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Find out how Indigenous engineering brought water to the Arizona desert

A free outdoor festival Sunday aims to help people understand the history of water in Arizona.

Organizers say the Portal to the Past Festivalwill celebrate Indigenous engineering feats such as the elaborate canal system that made Phoenix an agricultural oasis in the ancient Southwest.

Music, dance, storytelling and tours of the archaeological site at the Pueblo Grande Museum in Phoenix will also be part of the festival.

Zarco Guerrero is artistic director for Cultural Coalition, which is working with the museum to put on the event from 2-4 p.m. Sunday. He said, with water becoming more scarce, the festival is a chance to learn the wisdom of the Hohokam and the Huhugam people.

“They’ve been living here for thousands of years. They were able to sustain themselves through extensive droughts and through devastating floods,” he said.

Guerrero said the irrigation system in the Valley made by Indigenous people is unique to North America, and it may be the most sophisticated water delivery network on the continent.

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.