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The Grand Canyon through Indian Eyes


Courtesy of Camille Ferguson

The Watchtower at Desert View

What You’ll Find

The Watchtower at Desert View has welcomed visitors to the east entrance of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park for more than 80 years. Designed in 1932 by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter it was a re-creation of various towers in other Southwestern locations. Attention to detail and Colter’s desire “…to design a building that would become part of its surroundings; one that would create no discordant note against the time eroded walls of this promontory,” she insisted that the rocks not be cut or worked, so they would not lose the “weathered surfaces so essential to blend it with the canyon walls”. Visitors today will notice that the tower is anchored to the rock wall of the canyon and seems to be an extension of the surrounding landscape.

In early 2015, the Grand Canyon Inter-Tribal Advisory Council began a transition of Desert View from a visitor area to a tribal information center. With this repurposing, the Desert View Visitor Area will become a place for the tribes to call their own and for visitors to learn about the Canyon from tribal perspectives.

In the future, visitors can expect real stories told by first-voice exhibits and media; art and food; cultural heritage demonstrations; tribal tourism opportunities; conservation of the Watchtower and the artwork within; among other efforts to honor the inter-tribal cultures of the area. The transition to the Desert View Inter-Tribal Cultural Heritage Center will occur slowly over time when Desert View will again be a window to the Canyon through Indian eyes.

Getting There

Visitors entering the park from the east at the South Rim will be introduced to the Canyon by descendants of its original human residents: artists, elders, teachers, families, their arts, languages, foods. Directions and maps will help guide your way.

Make Sure You

Go inside and enjoy the artwork and architecture. Hopi artist Fred Kabotie’s artwork in the first gallery of the first landing represents the physical and spiritual origins of Hopi life. As you climb the stairs of the tower, notice artwork by Fred Geary, who was inspired by designs from original sites throughout the Southwest. As you ascend, look up and see that the ceiling is made of logs salvaged from the old Grand View Hotel on Horseshoe Mesa at the Canyon. The logs are laid in a pattern found in prehistoric Native American architecture and still used in some Indian structures today.

Brought to You By…

Partners involved in this project include Grand Canyon National Park, the Inter-tribal Advisory Council (ItAC) (including Hopi, Navajo, Zuni, Havasupai, Hualapai, Yavapai-Apache and the Kaibab Paiute), the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Grand Canyon Association (GCA) and the American Express Foundation.

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