Arizona was the 48th state admitted into the Union; however, it’s history spans thousands of years. There is evidence that suggests humans lived in the area more than 25,000 years ago. These people during the prehistoric period lived in caves and hunted animals, and many of those prey species no longer exist. Over the past 2,000 years, the society developed and became more advanced. This more developed group, now referred to as Native Americans, lived in villages called pueblos, a name derived from the Spanish word meaning “town” or “village.”
The first European explorers on record visited the area in the 1530s. Spaniards wrote about the legends such as Eldorado and the Seven Golden Cities of Cibola. In 1539, a Franciscan priest, Fray Marcos de Niza, went in search of riches as well as hoping to find Native Americans to convert, but he was afraid of the hostility he received from the indigenous people and he returned to Mexico, providing a misleading report of the land and its inhabitants. In 1540, Francisco Vazquez de Coronado, ignoring de Niza’s warnings, took a well-armed expedition to Arizona. Coronado found the area very favorable and continued to explore, visiting such wonders at the Grand Canyon.
The Hopi Native Americans lived in Arizona, and in 1583 they guided the Spanish explorer Antonio de Espejo to present-day Jerome. De Espejo was disappointed he only found copper instead of gold, but by 1675, several Franciscan missionaries had established themselves at the Hopi Villages. In 1680, the Hopi rose up and drove the Spaniards out in what is known as the Pueblo Rebellion.
In the early 1700s, Roman Catholic missionaries began establishing churches and other Hispanics began to settle in the area. Times were hard for these settlers as they had to be careful of Apache raiders. In 1821, Mexico successfully won its independence from Spain, and the new government ordered missions in Arizona to close. In 1848, Arizona was ceded to the United States as part of New Mexico, and in 1863, it became independent of New Mexico.
Many Native Americans and Hispanics live in Arizona still today. There are 15 tribes of natives residing on 17 reservations. Tonto Apache, Navajo, Hopi, Tohono O’Odham, and Pima are the most recognized tribes still living in the area.
Arizona, known as the Grand Canyon State, became a part of the US as its own state on Valentine’s Day (February 14), 1912. No one is certain where the state’s name came from, but some scholars believe it is from a Basque phrase meaning “place of oaks,” and others say it is a Tohono O’Odham (Papago) Native American phrase that means “place of the young (or little) spring.”
- Capital city: Phoenix
- The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and one mile deep. It took the Colorado River somewhere between three to six million years to form the canyon.
- Arizona has more designated tribal land than anywhere else in the United States.
- Oraibi, a Hopi Indian village that dates back to at least AD 1150, is thought to be the oldest settlement in the US that is still inhabited.
- The Saguaro Cactus Blossom is the state’s official flower. It only blooms in May and June in the middle of the night and closes the next day; surviving only 18 hours.
- Navajo Indians from Arizona transmitted secret communications for the US Marines after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941. They were known as the Navajo Code Talkers.
- Arizona is one of two states that do not observe Daylight Saving Time.