People and Culture
- Where to Go
- The Best of the Valley of the Sun
- Wild West Adventure
- Let Scottsdale Rock Your World
- Finding Water in the Sonoran Desert
- Spring Training
- Arizona Family Road Trip
- Phoenix Points of Pride
- Southwestern Culture and Heritage
- Nocturnal Scottsdale
- Exploring Phoenix’s Architecture
- Unexpected Arizona
- Desert Chic
- Chilly Drinks and Cool Eats in Scottsdale
Phoenix is a city of immigrants, and that, perhaps more than any other factor, save the unrelenting sun, has shaped the city’s character. Sydney has its convicts, and Boston its Puritans. Phoenix, though, was founded by a different breed: the pioneer. These trailblazing optimists left their homelands for the Wild West, an open frontier where opportunity and the promise of a better life outweighed the difficulties of a harsh terrain. And these expatriates continue to arrive, thousands every year. Frozen transplants from the East Coast and Midwest mix with Mexican nationals who cross an unforgiving desert on foot for a chance at the American Dream. They’re all driven by a thirst for more and an independent spirit that’s best embodied by the state’s original icon, the cowboy, a figure that has come to represent not only Arizona, but also the Western attitude of “live and let live.”
So many people have pulled up stakes and moved to the Valley of the Sun that residents like to joke that a native Phoenician is hard to find. Some newbies are initially tempted by the warm climate, moving to Phoenix to attend school at Arizona State University or to spend their years on the golf course. Even visitors popping in to see their college kids or retired parents can be easily seduced to make a move, not to mention the millions of tourists who travel to the state every year.
More than half of Arizona’s 6.5 million residents live in the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area, and according a Brookings Institution study, only about half are white, reflecting the city’s changing demographics. Latinos make up most of the other half of the population. And though the city still attracts retirees, only 11 percent of the population is over age 65. Younger people are moving to valley, and some 35 percent of adults are single, which may help explain Scottsdale’s vibrant nightlife scene.
Several Native American communities govern tribal land around Phoenix and Sedona. These sovereign tribes act in many ways like independent nations, with the right to form their own governments, try legal cases within their borders, and levy taxes. Although these communities still cling to their agricultural roots, many now own and operate successful casinos, which have expanded in recent years to include resorts, restaurants, golf courses, amusement parks, and museums. Among them, the Gila River Indian Community spans 584 square miles south of Phoenix, from the Sierra Estrella in the West Valley to the communities of Florence and Coolidge in the east. The 11,000 members are from the Pima (Akimel O’odham) and the Maricopa (Pee-Posh) tribes. Its most famous son, Ira Hayes, was one of the five Marines depicted in the iconic 1945 photograph “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima.”
The Pima and the Maricopa also make their home on the Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community just east of Scottsdale. Some 8,700 individuals are enrolled as tribal members, living on 52,000 acres surrounded by Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, and Fountain Hills. The adjacent Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation is bordered by McDowell Mountain Park and the Tonto National Forest. Its 950 members are one of three Yavapai tribes in Arizona. Just north, in the Verde Valley near Sedona, the Yavapai have also aligned with the Tonto Apache at the Yavapai-Apache Nation, where many of its 750 members live on four noncontiguous parcels of land.
© Jeff Ficker from Moon Phoenix, Scottsdale & Sedona, 1st edition