sandy beaches and sunshine. They are looking for experiences where they can discover firsthand a region's customs, traditions, cuisine, and music. With more Tribal Nations than other state in the country, Arizona offers visitors the opportunity to explore Native American culture in the most intimate and authentic of ways.
HOTELS AND RESORTS
The Moenkopi Legacy Inn (www.ExperienceHopi.com) is the first hotel to be built on Hopi tribal land in 50 years. Scheduled to open in September 2009, the Legacy Inn will feature 100 guestrooms including five uniquely designed suites, a salt water swimming pool, conference center and an outdoor performance plaza. This project will create long-term employment opportunity for tribal members and the framing crew that is currently working seven days a week to build the hotel is more than 90% Native American. The hotel will offer, through authorized tour guides, private guided tours to Hopi villages including Oraibi, Sipaulovi, and Walpi as well as Dawa Park – a site with more than 10,000 rock art petroglyphs.
Opening this past December, The VIEW Hotel (www.MonumentValleyView.com) is the first hotel to open inside Monument Valley and is the first hotel ever built on Navajo Tribal Park land, in the very first Tribal Park ever established. The VIEW Hotel is 100% family owned and operated by Armanda Ortega of the Kiy`anníí (Towering House) Clan. Every guestroom in the 90-room hotel has a view directly facing the iconic Mittens and the exterior of the hotel is from a color palate of the red earth that surrounds the area. The hotel is an environmentally friendly design with a low contour that conforms to the mesa overlooking the valley. The VIEW goes beyond what have become standard eco-friendly building practices using low-flow water devices, extra insulation, windows with energy efficient values, and fluorescent lighting.
The Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa (www.wildhorsepass.com) is Arizona’s only Native American-owned, GEOGreen designated luxury resort. The resort boasts 500 culturally-themed rooms, 36-holes of Troon® Golf, the Aji spa, Koli, an onsite equestrian center and the resort’s signature restaurant Kai. Conveniently located 11 miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on the Gila River Indian Community, the resort offers a recreational and inspirational experience never before available in a resort setting. Aji, meaning “Sanctuary” in the Pima language, is one of two Arizona Native American spas and one of only seven spas in the state to earn the Mobil Four-Star Award. Aji offers the only truly authentic Native American spa menu in existence. The Indigenous Collection features treatments and activities designed and practiced by Aji’s Pima and Maricopa Cultural Care Takers. Each cultural offering is subjected to an extensive approval process by Tribal Elders to ensure authenticity and respect of sacred doctrines. The ancient Pima and Maricopa cultures are also showcased throughout the spa in design elements, artwork, architecture and shared legends.
Guests staying at the Radisson Fort McDowell Resort and Casino on the lands of the Yavapai Nation (www.radisson.com/ftmcdowellaz) should expect to encounter many traces of the Yavapai people in everything from their rooms to the resort’s artwork and china. The resort obtained its concrete from the Yavapai’s very own sand and gravel operation, and Yavapai elementary school children even created glass windows that are part of a mural inside Ahnala, the resort’s restaurant. Many different areas of the resort contain the pattern of traditional Yavapai basket weaves, including the resort’s china, wallpaper and carpet in the guestrooms.
Located in Tuba City, the Explore Navajo Interactive Museum (www.discovernavajo.com/nim) traces the journey Navajos take through life. Four monumental directional symbols divide the Museum into four quadrants. Traveling clockwise, you will enter from the east and move to the south, west and north where in each quadrant you are introduced to the land, language, history, culture and ceremonial life of the Navajo. At more than 7,000 sq. feet, the museum features a traditional Navajo Hogan (home) and Navajo stories of creation. Your Navajo escort will help you understand the exhibits of Navajo culture, traditions, family systems and more.
The internationally acclaimed Heard Museum (www.heard.org) in Phoenix is one of the best places to experience the varied cultures and art of Native Americans of the Southwest. In particular, the world renowned Barry Goldwater Kachina (Katsina) collection is a must-see, along with the museum’s exhibit, “HOME: Native People in the Southwest.” This $7.6 million, 21,000-square-foot exhibition focuses on the importance of family, community, land and language in Native American culture. The exhibit includes the Heard’s most prized masterpieces along with poetry and personal recollections that guide visitors on an unforgettable journey through the Southwest. Another exceptional opportunity to view Native American art is at Scottsdale’s Heard Museum North and the West Valley’s Heard Museum West, both satellites of the prestigious facility.
Located in spectacular Texas Canyon in the Little Dragoon Mountains of southeastern Arizona, the Amerind Foundation (www.amerind.org) houses one of the finest private collections of Native American art and artifacts in the country. Established in 1937, the Amerind Foundation seeks to foster and promote knowledge and understanding of the Native Peoples of the Americas through research, education and conservation. The Amerind experience is more than art and artifacts. At times, Amerind visitors will find Indian artists demonstrating their skills in the museum's main gallery, and special events and openings are a periodic feature on the Amerind calendar.
Arizona State Museum (www.statemuseum.arizona.edu) in Tucson is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution and is the oldest, largest anthropology museum in the region. ASM introduces visitors to the native cultures of the Southwest, and is renowned for its excellence in preserving, interpreting and presenting the material culture of our region. It holds the world’s largest whole-vessel collection of Southwest Indian pottery (20,000 specimens) and houses more than 150,000 catalogued archaeological and ethnographic artifacts; a quarter of a million photographic negatives and original prints; and 70,000 volumes including many rare and hard-to-find titles.
Flagstaff’s Museum of Northern Arizona (www.musnaz.org) inspires a sense of responsibility and love for the beauty and diversity of the Colorado Plateau through collecting, studying, interpreting, and preserving the region's natural and cultural heritage. There are seven exhibit galleries, hands-on programs, an interactive Kiva Gallery with a modern Hopi kiva mural, ancient pottery, fossils and prehistoric peoples, traditional Native jewelry and Hopi and Zuni katsinas, a museum shop and bookstore. Each summer, the museum’s Navajo, Hopi and Zuni Festivals of Art and Culture highlight the region’s culture and artists with art, music, performances and Heritage Insights presentations.
Native Seeds/SEARCH (www.NativeSeeds.org) is a non-profit organization that seeks to preserve the crop seeds that connect Native American cultures to their lands. Through seed conservation and community interaction, Native Seeds works to protect crop biodiversity and to celebrate cultural diversity. The organization’s Seedbank warehouse stores the seeds of crops and wild plants traditionally used by native cultures of the U.S. Southwest and Northwestern Mexico as food, fiber and dyes, for use by future generations. Native Seeds/SEARCH crops can be found in the menus of a handful of restaurants across the state including Janos Restaurant (www.janos.com) in Tucson and Lon’s at the Hermosa Inn (www.lons.com) in Phoenix.
Anhala at the Radisson Fort McDowell Resort & Casino emphasizes local Native American cuisine, indigenous Mexican specialties and authentic mesquite-grilled cooking and many dishes on the menu highlight the yield of fresh ingredients from the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation farms. Signature dishes include Yavapai Pecan Trout (trout crusted with Fort McDowell Farm pecans served with fiesta rice and carrots with a frangelico cream sauce), Southwestern Chowder (roasted green chili corn and roasted red bell pepper chowders garnished with avocado and fresh crema), Pan Seared Scallops (served with butternut squash ravioli drizzled with prickly pear jelly) and Rack of Lamb (served with blueberry bread pudding over an ancho chili demi with white and green asparagus).
Sacred Hogan Navajo Frybread serves up authentic Native American dishes from central Phoenix. With a bright yellow sign and the Yaa'teeh greeting this place is more humble than the name might suggest, but the Navajo tacos and frybread are the real deal. A Navajo taco is whole pinto beans, lettuce, cheese, and red onion piled on top of a puffy golden frybread. Other menu items include blue corn mush, a Navajo lamb sandwich, and a featured stew of the month.
Kai, the signature restaurant at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa on the Gila River Indian Community, features a menu rich in creativity, history and Native American culture. Executive Chef Michael O'Dowd incorporates the essence of the Pima and Maricopa tribes and locally farmed ingredients from the Gila River Indian Community to create unforgettable masterpieces. Kai, which mean “seed” in the Pima language, was the first Native American owned or themed establishment in history to receive the coveted AAA Five Diamond Award.
ARTS AND CRAFTS
Downtown Scottsdale offers many galleries and boutiques which offer unique Native American jewelry and crafts. At the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale, guests can consult with Native American jewelry artist Melissa Masayesva (Hopi) and purchase one-of-kind pieces as well as work by other Native American artists. Masayesva has been recognized the world over for her fine work and design in silver overlay, sand-casting and repousse jewelry. The Native American Learning Center is located here too.
Tucson is also home to many renowned galleries specializing in American Indian arts and crafts. Bahti Indian Arts (www.bahti.com) is owned and run by Mark Bahti, son of the man who literally wrote the book on American Indian art, Tom Bahti. Since 1952, his store has sold high-quality jewelry, pottery, rugs, art and more.
Hubble Trading Post on the Navajo Reservation (www.nps.gov/hutrv) was established in 1878 and is now a National Historic Site. It specializes in silverwork, basketry, beadwork, and textiles, especially the famed Ganado Red weavings. It's a don't-miss for collectors.
Navajo Nation Arts & Crafts Enterprise (www.gonavajo.com) is headquartered in Window Rock, the capital and home of the Diné and is owned by the Navajo Nation. It is the official marketing channel of the Navajo Nation for arts and crafts and has retail stores in Chinle, Cameron and Kayenta and Navajo National Monument.
Bordering the Navajo Nation and within short driving distance of Hopi and Apache Reservations, Holbrook, Arizona. (www.ci.holbrook.az.us) is rich in Native American culture. During the summer months, Native American dancers perform each weekday evening at the Historic Navajo County Courthouse in downtown Holbrook.
Fort McDowell Adventures (www.fortmcdowelladventures.com) offers The Yavapai Experience, a one-of-a-kind cultural heritage tour that shares the incredible story of the Yavapai people with visitors on their ancestral land. The tour begins with a group campfire where attendees listen to the stories of the Yavapai. A professional guide then facilitates the tour with Yavapai tribal members who were born and raised at Fort McDowell. Attendees learn about the ancient culture, history, and heritage of Yavapai people and then participate in a one-mile nature trail where guides show how the Yavapai lives are connected to the land of the Sonoran Desert. The experience also highlights ancient tools like the grinding stone, displays photos, and deciphers some of the area’s petro glyphs before winding back around to the campfire where participants get a taste of traditional Yavapai stew.
To plan your culturally-enriched Arizona vacation, visit www.arizonaguide.com.
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