Exploring The Sedona Native American Heritage

Montezuma Castle National Monument in Arizona

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Sedona, Arizona is a beautiful place with many diverse cultures and sights to see. Even though it’s often thought of as a decadent spa destination, there are still plenty of things to do and places to explore that will help you discover the native American heritage of this area.

Sedona Native American History

Sedona, Arizona, is home to a rich and vibrant history of Native American cultures. The area was originally inhabited by the Sinagua tribe, who left behind their own unique cultural footprint. Today, Sedona Native American tribes active in the area include the Hopi, Navajo, Tonto Apaches and Yavapai

The Sinagua were a sedentary people that constructed dwellings from mud and stone. They are well known for their elaborate rock art, which tells stories of their culture, religious beliefs and daily life. 

The Sinagua disappeared without a trace, but researchers believe the Hopi and Navajo tribes are descendants of the Sinagua. Their architecture and pottery still remain throughout the region, offering hints into their ancient culture. 

The Hopi tribe was traditionally comprised of farmers who lived in pueblos constructed from masonry materials. They were also known for their elaborate pottery and basket weaving. They believed in an intricate connection between the physical and spiritual, believing that everything living had a spirit which is why they have so many sacred sites in Sedona.

The Navajo once lived as nomadic hunters and gatherers. Their art reflects their ties to nature and includes sand paintings, weavings and jewelry. They also hold an ancient creation story about how the world began, which can still be heard at various cultural events in Sedona. 

Sedona is home to numerous Native American sacred sites throughout the area. Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock and Courthouse Butte are believed to be inhabited by powerful spirits. Many visitors and locals alike report experiencing spiritual awakenings while visiting these sites, making them popular tourist attractions.

The legends and stories of the native tribes are still told today. Tales of powerful spirit animals and brave warriors can be heard by guides and culture carriers all over Sedona. 

The Birthing Cave

A popular site for tourists is the Birthing Cave which can be found along Oak Creek Canyon Road just before it turns into Hwy 179. This cave was used by pregnant women of the Sinagua tribe as a place to give birth. They used this cave, which is now recognized as an energy vortex to labor safely away from predators like coyotes and the sometimes scorching direct sunlight of the Verde Valley. This site is a hiking destination, historical landmark and sacred spiritual site. 

The Tewa Village of Walpi

The Tewa Village of Walpi is a Hopi village located in northeastern Arizona. It is one of three villages on First Mesa, part of the Hopi Reservation that the U.S. Government created in 1882. The village has been occupied for over 1,000 years and has a population of about 400 people today, making it the largest of the three villages.

Tewa is the dialect spoken in this village and is one of three dialects used by the Hopi people: Hopi, Tewa (pronounced “Tay-wah”), and Keresan (pronounced “Kah-reh-sen”). These languages are part of the Uto-Aztecan family that also includes Ute and Navajo, along with other languages spoken across North America.

Tuzigoot National Monument

Tuzigoot National Monument is a National Historic Landmark built by the ancient Sinagua people. The name Tuzigoot means “standing rock” in the Tonto Apache language, and it is located along the Verde River. This site is open year-round and offers walking trails, restrooms and picnic tables.

The Tuzigoot pueblos were built on a ridge above the Verde River about 1,200 years ago. It was discovered in the 1930s through funding from the New Deal enacted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The site is one of the largest and best-preserved ruins in the United States.

Palatki Heritage Site

The Palatki Heritage Site is a Sinagua cliff dwelling site in Sedona, Arizona. The site was occupied by the Sinagua people between 1150 and 1400 AD and was later inhabited by the Hopi people. The Palatki Heritage Site is located within Red Rock State Park and is part of the National Historic Landmark program. The park offers guided tours of the cliff dwellings, during which you can learn about indigenous history in this area.

Palatki Heritage Site has become a major tourist attraction for visitors to Sedona because it offers excellent views of red rock formations, as well as educational experiences related to Native American heritage, artisanship and history. From Palatki, you’ll get an excellent view across Oak Creek Canyon towards Bell Rock – one of Sedona’s most photographed landmarks!

Montezuma Castle National Monument

Montezuma Castle National Monument is a five-story stone tower built by the Sinagua Indians. It was first discovered in 1851 when a ranger looked up and saw it through the trees. The Sinagua Indians lived in this area from about 1100 to 1450, but they abandoned their homes during a drought.

The National Monument consists of a 20-room cliff dwelling built by the Sinagua people and overlooks Montezuma Creek Canyon. You can take an elevator down into the canyon or hike down on foot to view this spectacular site yourself!

Museum of Northern Arizona

If you want to explore the heritage of Sedona through the eyes of its Native American culture, then the Museum of Northern Arizona is an ideal destination. The museum exhibits the history of the area and its native inhabitants. There’s even a section dedicated to explaining how different tribes lived in this region hundreds and thousands of years ago. It’s pretty cool!

The gift shop at MNA also sells a wide range of items that reflect traditional Navajo crafts and customs. You can buy kachina dolls, rugs, pottery and jewelry here—or even sign up for classes if you’re interested in learning more about native American art or history.

Shop Sedona’s Native American-Inspired Art and Gifts

There are ample opportunities to shop pottery, rugs, art and other crafts and creations handmade by Native American artisans in traditional styles. Explore the local shops to find unique and one-of-a-kind items. 

Navajo Rugs 

Navajo rugs are a signature of the Navajo people and can be found in local Sedona shops. The rugs are handmade by Navajo artisans using wool, cotton and other natural materials. The colors in these rugs are made from vegetable dyes that have meaning to the Navajo people, derived from plants and minerals found throughout Arizona. 

Red is one of the most important colors to the Navajo people because it represents happiness and joy; yellow represents health; white stands for purity; black symbolizes protection against evil spirits; blue symbolizes rainwater that nourishes plants with life-sustaining moisture; purple represents healing powers and brown stands for strength and endurance.

The Hopi Kachina Dolls

Kachinas are spirits of the Hopi people and are used to teach children about the Kachina. Kachina dolls are carved by Hopi men and used in the Powamuya Kachina Ceremony, which takes place during the winter solstice. They’re typically made from cottonwood roots and soft cedar roots, but they can also be carved from willow sticks.

Each Kachina doll has a specific meaning, including owls representing wisdom, the Corn Maiden representing fertility and the coyote representing patience.

You can purchase these products and a variety of other Native American products here in Sedona for their beauty and celebrate the historical and cultural significance of the tribes of this region. 

Explore Sedona Native American Culture While Staying at The Sanctuary at Sacred Mesa

Sedona, Arizona, is one of the most beautiful places in the world. If you’re visiting Arizona, don’t miss out on all there is to see. 

After you tour the Sedona Native American historical and cultural sites and shop the local wear, return to the Sanctuary at Sacred Mesa for an indulgent rest from your adventures. Our luxury vacation rental offers over 10,000 square feet of well-appointed space, complimenting the Verde Valley’s natural beauty.  Enjoy the relaxing infinity pool and sweeping views of Sedona on this private estate. Take your respite and adventure to the next level; book The Sanctuary at Sacred Mesa for your trip to Sedona!