History of the American Southwest

History of the American Southwest

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I'm planning a road trip through the Southwest U.S., stopping at a lot of national parks and historical sites (click for details):

I'd like to listen to audio books while driving, about the history of the region -- both geological and anthropological. There are a lot of Navajo, Apacha and Hopi sites on the route, a lot of old Pueblo ruins, etc., so I'd like to know more about Native American history, from pre-Columbian times (if possible) up to modern days. I'd also like to learn about the geological history and structures in the region, e.g. the Moenkopi formation, the different strata, when they were laid down, all of that.

Audio books would be preferable -- but, really, any books will do, for bedtime reading between day trips.

Thanks! :)

Southwest Airlines Co.

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Southwest Airlines Co., American airline founded by Herbert Kelleher and Rollin King in 1966 and incorporated in 1967 as Air Southwest Company. The current name was adopted in 1971. The company features low-fare, no-frills air service with frequent flights of mostly short routes. Costs are kept down by the exclusive use of Boeing 737 aircraft, which allows for low maintenance costs and quicker turnaround times for flights, and by an emphasis on ticketless travel. Headquarters are in Dallas, Texas.

It was envisioned as a commuter air service between Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. Owing to several lengthy legal battles, however, it was unable to begin commercial flights until 1971. It began flying out of Love Field, located near downtown Dallas, and it adopted “love” as the theme for all of its promotions. In the 1970s flight attendants wore hot pants and go-go boots and referred to drinks as “love potions.” While hot pants were eliminated in 1981, flight attendants’ uniforms remained casual, and the company maintained its commitment to fun, offering lollipops to passengers when cigarettes were banned and singing carols on flights around Christmas. Expansion began in 1975 with new routes to cities throughout Texas. The airline expanded conservatively into new markets following the federal deregulation of the airline industry in 1978, at first stretching its operations only into neighbouring southwestern states. In the 1990s Southwest added service to California, the Midwest, and the East and Southeast.

In the early 21st century, because of increasing financial difficulties in a struggling airline industry, Southwest underwent a period of major restructuring. This included the appointment (2001) of a new president, Colleen Barrett, the first female to serve as president of a major airline new initiatives such as self-service check-in kiosks (2002) and online boarding passes (2004) and cost-saving measures such as flight cuts and employee buyouts. The airline also participated in the television reality show Airline, which aired on the A&E Network from 2004 to 2005. In 2008 Barrett was replaced as president by Gary Kelly.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Jeannette L. Nolen, Assistant Editor.

Past Institutes

In June 2016, Humanities Texas and the Center for the Study of the Southwest at Texas State University partnered to hold a professional development institute for Texas teachers covering the history of the American Southwest from the colonial period through the twentieth century.


The institute covered central topics in the history of the American Southwest from the colonial period through the twentieth century, including Spanish exploration and colonization, Native Americans in the Southwest, the early history of San Antonio, slavery in the nineteenth-century Southwest, the Mexican National Period, westward expansion and manifest destiny, the art and literature of the Southwest, the Texas Revolution, immigration to the Southwest, and the political and economic history of the Southwest.

The institute emphasized close interaction with scholars, the examination of primary sources, and the development of effective pedagogical strategies and engaging assignments and activities. The program was designed ultimately to enhance teachers’ mastery of the subjects they teach and to improve students' performance on state assessments. Content was aligned with the secondary social studies TEKS. Teachers received books and other instructional materials.


The institute faculty included Jesús F. de la Teja, Mary Brennan, and John Mckiernan-González of Texas State University, Paul Hutton and Richard Flint of the University of New Mexico, Erika Bsumek (UT Austin), Gregg Cantrell (Texas Christian University), Norma Cantú (Trinity University), Char Miller (Pomona College), Andrew Torget (University of North Texas), Glen Ely, Ron Tyler, and Omar Valerio-Jiménez (UTSA).

Location and Schedule

The institute took place from June 19–22, 2016, at the Wittliff Collections on the campus of Texas State University in San Marcos. A schedule of the institute can be found here.

Partners and Sponsors

Program partners included the Wittliff Collections and Texas State University. The institute was made possible with major funding from the State of Texas, with ongoing support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Portals of Tradition: Tourism in the American Southwest

Tourism is big business in the American Southwest. In the state of New Mexico, for example, the travel industry is now a billion-dollar enterprise and the number one employer. Native culture is one of the drawing cards for that industry many tourists feel that seeing and interacting with "real Indians" adds an important dimension to their travel experience. This curiosity about Southwest native culture has caused numerous problems nevertheless, many of the area's Indians - most of whom depend on tourist dollars for at least a portion of their family income - are responding to the challenge creatively and assertively.

"Adventure Tourism" and Its Limits

Tourism in the Southwest is still primarily characterized by small groups of tourists traveling in automobiles. Travelers who arrive by air typically rent cars if they wish to visit Indian reservations and prehistoric ruins. Several "adventure tourism" outfits have recently begun to offer group trips that feature interactions with individual Indians along with a glimpse at traditional native life.

One such organization, the National Audubon Society Expedition Institute, offers a summer expedition to the Southwest its catalog promises "Hopi, Navajo and Zuni Indians [telling] their human history" and "Hopi dances expressing harmony with the Earth." Another organization, the Southwest Wilderness Center, features Rio Grande rafting trips with a Tewa Indian guide who will "tell you about his culture, history, and mythology." This rafting trip ends with a visit to Santa Clara Pueblo, where "we will be served Indian tacos as we watch the early evening light play on the cliffs of Black Mesa."

Adventure tourism capitalizes on and therefore fosters the tourist's desire to meet native peoples, promoting the idea that museums or cultural centers are no substitutes for actual human contact. Naturally, this emphasis on personal interaction puts considerable pressure on native peoples. They must protect their homes, villages, and activities from becoming tourist attractions, and they must develop ways to control the flow of visitors and place limits on how far "backstage" those visitors may roam. The Pueblo people of New Mexico and Arizona appear to be actively setting such limits.

The entrance to a Pueblo Indian reservation is marked by one or more signs listing the village's regulations for visitors. Typically these signs prohibit photography, sketching, and notetaking, and some set a village curfew for visitors. Sometimes portions of a village are marked as being off-limits to visitors, and an entire village might be temporarily closed during certain ritual occasions, a limitation that might even be enforced by armed guards at the village entrance.

The Pueblo village officials are very serious about their rules and vehemently enforce them. Violators might be fined, have their film confiscated, or be escorted out of the village. When visitors set foot onto a Pueblo reservation, they must accept a new set of rights and obligations.

The assertive stance of Pueblo Indians toward tourism is most evident during the open village ritual dances. Tribal police and village war captains watch tourists closely during these events, working hard to prevent them from getting too close to the dancers, the sacred shrines, and the kivas (sacred ceremonial chambers, which are closed to non-Indians except in the villages of Hopi and Zuni). The ritual clowns will make fools of any tourists who do not act "with respect" or who are simply "in need of some humility."

Tourists seeking an authentic cultural experience often accept and even applaud the Pueblo regulations. Many of them probably feel that following the rules is a small price to pay for "authenticity" and might even see those rules as evidence that the Pueblo people have not "sold out." A tourist who is made "the fool" by a clown might suffer embarrassment at the moment, but the experience allows him or her to participate in the event and provides great material for a story later on.

The desire for contact with native people is also evident among the less adventurous tourists, those who would rather stay in the cities. In New Mexico one of the few places where these tourists can interact with Indians is in Santa Fe, under the portal of the State Museum's Palace of the Governors.

As tourists stroll along the portal of the Palace of the Governors, they see a row of about 50 Indian vendors, each sitting behind a cloth spread on the ground displaying wares for sale. The scene is quaint and colorful and attracts hundreds of visitors every day. What most tourists do not know, however, is that this scene is carefully constructed and regulated and that the vendors work with a long list of regulations established by the Museum of New Mexico.

The first rule of selling under the portal is that vendors must be American Indians who can prove membership in a New Mexico pueblo or tribe. The second rule is that the goods sold there must be handmade by the seller. To enforce these rules, the museum had to establish an elaborate set of procedures and additional, supporting regulations.

These procedures and regulations are updated each year in a process that begins in April, when the museum holds a meeting for all participants in the portal program. During this meeting, proposed revisions to the guidelines are presented, discussed, and voted upon. In addition, a Portal Committee is elected to represent the participating vendors. This committee has to monitor the program daily, appointing one or more "duty officers" who inspect goods to determine their authenticity as Indian handmade crafts. The committee works directly with the director of the Palace of the Governors (a non-Indian, to date), who chairs the annual meeting and has the power to waive certain requirements in special cases.

The more detailed regulations currently enforced by the committee and the director include the assignment of spaces by lottery a restriction on the use of tables or elevated stands for display a limit of one space per household a prohibition on making for-sale items in the designated selling area a restriction on children accompanying the vendor a limit of one assistant per vendor a restriction on social activities that might disrupt sales a rule that goods left unattended must be covered with a cloth and cannot be left for more than one hour (or the space will be re-assigned by the duty officers) and the stipulation that all goods offered for sale must be marked with the maker's "seal." There are also rules concerning the materials and processes used in the manufacture of goods pottery, for example, must be made from clay found on the vendor's reservation and must be constructed without the use of a potter's wheel.

The museum's position on Indian arts and crafts can be traced back to Edgar Hewett, anthropologist and the museum's founding director (the museum was founded in 1909). Hewett felt that the younger generation of native peoples did not value the arts of their cultural heritage. He became committed to encouraging "excellence" in Indian arts through competitions, education programs, and selective patronage. Hewett set forth a program of conscious revival and encouraged individual Indian artists to produce work conforming to his personal definitions of "quality" and "tradition." It is noteworthy that Hewett's views were directly and indirectly communicated to early tourists through his public lectures on Indian arts and his training lectures for many of the famous Fred Harvey Company tour guides, as well as through the museum exhibits and the selection of award-winning works during the annual Santa Fe Fiesta and the later, annual Indian Market.

In 1979 the museum's "Indian-only" policy was challenged in the courts by Paul and Sara Livingston, non-Indian vendors who claimed the museum was guilty of a reverse racial discrimination which violated their constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Livingstons lost both the case and, later, the appeal. Judge William E. Doyle, United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit, concluded that the museum's policy did not reflect racial discrimination but rather justifiable cultural discrimination. Doyle supported the earlier opinion of the trial court that "only Indians can make Indian goods" and that "it is permissible under the Constitution to promote a unique culture effort such as the French Quarter in New Orleans and this Indian Market in Santa Fe" (Livingston v. Ewing, 601 F.2d 1979:1,112). Doyle specifically stated that the practice of Indians selling under the portal was important to tourism: "The Indians. render a valuable service to the Museum by bringing tourists to the Square. the public buildings and to the private shops" (Livingston v. Ewing, 601 F.2d 1979:1,114). Indians selling under the portal, he said, "is one element of a comprehensive program to allow the general public to meet the Indians and to gain information as to the character and quality of the Indians' work" (Livingston v. Ewing, 601 F.2d 1797:1,116).

At first the Indian vendors were delighted to have non-Indians barred from their selling space. As the regulations grew more elaborate, however, some were not so pleased - a sentiment that continues to this day. Many vendors resent that the Santo Domingo Pueblo Indians, who outnumber any other group, have control over the operation simply because they are in the majority. Others resent the idea that they can only sell what they make since some families only make one type of jewelry and had previously traded in order to acquire other types of jewelry to sell. Still others complain that there is no room for innovation in their crafts.

Questions concerning the Indian-only policy recently resurfaced in the New Mexico newspapers when the city of Albuquerque took steps to follow Santa Fe's example. At the time of this writing, the Albuquerque City Council is considering a bill preventing non-Indians from selling in front of the La Placita Restaurant in the historic Old Town District. If approved, this ordinance would also limit the goods that could be sold, permitting only those handmade by Indian vendors. As in Santa Fe's case, the arguments for this ordinance include the protection of opportunities for tourists to come in direct contact with native people.

As more and more tourists search for contact with "real natives," and as the tourist industry continues to nourish these wishes, native peoples will have to be forthright about the nature of these encounters. If they do not meet this challenge, they will be reduced to nothing more than passive tourist attractions. Because tourism has come relatively slowly to the Southwest - steadily increasing since the turn of the century - and because native peoples in the Southwest have considerable control over their reservations, they might find the balance between maintaining their cultural autonomy and benefiting from tourism economically and socially. The fact that people travel long distances to see them presents problems of intrusion but also provides them with a market for their arts and sends a positive message to Indian people about the strength and beauty of their cultural ways. Achieving this balance could be further complicated by well-intentioned "experts," such as Hewett and other anthropologists, who have knowingly or unintentionally influenced native people's responses to the demands of tourism. Finding positive ways to cope with tourists' desire for contact will be one more critical challenge for Southwest Indians in their long and difficult struggle for survival within the contemporary, Anglo-dominated American society.

1987 The Portal Case: Authenticity, Tourism, Traditions, and the Law. Journal of American Folklore 100:287-296.

1989 Burlesquing "The Other" in Pueblo Performance. Annals of Tourism Research 16:62-75.

American Indian Societies

Strategies and Conditions of Political and Cultural Survival

Many cultures throughout the world now confront issues similar to those encountered by American Indians over the past 400 years. By examining the various American Indian societies, Duane Champagne presents an historical and comparative method for explaining the empirical range of change within a society's methods for ensuring political and cultural survival. This comprehensive history of the structure and change among American Indian societies should be of interest to anyone seeking to identify the specific conditions necessary for indigenous societies to retain their autonomy.

Cultural Survival Report 32

Paperback 6"x9". 184 pages. $10 paperback $19.95 hardcover (please add $2 for postage and handling).

Cultural Survival Publications

11 Divinity Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Article copyright Cultural Survival, Inc.


Between A.D. 900 and 1150, the ancient Pueblo people built hundreds of multistory sandstone buildings in canyons. Many tribes including the Hopi (HOH-pee) continued this building tradition, creating stone houses that were five stories high.

The American southwest has a dry climate with little rain, so tribes had to be creative to grow crops like beans and squash. For instance, the Quechan (kwuht-SAN) people planted crops in narrow valleys that would sometimes be covered in river water, and the Hopi people grew different types of corn to suit the arid climate, including white, red, yellow, blue, and speckled varieties. People also gathered prickly pear cactus and wild berries, and women and children of some tribes like the Havasupai (hah-vah-SOO-py) and Mojave (moh-HAH-vee) helped to hunt, stamping their feet to drive rabbits from their burrows.

Southwestern tribes are well known for their art and crafts. Artisans create turquoise and silver jewelry, finely woven baskets, clay pottery with geometric patterns, and colorful blankets.

Whatever Happened to the Wild Camels of the American West?

In the 1880s, a wild menace haunted the Arizona territory. It was known as the Red Ghost, and its legend grew as it roamed the high country. It trampled a woman to death in 1883. It was rumored to stand 30 feet tall. A cowboy once tried to rope the Ghost, but it turned and charged his mount, nearly killing them both. One man chased it, then claimed it disappeared right before his eyes. Another swore it devoured a grizzly bear.

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"The eyewitnesses said it was a devilish looking creature strapped on the back of some strange-looking beast," Marshall Trimble, Arizona's official state historian, tells me.

Months after the first attacks, a group of miners spotted the Ghost along the Verde River. As Trimble explained in Arizoniana, his book about folk tales of the Old West, they took aim at the creature. When it fled their gunfire, something shook loose and landed on the ground. The miners approached the spot where it fell. They saw a human skull lying in the dirt, bits of skin and hair still stuck to bone.

Several years later, a rancher near Eagle Creek spotted a feral, red-haired camel grazing in his tomato patch. The man grabbed his rifle, then shot and killed the animal. The Ghost’s reign of terror was over.

News spread back to the East Coast, where the New York Sun published a colorful report about the Red Ghost's demise: "When the rancher went out to examine the dead beast, he found strips of rawhide wound and twisted all over his back, his shoulders, and even under his tail." Something, or someone, was once lashed onto the camel.

The legend of the Red Ghost is rich with embellishments, the macabre flourishes and imaginative twists needed for any great campfire story. Look closer, though, past the legend — past the skull and the rawhide and the "eyewitness" accounts — and you'll discover a bizarre chapter of American frontier history. In the late 19th century, wild camels really did roam the West. How they got there, and where they came from, is a story nearly as strange as fiction.

In 1855, under the direction of then-Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, Congress appropriated $30,000 for "the purchase and importation of camels and dromedaries to be employed for military purposes." Davis believed that camels were key to the country's expansion westward a transcontinental railroad was still decades away from being built, and he thought the animals could be well suited to haul supplies between remote military outposts. By 1857, after a pair of successful trips to the Mediterranean and the Middle East, the U.S. Army had purchased and imported 75 camels. Within a decade, though, each and every one would be sold at auction.

The camels were stationed in Camp Verde, in central Texas, where the Army used them as beasts of burden on short supply trips to San Antonio. In June 1857, under orders from Washington, the herd was split: more than two dozen were sent on an expedition to California, led by Edward Fitzgerald Beale. Five months later, Beale's party arrived at Fort Tejon, an Army outpost a few miles north of Los Angeles. A California Historical Society Quarterly paper, written by A.A. Gray in 1930, noted the significance of that journey: "[Beale] had driven his camels more than 1,200 miles, in the heat of the summer, through a barren country where feed and water were scarce, and over high mountains where roads had to be made in the most dangerous places…He had accomplished what most of his closest associates said could not be done."

Back east, the Army put the remaining herd to work at Camp Verde and at several outposts in the Texas region. Small pack trains were deployed to El Paso and Fort Bowie, according to a 1929 account by W.S. Lewis. In 1860, two expeditions were dispatched to search for undiscovered routes along the Mexican border. By that time, though, Congress had also ignored three proposals to buy additional camels the political cost seemed to be too high. "The mule lobby did not want to see the importation of more camels, for obvious reasons," Trimble says. "They lobbied hard, in Washington, against the camel experiment."

If the mule lobby didn’t kill off the experiment, the Civil War did. At the dawn of the war, after Texas seceded from the Union, Confederate forces seized Camp Verde and its camels. "They were turned loose to graze and some wandered away," Popular Science reported in 1909. "Three of them were caught in Arkansas by Union forces, and in 1863 they were sold in Iowa at auction. Others found their way into Mexico. A few were used by the Confederate Post Office Department." One camel was reportedly pushed off a cliff by Confederate soldiers. Another, nicknamed Old Douglas, became the property of the 43rd Mississippi Infantry, was reportedly shot and killed during the siege of Vicksburg, then buried nearby.

By late 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, the camel experiment was essentially finished. The California camels, moved from Fort Tejon to Los Angeles, had foundered without work for more than a year. In September, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton ordered the animals be put up for auction. An entrepreneur of the frontier named Samuel McLaughlin bought the entire herd in February 1864, then shipped several camels out to Nevada to haul salt and mining supplies in Virginia City. (McLaughlin raised money for the trip by organizing a camel race in Sacramento. A crowd of 1,000 people reportedly turned up to watch the spectacle.) According to Gray's account, the animals that remained in California were sold to zoos, circuses, and even back to Beale himself: "For years one might have seen Beale working camels about his ranch and making pleasure trips with them, accompanied by his family."

The Texas herd was auctioned off shortly thereafter, in 1866, to a lawyer named Ethel Coopwood. For three years, Coopwood used the camels to ship supplies between Laredo, Texas, and Mexico City — and that's when the trail starts to go cold.

Coopwood and McLaughlin sold off their herds in small bunches: to traveling zoos, to frontier businessmen, and on and on. I spoke with Doug Baum, a former zookeeper and owner of Texas Camel Corps, to learn where they went from there. As it turns out, the answers aren't so clear. When the Army brought its camels to Texas, private businesses imported hundreds more through Mobile, Galveston, and San Francisco, anticipating a robust market out West.

"Those commercially imported camels start to mix with the formerly Army camels in the 1870s," says Baum. The mixed herds made it increasingly difficult to track the offspring of the Army camels. "Unfortunately, it's really murky where they end up and what their ultimate dispositions were, because of those nebulous traveling menageries and circuses," he says.

That's not to say the fate of every Army camel was unknown. We know what happened to at least one: a white-haired camel named Said. He was Beale's prized riding camel during the expedition west, and at Fort Tejon, he was killed by a younger, larger camel in his herd. A soldier, who also served as a veterinarian, arranged to ship Said's body across the country to Washington, where it could be preserved by the Smithsonian Institution. The bones of that camel are still in the collections of the National Museum of Natural History.

And as for the rest? Many were put to use in Nevada mining towns, the unluckiest were sold to butchers and meat markets, and some were driven to Arizona to aid with the construction of a transcontinental railroad. When that railroad opened, though, it quickly sunk any remaining prospects for camel-based freight in the southwest. Owners who didn't sell their herds to travelling entertainers or zoos reportedly turned them loose on the desert — which, finally, brings the story back to the Red Ghost.

Feral camels did survive in the desert, although there almost certainly weren't enough living in the wild to support a thriving population. Sightings, while uncommon, were reported throughout the region up until the early 20th century. "It was rare, but because it was rare, it was notable," Baum says. "It would make the news." A young Douglas MacArthur, living in New Mexico in 1885, heard about a wild camel wandering near Fort Selden. A pair of camels were spotted south of the border in 1887. Baum estimates there were "six to ten" actual sightings in the postbellum period, up to 1890 or so. The legend of the Red Ghost — a crazed, wild monster roaming the Arizona desert — fit snugly within the shadow of the camel experiment.

"Do I think it happened? Yes," Baum says. "And it very likely could've been one of the Army camels since it was an Arabian camel." In other words, the fundamental details behind the legend might contain some truth. A wild camel, possibly an Army camel that escaped from Camp Verde, was spotted in Arizona during the mid-1880s. A rancher did kill that camel after spying it in his garden. And when that rancher examined the animal's body, he found deep scars dug across its back and body.

Fact or fiction, the story of the Red Ghost still leads back to the inevitable, the unanswerable: Could a person really have been lashed onto a wild camel? Who was he? And if he did exist, why did he suffer such a cruel fate? Says Trimble, "There's just all kinds of possibilities."

Birds in the American Southwest - Introduction, Distribution, and Life History

The various unique ecosystems of the American Southwest support an especially high diversity of bird species. With so many species represented, the birds' ranges and life histories are similarly diverse.

Yellow-billed cuckoo


Birds are a conspicuous component of many ecosystems. They have high body temperatures, rapid metabolisms, and occupy high trophic levels. Because they can respond quickly to changes in resource conditions, birds are considered good indicators of ecosystem health. In other words, changes in bird populations may indicate changes in the biotic or abiotic components of the environment upon which they depend. In addition, birds are highly detectable compared to other vertebrates, and they can be efficiently surveyed with the use of several standardized methods. Birds also come under the legal mandates of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and, in some cases, the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Monitoring changes in bird population and community parameters can be an important component of any comprehensive, long-term monitoring program. For example, some studies suggest that bird reproduction rates vary with habitat quality, leading to higher densities in superior habitat (Bock and Jones 2004). However, perhaps the most compelling reason to monitor birds is that birds themselves are inherently valuable. The high aesthetic and spiritual values that humans place on native wildlife are acknowledged as part of the National Park Service (NPS) mandate: “to conserve . . . the wild life therein . . . unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” Birdwatching, a popular, long-standing recreational pastime in the U.S., provides evidence of the value people place on birds, and it forms the basis of a large and sustainable industry. This is especially evident in the American Southwest, where the high diversity of birds creates some of the best birdwatching opportunities in the country.

Although several large-scale programs, such as the Breeding Bird Survey, have been initiated in the U.S., they are often insufficient to document local changes in bird populations at the park and network scales. Monitoring birds is especially critical given population declines for some species in recent decades, especially neotropical migrants. NPS I&M bird monitoring programs will compliment these other efforts by providing managers with information on changes to bird populations in their parks and protected areas.

Distribution and Life History

Major ecological regions and NPS Inventory and Monitoring Networks in the Southwest.

Hundreds of species of birds occur in the American Southwest. For example, the Sonoran Desert supports more than 350 bird species, and the northern portion of the Chihuahuan Desert supports more than 450 bird species. In addition to there being a large number of species in the Southwest, there are a multitude of resources that describe the distribution and life history of American birds. Thus, rather than attempting to duplicate such information here, we refer readers to some of these alternative sources. Our intention is not to endorse any particular source, but to identify some of the more common resources for distribution and life history information. This information on sources is presented in the last section of the overview, entitled “Sources of Distribution and Life History Information.”

Additionally, lists of birds that occur in particular parks in the American Southwest (see map above), and elsewhere, can be found at the following NPS website (https://irma.nps.gov/NPSpecies/). Also of interest, Partners in Flight (PIF) has produced regional and state Bird Conservation Plans (BCPs) that target bird species and habitats for conservation. These lists and plans can be found at (http://www.partnersinflight.org/conservation_plans/default.php).

Prepared by Patty Valentine Darby, Southern Plains Network Inventory and Monitoring Program, 2009.

Hopi Peoples of the Southwest

Atop three high mesas in northern Arizona, Hopi sandstone villages merge seamlessly into their rocky foundations. The cultivated fields of the twelve Hopi villages sit below on the valley floor. These are some of the oldest continuously occupied villages in North America.

Rainfall is scant, vegetation is sparse, and seasonal temperatures fluctuate widely, yet the Hopi people have chosen to farm in this inhospitable environment.

Corn has sustained the Hopi people throughout their history, just as it sustains them throughout their lives. It is the first solid food fed to infants and sustains the spirits of the deceased as they journey into the spirit world.

Part of the Hopi origin story recalls the time of emergence from a previous world. Those who emerged were invited to choose from a number of ears of corn. Some ears were large and hearty, indicating a life of bounty and prosperity. Some were short, indicating that life would not be easy, but overcoming hardships would make the people strong. Hopis chose to live the life of the short ear of corn.

Corn Effigy
Elmer Tootsie, Hopi-Tewa, Arizona, ca. 1995
Clay, mineral paint, corn husk (Zea mays) L 46.5 x D 5.5 cm 36078-1

This ceramic ear of corn emphasizes the singular importance of corn to the Hopi people. Archaeologists say that cultivated corn was carried from Mexico into the American Southwest about 4,000 years ago and became the staple food crop through adaptive breeding. According to Hopi origin stories, corn was a gift from Maasawu, the Earth deity, as he greeted people upon their emergence into this world.


The Southwestern United States is known for its arid deserts, red rock landscapes, rugged mountains and natural wonders like the Grand Canyon. The diversity of people who have lived and moved to the Southwest give it a distinctive culture and history that continues to grow and evolve today.

As the original inhabitants of the region, many Native American tribes have left their mark on Southwestern culture. International visitors can see examples of Native American influences in the artwork of the region, museums, tribal lands, and at historical sites like the Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico. The impact of the area’s Spanish American history and the current Latino population can also be experienced, including Tex-Mex cuisine, Latino arts and music, cultural sites, and the many Spanish-speaking communities of the region. Many visitors also want to experience the Old West and the region’s history of cowboys, gold mining and the filming of Hollywood westerns.

1. Molly Brant: Native American Diplomat and Spy

The daughter of a Mohawk chief in upstate New York and consort of a British dignitary, Molly Deganwadonti went on to become an influential Native American leader in her own right and a lifelong loyalist to the British crown before, during and after the American Revolution.

Born in 1736 at a time when the Mohawk, part of the larger Iroquois federation of tribes, were increasingly subject to European influence, Molly grew up in a Christianized family. In 1754, at the age of 18, she accompanied a delegation of Mohawk elders to Philadelphia to discuss fraudulent land transactions𠅊 moment that is cited as her first political activity.

Molly met Sir William Johnson, a British officer during the French and Indian War who had been appointed superintendent for Indian affairs for the Northern colonies. After his wife died, she became his mistress. And although her race and class prevented them from being officially wed, they were common-law married and had nine children together. Johnson had acquired 600,000 acres of land in Mohawk Valley, and Molly, like other women of her time, came to manage a large and complex household, entertaining dignitaries both European and Indian. Their partnership proved politically fruitful, giving Johnson a familial connection to the powerful Iroquois tribes and earning Molly, who hailed from a matrilineal clan, increasing prestige as an influential voice for her people.

During the Revolutionary War, Molly and her family, like many Indians, sided with the British, who promised to protect their lands from colonists’ encroachment. Known as a persuasive speaker, she is credited with convincing Iroquois leadership to fall in with the British camp. Throughout the war, she acted as a spy, passing intelligence about the movement of colonial forces to British forces, while providing shelter, food and ammunition to loyalists. When they ended up on the losing side, Molly and her family fled for Canada, where she and other loyalists established the town of Kingston. After the war, the British paid her a pension for her services.


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Southwest, region, southwestern United States, historically denoting several geographic areas in turn and changing over the years as the nation expanded. After the War of 1812, the Southwest generally meant Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana after Texas was annexed, it, too, was included. In the wake of the war with Mexico, the Southwest embraced most, but not all, of the territory that was acquired under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848), including land often considered part of the “West”—i.e., New Mexico, Arizona, and all or parts of Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada, as suited the convenience of the user of the term. It ordinarily excludes California.

The common denominator of the modern Southwest is aridity. The high, dry plains of Texas extend westward to the Pecos valley of New Mexico. Although the southern spurs of the Rocky Mountains beyond the Pecos River are cool and are dotted with evergreens, farther west are vast highly coloured sandstone deposits. Occasional mesas or buttes rise above the peneplain through which the Colorado River has cut such spectacular gorges as the Grand Canyon. Stretching westward from Arizona are the true deserts with their growth of cacti and gaunt, parallel chains of mountains almost devoid of vegetation.

Most crops can be grown in the Southwest only with irrigation, the water for which is taken mostly from the Colorado River and the Rio Grande. Prior to the Reclamation Act of 1902 and the subsequent building of Theodore Roosevelt Dam (completed 1911) near Phoenix, Ariz., Hoover Dam (1936) on the Colorado River, and the Glen Canyon Dam (1966) upriver from Hoover, the dryness of the land enforced a pastoral economy. During the period of Spanish ascendancy in the early 1800s, sheep ranches grew to great size. The Pueblo Indians even began to use wool instead of native cotton in their weaving. Although the importance of sheep ranching has declined in the 20th century, cattle raising has increased and is economically important in New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Texas the latter leads all other states in the raising of beef cattle as well as sheep. Long-staple cotton, alfalfa, citrus fruit, grain, and sorghum are the Southwest’s main crops.

Copper mining, particularly in Arizona, where open-pit operations account for about two-thirds of the nation’s total annual production, has been important since the 19th century. The discovery of petroleum and natural-gas deposits in the early 20th century in Oklahoma and Texas resulted in oases of prosperity from local oil booms. Along the Gulf Coast a flourishing industrial region developed around Houston and other Gulf of Mexico ports, largely based on petrochemical industries. Also, since World War II and particularly in Arizona and Texas, manufacturing has become important, notably in the electrical, communications, aeronautical, automobile-assembly, and aluminum industries. The growth of population and industry in the region also brought water shortages and, following the building of dams, disputes between states over the allocation of water resources, such as the diversion of water from the Colorado River.

Although the Southwest’s dry, crisp climate and scenic landscapes were a curse to agriculture, they have been a boon to businesses catering to tourists and health seekers. These visitors had a lively interest in the Indian and Spanish-American cultures, including the native architecture, Indian dances, Spanish fiestas, and rodeos. The Southwest has also become a popular retirement area.

Watch the video: How Far North Mexico became the American Southwest