American Indian Trails of the West

Northern Arizona’s Ancient Pueblos
The Colorado Plateau’s past is open for discovery from Wupatki to Walpi.

The feeling at northern Arizona’s Wupatki National Monument is of being one with the earth, wind and sky. The silence of the land is striking.

Evidence shows that Wupatki was inhabited around 500 A.D., but the actual pueblo was built and occupied from 1100 until 1250 A.D. Roughly 900 years ago, a massive volcanic eruption occurred, creating Sunset Crater, a dozen miles from Wupatki. But rather than devastation, a great transformation took place. The volcano’s cinders proved to be water retaining, which improved agricultural productivity. That spawned a major population influx with pueblos and settlements flourishing.

At some point in its history, Wupatki became the largest and tallest pueblo around, with over 100 rooms, a community room, and ball court. Wukoki and The Citadel are other major sites nearby.

Some say the Hopi people believe that those who live and die here remain as spiritual guardians. In the solitary quietness and feeling of desolation in this place, one feels that could be true.

The Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff is a marvelous opportunity to explore the rich history and culture of the Southwestern Native people. The museum’s Heritage Program Festivals, May through July, honor the Zuni, Hopi and Navajo people, offering a balance of ancient and modern cultural performances and activities of these tribes.

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