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The Yavapai History
The Yavapai’s history dates back for thousands of years. They once roamed parts of what are now Nevada, Utah, and Colorado and as far as the Gulf of California and into Mexico. The Southwest is their homeland.
Fort McDowell Reservation Established in 1903
In the early 1900’s, this 25,000 acres of exquisite Sonoran Desert, along the rolling foothills of the McDowell Mountains, was established as the Fort McDowell Indian Reservation.
Fort McDowell is Located Just East of Scottsdale Arizona
The reservation covers 25,000 acres, nearly 40 square miles, and features one of two ever-flowing rivers leading to the Phoenix valley: the Verde River. It eventually joins the Salt River south of us.
FMYN is one of 22 Federally Recognized Native Tribes in Arizona
The tribe may be small in comparison; however they have strong values and a well-defined culture. Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation has approximately 900 tribal members; and approx. 660 live on the reservation.
The Yavapai have a rich history that dates back thousands of years. The Yavapai people are a proud people. They were once a nomadic tribe that lived off the land, moving with the seasons. They lived along the Verde River throughout the central part of Arizona and would always return to the Sedona area, which was a gathering and trading place for many Yuman tribes. Sedona is located 110 miles northwest of Fort McDowell. You will hear how the people derived from the Ahagaskiaywa, (Montezuma’s Well.) You’ll learn how the women created works of art with baskets and how they used the land for everyday needs. We’ll talk about the many different Pai tribes that are related to each other within the Yuman tribes of the southwest. You’ll hear about the hardships of the Yavapai people who were massacred and forced away from their homeland as settlers and the U.S. Army took over the land. Also, how the people have overcome adversity to become citizens of the United States with the right to vote. Finally, we’ll cover the many exciting new developments that have made the Yavapai tribe a leader among Native Americans.
Montezuma's Well: The Beginnings of the Yavapai
It is believed that the people first came from what is now called Montezuma's Well (Ahagaskiaywa), which is a very deep natural water-filled cavern. This area is a few miles southeast of Sedona in Camp Verde. It is believed that long, long ago before the cavern filled with water the Yavapai ancestors lived down in the cavern. They climbed out of the dry well on the roots of corn. The well began to flood. Nearby in Sedona, the first woman gave birth to her child. The Yavapai people survived on vegetation that grew in the area. They would not eat certain animals and fish because they considered them to be relatives of the Yavapai, since they too came from the dry cavern, which is now Montezuma’s Well.
Ancestors Were Experts in Basket Weaving
The women of were experts in basket making. The materials used to produce these great works of art are willow (Yo), cottonwood (Ahah), and devil’s claw (Ha Lah Ka). These baskets would hold stories or some form of history. Every basket always features a man or dog along with a dark center and dark rim. These baskets would be used for holding water and food. Pottery was also made to hold food and water. The baskets of the Yavapai were traded with the Navajo and Hopi people for their fine blankets and rugs. The men also wove ropes and other useful items from horsehair. With settlers, the introduction of Christianity, and other outside influences thrust upon all Natives, much of the culture has been lost.
They Were Hunters and Gatherers Along the Verde River
People ate a variety of vegetation and wild game, mainly rabbit, deer, javalina, duck, and lizard called chuckwalla. The animals would drink from the nearby waters of the Verde River. The Verde offered miles and miles of vegetation. They would travel with the seasons to gather food as the seasons changed. Animal hides were used for making clothing and shelter. The shelter was a dome shape structure called a round house, “wam-pum-yah”.
The Establishment of Fort McDowell for the U.S. Army
The Yavapai people had never seen a white man until the 1500's. In the mid-16th Century, Spanish missionaries and soldiers made their way north from Mexico, in their search for the Lost Cities of Gold and the Fountain of Youth. They came upon the Yavapai during their explorations. At this time there was no rivalry between the Spaniards and Natives. It was in the 1800's when white trappers and miners came to the southwest that conflict came about. As more settlers arrived, Native raids were more prevalent due to the fact that the settlers were taking over land that belonged to the Yavapai. In March of 1865 General John S. Mason devised a plan to protect the citizens living around Prescott, the territorial capital. He established a peace line between Prescott and the Colorado River. Natives to the west of the line were considered peaceful and those to the east were considered hostile.
Before Fort McDowell was placed on the map under the orders of General Mason from Fort Yuma, Major Bennett was commanded to find a place to create a new post in the Arizona territory. This was to be in the confluence area of the Salt and Verde Rivers. The new camp was named Camp Verde. In October of 1865 General Mason designated the site of Sycamore Creek and Verde River as Fort McDowell, named after the department commander, General Irvin McDowell. Soon the Army troops began setting up a permanent post.
The last week of October 1865 General Mason ordered war against all hostiles in the area. Troops from Fort McDowell scouted the area north of the Salt River and east of the Verde River until all Natives were vanquished or surrendered.