For people who live and travel around northern Arizona, the San Francisco Peaks dominate the landscape like no other landmark. The snow-capped tops are visible for hundreds of miles in the winter; their cool green slopes are a popular summer destination for hikers and overheated Phoenix residents.
For many tribes, the peaks are far more significant and occupy a sacred place in history and culture. Whether called Dook'o'oosłííd in Diné, Nuva'tukya'ovi in Hopi, Wik'hanbaja by the Hualapai or Nuvaxatuh by the Southern Paiute, the volcanic mountain range has for millennia drawn more than a dozen Native cultures in the Southwest to pray, hold ceremonies or gather medicinal plants.
The peaks, which tower as high as 12,637 feet above sea level, are home to the Hopi katsinam, the holy people who bring rain to the three mesas of Hopiland. The spirits live in the seeps and springs of the peaks, traveling to Hopi kivas at the winter solstice. They emerge from the below-ground rooms to participate in the Hopi kachina cycle of ceremonial dances until the summer solstice and the start of the monsoon, when they return to their mountain home.