Ancient Inhabitants

Arizona has an extremely far-reaching history. Archaelogical evidence shows that there was human life as long as 12000 years ago, employing crude stone tools to hunt and gather food. It is thought that they were a nomadic people, and did not make any permanent settlements for any length of time.
Approximately 2000 years ago, the Anasazi people left the nomadic lifestyle to settle permanantly in the area, constructing multi-room houses and round temple-like kiva. In the eastern mountain reaches, the Mogollan people made their home, borrowing traits from plateau and desert peoples.


Around AD 300 the Hohokam people arrived in the river valleys. There they settled, on the Salt River banks, where Phoenix stands today. They were technologically advanced compared to the Anasazi or Mogollan - planting corn and inventing irrigation systems to help their farming. In the plateau conutry, the Anasazi also grew crops such as corn, squash and cotton, using rainwater as a substitute to irrigation. For several centuries these cultures developed to a higher level, improving their building, cotton weaving and pottery making. These two civilizations reached their peak between 1100 and 1300, with most of the spectacular cliff-dwellings seen today built in the 14th century. Then, in the late 1300s, a prolonged drought struck their peoples down, reducing the population dramatically.

Spanish Expedition

During the 15th century the Navajo and Apache indians migrated through Arizona, shortly before the arrival of Spanish explorers. The first foreign explorers were the members of a shipwrecked Spanish expidition, led by Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. Only he, a Moroccan slave Estevanico, and two others survived the native attacks and the affliction of disease. They traveled extensively over the next eight years around the Gulf of Mexico to Mexico City, during which they befriended many natives, who told them tales of the Seven Cities of Cíbola - a kingdom of wealth. This naturally piqued the interest of the viceroy of New Spain, and in 1539 Estevanico reentered the region guiding the Franciscan Friar Marcos de Niza with the purpose of finding the Seven Cities. No riches were found, but Friar de Niza reported having sighted one of the cities.

With more than 300 Spanish soldiers and a great many natives under his command, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado preceded North to the present Arizona border, then heading North-East to Cíbola, which turned out to be naught but villages of the Zuni Pueblo, containing no wealth.

In 1595 Juan de Oñate, a relation of both a spanish conquistador and the present Aztec ruler, won a royal contract to settle the region, and he took possession of the territory he called New Mexico, the borders of which included what is now Arizona. Nothing was done to the region for many years, until missionaries started their attempt to convert the natives to Roman Catholicism. Franciscan monks built a mission at Awatovi to convert the Hopi, but to little avail. In 1980 the Pueblos of New Mexico rebelled with the aid of the Apache, and the Hopi took the oppurtunity to kill the missionaries plaguing them. They returned in 1700 to try again, but the Hopi were through with them, and annihilated the village. Italian-born Jesuit Eusibio Kino had more success in the South, living in the area from 1692 until his natural death in 1711. Finally, after having many reports of skirmishes with natives, the Spanish built a presidio, and their hold over Arizona strengthened.

Hostile Takeover

However, amid the turmoil of Mexico's break for independence, Spain was unable to maintain full control over the area, and in 1824 rule was officially handed over to Mexico. About this time traders and settlers from the US trickled over the border, straining relations between the two countries. Following the annexation of Texas in 1845, the US set its sights on the entire South-West, and the next year saw president James K. Polk declaring war on Mexico. A battalion of Mormons raised the first US flag in Tucson that same year, and the war came formally to an end with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo of 1848. This treaty signed over all of Arizona North of the Gila River. 76,735 km² was then purchased by the US minister to Mexico James Gadsden in 1853 to extend the borders further.

To begin with, the Arizona area was known as part of New Mexico, but miners in settlers in the area argued that their distance from Santa Fe called for them to be an independent state. When the American Civil War began in 1861, settlers in the area convened in Tucson and declared Arizona a seperate Confederate territory. The war's impact on the state was almost non-existant, save for a minor skirmish at Picacho Peak in 1862. On the 24th of February 1863, president Abraham Lincoln approving Arizona as a seperate territory. Tuscon was the capital in 1867, then Prescott in 1877, until finally the government settled on Phoenix in 1889.

But the people weren't happy as simply a territory - they had been demanding recognition as a state since at least 1877, but the first bill in 1889 was defeated. Twice Congress made a decision to have Arizona and New Mexico joined as a single state, but the people refused. In January 1910 Congress organized a convention to discuss a bill to pass, and finally on February 14 1912, Arizona was admitted as the 48th state. Right up until the addition of Alaska and Hawaii in 1959, Alaska was the youngest state in the US, and has remained the last adjoining continental state to enter the union.