Resources for Picnics, Gatherings, and Events
Special Activity Requests are required for gatherings that have any of the following:
Steele Indian School Park is a prime location to produce major events. If you are interested in holding an event in the park, please
start by completing a Steele Indian School Park Event Inquiry form, once your event has been reviewed you will need to
complete a comprehensive event packet that outlines all of the necessary requirements for a large-scale public and/or commercial event.
The History of Steele Indian School Park
In 1890, the Federal Government purchased 160 acres of farmland from a local landowner for $9,000. Federal officials opened the Phoenix Indian School one year later. At its peak in 1935, 900 students attended the school. Among its most popular features were its marching band, which was a frequent participant in local and statewide festivals, and athletic program. The federal government closed the boarding school in 1990.* The city of Phoenix was able to obtain the land in 1996 through an intricate three-way land exchange involving the Baron Collier Company and the federal government.
The park in it's current iteration was opened in 2001 and is named after Horace C. Steele. He founded the Steele Foundation in 1980 to fund charitable, educational, and scientific programs; primarily in Arizona. The Steele foundation donated $2.5 million dollars to start development of the park and in 1997 the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board approved naming the Park for this successful businessman and philanthropist.
The park is designed in the spirit of the City Beautiful movement, a design theory that evolved at the end of the 19th century. Its basic premise is simple: city dwellers need passive, open green space in city centers to serve as a refuge from the physical confinement of urban living. The movement also held that open, public spaces are an essential element in nurturing civic pride and a sense of community. The park's design also pays homage to the site's Native American history. Many of the design elements, as outlined in the features section, reflect Native American concepts of life, earth and the universe.
Historic Phoenix Indian School Buildings
Memorial Hall - The historic Memorial Hall offers a stunning setting for performances, arts presentations, meetings and community events. The natural acoustics of this space make it ideal for choral and musical presentations.
For more information please review the Memorial Hall Rental Information Guide or call 602-534-8659.
Phoenix Indian School Visitor Center - Reopened in 2017, this building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Native American Connections operates the center, which educates about the school's history. The building originally served as an elementary school and band building.
Dining Hall - Built in 1901. Currently no public entrance.
The Circle of Life
The Circle of Life lies at the heart of the 72-acre park. This wide circular walkway encompasses the three historic buildings remaining on site from the old Phoenix Indian School. In the center of this area is a water cistern. Etched into the concrete around the cistern is a poem that explains the Native American design theme of the park. The Circle of Life is 600 feet in diameter and features 24 interpretive columns depicting the history of the Phoenix Indian School.
American Indian Veterans Memorial Site
The American Indian Veterans Memorial Organization honors American Indian veterans and has established Steele Indian School Park as a location to pay tribute these great American Indian heroes.
Leading from the Circle of Life is the Arbor Bridge that leads into the 15-acre Entry Garden, which also makes use of circular form. The garden features a spiraling walkway that gradually descends down into the earth - a trail meant for contemplation and meditation. Native American poems are etched into the concrete and native desert plants adorn the path as it winds its way toward a cistern at the end of the trail.
Amphitheater and Bird Lake
The performance/stage area of the outdoor amphitheater is 60 feet in diameter and is large enough for a full symphony orchestra. There is a waterfall on the north side of the amphitheater, which is directly off of the 2.5-acre bird shaped lake. The rubble wall of the waterfall is recycled from the old Phoenix Indian School. The architect saved the WPA (Works Progress Administration) stamps from the old sidewalks and incorporated these into the rubble walls throughout the park. The seating area of the amphitheater has a 1500-person capacity in grass seating and is available for rental. Fees do apply.