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The town was settled by Mormons in the late 1870s, but in 1903 it was discovered that the town was built on Indian land, and the U.S. government bought out the improvements. Tuba City was made the headquarters of the western Navajo Agency. The first boarding school was built in the community at that time. Tuba City is at the junction of state Highway 264 and U.S. 160, about 80 miles northeast of Flagstaff, at an elevation of approximately 5,000 feet.
Today, the community is an urban center within the Tuba City Chapter, a local government unit of the reservation. As an administrative and educational center, Tuba City has developed rapidly and has been designated a major growth center on the Navajo Reservation by the tribal government.
There are various theories about who chose the name Tuba,ª but most agree it came from the Hopi word Toova. The Navajo name for Tuba City, Tonanesdizi or tangled waters, probably refers to the many springs below the surface of the ground which are the source of several reservoirs. The springs of Tuba City have made it the oasis of the surrounding desert country.
There are numerous Navajo Tribal and National Parks in the vicinity of Tuba City. These include Grand Canyon National Park, Navajo National Park, Sunset Crater National Monument, Wupatki National Monument, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Monument Valley Tribal Park, and Rainbow Bridge National Monument. There are also three overnight camping areas in the community with hook-ups for campers. Pasture Canyon Reservoir and Mohave Reservoir offer good fishing. The Navajo Western Fair is held annually in late October.