I was pronouncing the name of this important National Monument wrong. I was saying ‘tuzigoot’ with the tuz rhyming with fuzz. It’s actually pronounced too-zee-goot. Apaches actually named it, not the Sinaguas who lived there. Their name meant ‘crooked water’, which is totally appropriate because of the Verde River that flows through this valley. The Verde River that made human life pleasant here is indeed crooked and only one of several streams that flow through this valley. The Sinaguas lived mostly on corn, and their name in the Spanish language meant ‘without water’, which shows how much the missionaries knew about the area and its people. In truth, the Sinaguas, who were hilltop pit house dwellers and dry farmers, had left long before the Spanish arrived.
Grace Sparkes was the human force who created a National Monument in abandoned Tuzigoot. For her efforts she was inducted into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame. In the early 1930s Grace lobbied the national Congress and the President for a National Monument, but they were distracted by The Depression. It wasn’t until 1939 that the land Tuzigoot was on and owned by a copper company became part of the National Park Service. By that time Grace had been the power behind a massive effort to learn about the people who built this hilltop dwelling that had been 25% re-created with Hopi help.
At its height in the 1300s Tuzigoot was home to between 6,000 and 8,000 humans. They knew about and had relations with the cliff dwellers living near Montezuma’s Well. Grace and her artifact finders had concluded that native life was pretty good here, so why did they all leave? No one knows the answer to that question, but the artifacts that Grace was responsible for finding are still on display in Tuzigoot’s visitor center. They are in large, old-fashioned display cases.
Many of the pots have been carefully reconstructed, and there is a lot about artifact care around for those interested. I followed a family about, and the mom was reading to her children about these artifacts. The kids seemed interested in hearing about the natives who began living in this fairly fertile area now called the Verde Valley beginning 13,000 years ago. The Sinaguas lived well because they always had plenty of water and grew and ate the Tepary beans that were available in the gift shop. Ruth & I bought some. The Sinaguas spent a lot of time on their roofs engaged in conversations with their neighbors. They had few storage areas for the salt, azurite, and other minerals they collected and turned into beads and carvings. They traded with other tribes for what they wanted and eventually had a dwelling that contained 110 rooms but no windows. This helped to made their rooms warmer in the winter. We were very lucky to be among the first visitors to get a guided tour via a man named Brian who was clearly happy to be back to talking about this monument. He had not been able to gather a crowd for 2 years due to COVID.
Tuzigoot is definitely worth seeing and Tepary beans are definitely worth eating. It was most enjoyable to be outside without a mask on while staring across a verdant valley at mountains containing the visible and once thriving mining town of Jerome. Jerome is now a major tourist attraction with few parking places literally hanging off the side of a mountain.