What We Do: National Heritage Area Initiatives

The Little Colorado River Valley National Heritage Area Initiative

Linda Marie Golier, Former Center Heritage Programs Coordinator

The American Southwest evokes a vivid image in the mind and stirs feeling in the heart, even among those who have never been here. Its land and legends are intricately woven into the fabric of America’s past and current culture. The Little Colorado River Valley is one such place.

The Little Colorado River Valley is a 26,000+ square mile watershed that straddles the northern Arizona and New Mexico border. This valley has witnessed many seminal events in the history of the United States, and it is home to people whose families lived and traveled in the area for hundreds—and in some cases thousands—of years before the region became an official part of the country.

The entire Hopi and Zuni Indian Reservations and the southern portion of the Navajo Nation are found in this valley. It is also inhabited by the descendants of early Hispanic and Mormon immigrants, as well as those who followed in the wake of development after the region was ceded to the United States in 1848 as a result of the Mexican-American War. Rich in history—the Hopi village of Oraibi is one of the oldest, continuously inhabited communities in the present-day United States—the region is alive with some of the oldest traditions of the prehistoric and historic American West.

The open landscapes, regional arts, fabled travel routes, and time-honored lifestyles are not just stories of the past. They remain a vibrant part of the valley’s modern-day character and embody aspects of the American identity that people want to experience today. For these reasons, the designation of the Little Colorado River Valley National Heritage Area would add considerable dimension to the stories conveyed by the forty current National Heritage Areas.

The Little Colorado River Valley National Heritage Area initiative began in 2003. After Little Colorado communities demonstrated initial interest, the Center for Desert Archaeology applied for a grant from the Arizona State Parks Heritage Fund. The grant enabled completion of a feasibility study to determine if the region should pursue designation. That study was completed at the end of 2008. You can view it here.

A detailed map of the Little Colorado Heritage Area is available here.

Seventy-six organizations within the proposed Heritage Area have written letters of support.

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