Tribal Legends of the Havasupai Indians

The Grand Canyon National Park's Havasu Canyon was home to the Havasupai.
... Jupiterimages/ Images

The native American Havasupai people -- or “people of the blue-green waters” -- lived in what is now the Grand Canyon National Park and considered themselves the guardians of the majestic landmark and its aquamarine waterfalls. This peaceful tribe, descendants of the Pai Indians, believed that they inherited their land from the god Tochopa. This creator deity, however, is just one of many of the rich legends spun by the Havasupai.

1 Legendary Figures

Tochopa, also known as Tudjupa, served as the great creator or “grandfather of humanity” in Havasupai legends. The Havasupai believed that when Tochopa offered them the lands of the Grand Canyon, he said: “Here is the land where you will live. Go to the places where you find water. Mark off your land and live by the water. Name these places." His daughter, Pukeheh, was thought to be the mother of the human race. Tochopa was at odds with his twin brother, Hokomata, a trouble-making god of discord and war.

2 Home Sweet Canyon

The key legend of the Havasupai tribe revolves around their passage into the Havasu Canyon. In one version of the story, the canyon walls constantly opened and closed. The walls crushed many travelers until two young boys attacked the canyon with arrows, which stopped them from closing and allowed the Havasupai people to enter. In other versions of the tale, a man stopped the walls from closing by balancing a log on his head and wedging it between them. In still another variation, two young hunters held the walls of the canyon apart with juniper trees, allowing them to pass through and collect reeds to construct their arrows.

3 Apache Animosity

Although the Havasupai were mostly peaceful farmers of beans and squash and hunters of small game, they famously feuded with the Apache tribe. According to legend, Tochopa created both tribes at the same time, and they lived quietly alongside each other in Havasu Canyon. When an Apache man fell in love with a married Havasupai woman, however, the trickster god Hokomata encouraged him to kill her husband and kidnap her. The man did so, and the Havasupai attempted to drive the Apache from the canyon. When the Apache refused, the Havasupai turned to forceful measures, beginning a long history of animosity between the tribes.

4 Hopi Harvest

The Havasupai attributed their harvesting habits to an ancient story about Hopi brothers. The brothers once scoured Havasu Canyon for water and corn, which brought them to the Hopi trail. From there, they traveled deep into the forest in search of buckskins. Exhausted by their travels, the younger brother claimed he could go no further. The older brother determined to carry on, and he gave his sibling a bit of corn, instructing him to plant it on his return to Havasu Canyon. This myth explains why the Havasupai of Havasu Canyon only grew small amounts of corn, especially in comparison to the Hopi tribe, who grew abundant amounts of the crop.

Dan Ketchum has been a professional writer since 2003, with work appearing online and offline in Word Riot, Bazooka Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Trails and more. Dan's diverse professional background spans from costume design and screenwriting to mixology, manual labor and video game industry publicity.