Walapai - Orientation

Identification. The Walapai are an American Indian group located in Arizona. "Walapai" is the most common historic and ethnographic label for the group whose official Tribal designation is "Hualapai." The term, meaning "Ponderosa Pine People," originally referred to a single band, the first one encountered by explorers and prospectors coming into Walapai territory from the Colorado River. Prior to the administrative division into two reservations in the nineteenth century, the Walapai and the Havasupai constituted a single ethnic group.

Location. Historically, the Walapai inhabited an extensive territory in northwestern Arizona, bounded on the north and west by the Colorado River, and on the south and east by hostile groups of Yavapai. This arid range is characterized by hot summers and mild winters, with frequent and violent Thunderstorms throughout July and August. The Walapai now reside on a reservation of approximately 1 million acres within this aboriginal territory, with tribal offices located at Peach Springs, Arizona.

Demography. In the 1980s, the reservation population numbered about 950 Walapais. Accurate reconstruction of the historic size of the population is difficult, owing to the fluid nature of hunting and gathering bands, but it is probable that the group never numbered more than 1,000. By 1900, following a series of epidemics and battles with U.S. troops, the population had been reduced to less than 600.

Linguistic Affiliation. The Walapai language, along with Havasupai and Yavapai, form the Upland Pai group within the Yuman language family. Mutually intelligible dialects are also spoken by groups along the Colorado River and in Southern California and the northern part of Baja California, Mexico.

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