Despite our woke times, we still have a Eurocentric view of historical happenings. When we think about North American history, for example, we think of 16th-century English and French colonists arriving on the northeast coast, and Spanish colonists in the south. Of course, American history began long before that, and it unfolded across the entire continent. The southwestern state of Arizona became part of the US in 1912. It is, however, one of the longest continually-inhabited places in North America, with a history stretching back thousands of years.


Native American civilizations have lived in Arizona for over ten thousand years.  According to historical records, they had their first contact with Europeans in 1539, via a Spanish expedition led by French missionary Marcos de Niza. By then, a territory of the Spanish Empire known as ‘New Spain’ had already been established. In 1804, what was known as ‘Alta California’ became a province of New Spain. Alta California encompassed parts of Arizona, as well as the bordering states of California, Nevada and Utah, and parts of New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming.


For three hundred years, Mexico, which shares a border with Arizona to the south, was also part of New Spain. But following the Mexican War of Independence from 1810 to 1821, the country became independent. A year on, Alta California became Mexican territory. The Mexican-American War, from 1846 to 1848, changed Arizona’s fortunes again when most of the areas formerly comprising Alta California were ceded to the US. In 1863 Arizona was organised as a separate territory and on 14 February 1912, it became the 48th US state.


Today, Arizona’s long history is visible in its people and places. One quarter of the state is made up of Native American reservations. Among them is the village of Oraibi on the Hopi Reservation in Navajo county. Established before 1100, it is considered to be the oldest continuously-inhabited settlement in North America.


Designed by Captain Charles W. Harris of the Arizona National Guard, the Arizona state flag was adopted in 1917. It is divided into two halves. The top half has thirteen alternating red and yellow rays, which represent America’s thirteen original colonies and the western setting sun. The colours of the rays are based on the colours of the Spanish flag that explorer Francisco Vázquez de Coronado had when he arrived in Arizona in 1540. The bottom half of the flag is blue, the same colour that you see in the US national flag. In the centre is a copper coloured star, a tribute to Arizona’s status as the largest producer of copper in the US.