Native American Desert Peoples

American Indians

Many cultural and linguistic Native American groups made (and still make) the deserts of the American Southwest their home. Each group in each of the four deserts -- Mojave, Sonoran, Great Basin and Chihuahuan -- adapted differently, depending on local conditions and limitations. Most were farmers, in addition to hunting and gathering. Some groups relied on dry farming, while others utilized irrigation techniques, perhaps inherited from ancient cultures that preceded them.

indians farmers

Different groups developed pottery, basketry or other arts and crafts, depending on local resources and cultural traditions. All learned to utilize the precious resources available in the desert to maintain a way of life that was both practical and religious. As with all desert life, water was of primary concern, and communities tended to form near sources of free water, which were vital habitats for desert animals and plants as well.

Communities tended to form near sources of water.

Native American culture permeates the desert regions of North America, even to this day. Because of the complexity of Native American groups and subgroups, classification has remained problematic, except on a linguistic basis, as employed below.

  • Native Americans of the Desert Southwest

    • Western
      • Hopi
      • Acoma
      • Laguna
      • Zuni
    • Eastern
      • Keresan
      • Tanoan


    • Akimel O'odham (Pima-River People)
    • Tohono O'odham (Papago-Desert People)


    • River
      • Cocopah (Cocopa)
      • Quechan (Yuma)
      • Mojave (Ahamakav)
      • Maricopa (Pee-Posh)
    • Pai
      • Yavapai
      • Hualapai (Walapai)
      • Havasupai
      • Kumeyaay (Diegueno)
        Southern California



    Steve Crouthame

    Share this page on Facebook:

    DesertUSA Newsletter -- We send articles on hiking, camping and places to explore, as well as animals, wildflower reports, plant information and much more. Sign up below or read more about the DesertUSA newsletter here. (It's Free.)

    The Desert Environment
    The North American Deserts
    Desert Geological Terms



    Mesa Verde - Video - Mesa Verde National Park preserves the remnants of the Anasazi people, "The Ancient Ones." The Cliff Palace, one of the park's most popular attractions, contains over 150 rooms and is the largest cliff dwelling in the world. The Anasazi built these elaborate structures without metal tools of any kind, and no one knows why the left. Take a look at this mysterious remnant of this elusive culture in this DesertUSA video.

    Canyon de Chelly National Monument Video
    Canyon de Chelly NM offers the opportunity to learn about Southwestern Indian history from the earliest Anasazi to the Navajo Indians who live and farm here today. Its primary attractions are ruins of Indian villages built between 350 and 1300 AD at the base of sheer red cliffs and in canyon wall caves.

    The Cosos Range - Little Petroglyph Canyon
    The Cosos lie within the confines of China Lake Naval Weapons Center (NWC), the U.S. Navy's largest research and development facility.

    More videos .....


    Copyright © 1996-2016 and Digital West Media, Inc. - -