Native American Languages of Arizona

Arizona, a state in the southwestern region of the United States of America, is known for its high population of Native Americans. Arizona has the third highest number (and the sixth highest percentage) of Native Americans of any state in the Union (See Demographics of Arizona). Out of the entire US population of 2.9 millions Native Americans,[1] roughly 286,680 live in Arizona, representing 10% of the country's total Native American population. Only California and Oklahoma have more Native Americans than Arizona by number. Arizona also has the highest proportion of land allocated to Native American reservations, at 28%.[2] Arizona has five of the twelve largest Indian reservations in the United States, including the largest, the Navajo Nation, and the third-largest, the Tohono O'odham Nation. Also, Arizona has the largest number of Native American language speakers in the United States.[3][4]


There are twelve Native American languages spoken in Arizona, in addition to three other languages that are primarily spoken outside the state and one language with a disputed existence.

Population estimates are based on figures from Ethnologue and U.S. Census data, as given in sub-pages below. The twelve languages are shown in the table below:

Language Classification Number of Speakers Total Ethnic Population Tribe(s) Included Location(s) in Arizona Significant External Populations
Navajo Na-Dene: Southern Athabaskan 170,000 300,000 Navajo Navajo Nation New Mexico
Western Apache Na-Dene: Southern Athabaskan 13,000 20,000 White Mountain Apache, San Carlos Apache, Tonto Apache Fort Apache Indian Reservation, San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, Yavapai-Apache Nation, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, Tonto Apache Tribecall/Tonto Apache Indian Reservation
Yavapai Yuman: Pai 163 1,420 Yavapai Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, Yavapai-Apache Nation, Yavapai-Prescott Tribe
Havasupai-Hualapai Yuman: Pai 1,530 2,437 Havasupai, Hualapai Havasupai Indian Reservation, Hualapai Indian Reservation
Quechan/Yuma Yuman: River 250 1,200 Quechan Fort Yuma Indian Reservation California
Mojave Yuman: River 100 750 Mohave Fort Mojave Indian Reservation, Colorado River Indian Reservation California
Maricopa Yuman: River 160 400 Maricopa Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Gila River Indian Reservation (Maricopa Colony)
Cocopah Yuman: Delta 400 1,000 Cocopah Cocopah Indian Reservation Mexico (Baja California Norte, Sonora)
Hopi Uto-Aztecan: Northern: Hopi 5,000 18,000 Hopi Hopi Indian Reservation
Colorado River Numic Uto-Aztecan: Northern: Numic 2,000 5,000 Chemehuevi, Southern Paiute, Ute San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe of Arizona, Kaibab Indian Reservation, Colorado River Indian Reservation Nevada, Utah, Colorado, California
O'odham Uto-Aztecan: Southern: Piman 10,000 20,000 Akimel O'odham/Pima, Tohono O'odham/Papago Tohono O'odham Nation, Ak-Chin Indian Community, Gila River Indian Community, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Sonora
Yaqui Uto-Aztecan: Southern: Taracahitic 15,000 25,000 Yaqui people Pascua Yaqui Indian Reservation, Guadalupe Sonora (Yaqui River Valley)

Disputed Languages

  • The Halchidhoma language is disputed. Most historical records agree that the language was a separate language within the family of Yuman languages, in the River Yuman subdivision. The Halchidhoma were a separate tribe that inhabited the area comprised by modern-day southwestern Arizona.[5] However, due to war and conflict with the invasion of European settlers, the Halchidhoma eventually settled with the Maricopa people, in their current locations around the Greater Phoenix metro area. The Halchidhoma currently identify themselves with the Maricopa tribe,[6] and many live in Lehi, which is a small community within the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community on the south banks of the Salt River. Some linguists classify their language as a dialect of Maricopa,[7] others classify Maricopa as a descendant of Halchidhoma, and some claim that little differences exist between the current languages.[8] A similar conflict exists between the Halchidhoma and non-Halchidhoma tribal members of the community. Much of the Maricopa people in the community are ethnically part of the Halchidhoma,[9] but choose to identify themselves with the larger category of Maricopa. Thus, the status of the Halchidhoma language is currently, at best, unknown.

Other Minority Native American Languages

In addition to the languages listed in the table above, there are three other Native American languages spoken in Arizona that are primarily found in New Mexico, located immediately to the east:

See also


  1. ^ 2010 Census Bureau
  2. ^ State DOTs and Native American Nations
  3. ^ Navajo tops list of Native language speakers in US | CNS News
  4. ^ Language Magazine » Census Shows Native Languages Count
  5. ^ Halchidhoma (people) - Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  6. ^ Kelly, Marsha C. 1972. The Society That Did Not Die. In Ethnohistory, Vol. 19, No. 3. (Summer, 1972), pp. 261–265. Duke University Press.
  7. ^ Halchidhoma - MultiTree
  8. ^ Spier, Leslie. 1933. Yuman Tribes of the Gila River. Courier Dover Publications, p. 12.
  9. ^ Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community: Xalychidom Piipaash (Maricopa) People
  10. ^ Newman, Stanley. (1996). Sketch of the Zuni language. In I. Goddard (Ed.) Handbook of North American Indians: Languages (Vol. 17, pp. 483–506). Washington: Smithsonian Institution.
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