This modern cultural center highlights the ancestral, historic and current cultures of the Gila River Indian Community, made up of two tribes – the Akimel O’otham and the Pee Posh . Our mission is to ensure our Akimel O’otham and Pee Posh cultures flourish for future generations.
The Huhugam Heritage Center was built in 2003, fulfilling our Community vision to create a place for Community, culture, land, tradition and spirit: a place to honor and preserve our Him dak (our way of life).
Come experience our unique and calming architecture. The Center stairsteps up out of the desert, the building silhouettes designed to blend in with the nearby mountain ranges and hills.
In our state-of-the-art collections repository we care for Huhugam, Akimel O’otham and Pee Posh treasures from our ancestral lands boundaries of the Huhugam (also known by the archaeological name Hohokam), master artists, farmers and crafts people of our desert home.
Collections which include large archaeological project holdings including the Snaketown, Gila River Cultural Resources Management Program and Bureau of Reclamation Central Arizona Project Collections, an outstanding collection of nearly 500 O’odham baskets, an exquisite Pee Posh pottery collection, the trombone and memorabilia of renowned Akimel O’otham jazz trombonist Russell Moore and the Blackwater Store & Trading Post and Arts and Crafts museum collections.
Sap eth tha:thak em ñei
(We are happy to see you)
Mission & Vision
Our mission is to ensure our Akimel O’otham and Pee Posh cultures flourish for future generations.
We envision a Community that is inspired by and connected to the/our past; coming together in unity to celebrate our vibrant and innovative cultures.
Architectural Design Features
Traveling from I-10 along Queen Creek Road or Maricopa Road, the visitor sees structures rising out of the land. Entering and driving toward the east one experiences building forms that rise and fall like the nearby mountains and hills.
The large circular earthen berm entry represents a large pottery sherd or olla sticking out of the earth, honoring the pottery tradition of the Huhugam and Pee Posh. The inner berm wall of stepped river rock is representative of the terraced farming tradition still used today at Gila River Farms.
The fountain’s babbling flow represents the artesian springs that once existed in the Gila Valley and the great respect our peoples have for water.
The ball court and amphitheater is a Community space patterned after the pit ball courts used by the Huhugam. Today it is used for celebrations, traditional dances, games and performances.
The Great House museum gallery evokes in form and scale Sivan Vah Kih (Casa Grande Ruins). From the overlook you can see the surrounding mountains.
The timber beams represent the beams used in the construction of Sivan Vah Kih were cut from the Coronodao National Forest in the Santa Catalina mountain range in near Tucson. After cutting, the timber beams had to be carried more than seventy miles to the construction site.
The metal trellised vahtos, or shade arbors, are patterned after the traditional shade structures still being used by the Akimel O’otham and Pee Posh. The weave pattern is reminiscent of the utilititarian textiles manufactured by the Huhugam, which are also still being practiced today. The walkways also serve as space for art and food markets, and outdoor dining during special events.
The large rounded glass viewing courtyard offers a peek into the curation and education offices and a curation workspace.