This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

The history behind the Talking Stick Arena in downtown Phoenix


If you're new to the Phoenix area, that is, if you moved there, or were born there, after the 1860s (yes eighteen-sixties) you may be puzzled as to what the relationship is, and has been, with the Pima Indian people.

I collect old photos of Phoenix and post them on a Facebook page, and my journey of discovery has been quite a surprise. Like most people, I grew up learning about "Cowboys and Indians" from watching old movies. And from that I learned that the relationship was always one of dramatic conflict. You know, the United State Cavalry would arrive in the nick of time, and rescue the fort, that kind'a stuff. And the Indians were killed, lied to, and ultimately moved way out into the middle of nowhere, on reservations.

And if that's what you know, well, I can't blame you. There doesn't seem to be much else out there, even on the internet. It's all about conflict, which I guess makes for good stories, and interesting fiction. But the story of Phoenix, while not not as dramatic, is different.

The relationship between the Pima people and the city of Phoenix has always been alliance. Yes, it makes for a dull story, and maybe that's why so little has been written about it. The Phoenix pioneers lived in peace with the Pima people. Sorry, but it's hard to be thrilling when all you can write is "then, they planted crops, which grew, and they were able to feed their families!" Yeah, it sounds dull now, but it was a major accomplishment, that the Pima people had been doing for hundreds of years. And it's what the Phoenix pioneers wanted to do. They wanted to live in peace, and prosperity.

Since Phoenix is, by comparison to most other cities in the United States, much younger, it benefitted from watching the mistakes made elsewhere with neighboring tribes. If you know your American history, you know that a lot of mistakes were made, by some very stupid people. Google the Dakota Wars in Minnesota (or the Sioux Uprising) if you want to see how incredibly stupid the treatment of Indian people has been.

That is not to say that Phoenix, and Arizona, has been perfect. But the Pima people have been patient with their new neighbors. And they understand the need for friendship, and alliance.

I hope this inspires you to learn more. Sadly, much of what people say simply reveals their ignorance, which saddens me. I call this "all of the convictions of the un-informed". And it isn't limited to non-Indian people. I am often saddened by a lot of what I hear, as it disrespects so much that the elders have worked for, and continue to do.

By the way, a talking stick is a simple concept. Whoever holds the stick gets to talk, without interruption, until it is passed to someone else. Thank you for letting me hold the talking stick today.