The First Indians

One of the most satisfying things to do in Sedona is visit the Indian ruins. There have been people living in the Verde Valley for thousands of years, but until relatively recently they remained hunter/gatherers. These early nomadic people harvested the various plants when in season, and thought the area to be the best shopping market around. Agave, manzanita, scrub oak, and pinon pine all provided food if one knew how to process it. Through trial and error they learned various uses, and through oral tradition, they passed it down.

They learned that by digging up the roots of certain yucca you could make soap, and by weaving strands of bear grass together they made baskets so tightly woven that they would hold water; later, heated stones could be dropped in to boil water. Snakeweed could be made into a poultice to be put on rattlesnake bites. In the old days elders truly carried the tribe’s wealth in the form of memories.

One staple food that grows all over the area is the prickly pear cactus. By throwing a few on a fire, the needles burn off and the whole thing can be eaten; the cooked cactus tastes a bit like a soggy French fry but it’ll keep you alive. The small fruit that grows on the prickly pear was priceless for flavoring to the early Indians. Visitors to Sedona can try prickly pear margaritas (and prickly pear cactus fries) at restaurants in Upper Sedona.

By examining artifacts the first Indians left behind, like arrowheads and eating implements, it is known that they relied on meat, as well as plants. As the ice age came to an end and the climate warmed up, the mega fauna—giant ground sloths, mastodons, camels, horses, etc.—became extinct (horses were later reintroduced by the Spaniards). The ancient hunters were then forced to hunt the smaller animals like deer and rabbits. Using a throwing device called an atlatl, and simple traps, they became quite efficient.

The first Indians of the Verde Valley left their mark on Sedona; how will their legacy impress you, the visitor?

 

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