Jerome, Arizona

Yavapai Apache Indians

The Yavapai are one of the 13 bands of Pai or Pa’ a (The People) which all spoke a Yuman language. In the distant past the Yavapai quarreled with the People and left, going south and east. They became the “Almost-People to the East.” Historically, the Yavapai were loosely divided into four groups. The Tolkapaya (Western Yavapai) lived in the northern mountains of the Sonoran Desert from the Colorado River almost to Prescott. The Kewevkapaya (Southeastern Yavapai) controlled the Bradshaw Mountains, the lower Verde Valley, the Tonto Basin, as well as the Superstition and Pinal Mountains. The Yavepe (Central Yavapai) held the Prescott-Jerome area. The Wipukpaya (Northeastern Yavapai) lived in the middle Verde Valley and red rock country around Sedona.

Although the Spanish explorers came through the Southwest, their trips were infrequent and they did not penetrate far into this area. Their European diseases, however, reached beyond the Spanish paths of exploration. Devastating diseases affected the population before the American incursion in mid 1800’s. The Yavapai’s hunting and gathering lifestyle continued without major disruption until the 1850s with the American infiltration into northern Arizona. A conflict of cultures developed over the incompatible lifestyles, incompatible subsistence patterns and differing concepts of land ownership. Raiding was a way of survival for Yavapai while the whites viewed the raids as hostile aggression. American hunters using rifles drastically reduced game populations. Cattle grazing diminished the seed-producing plants. Conflict over land use created hostilities between the American and Indian cultures.

In 1863 gold was discovered near Prescott and thousands of miners arrived, signaling the permanent arrival of Americans in the Yavapai’s territory. In 1865 the frontier reached the Verde Valley when the first farmers arrived. The incoming Americans found the Yavapais directly on the lands they wanted. With the arrival of Americans, the Yavapai’s hunting and foodways were disrupted forever. Starving Yavapai raided the settlers, the settlers had retaliatory raids. In 1864 a massacre of Yavapais at Elbe’s ranch in a valley west of Prescott occurred. The name Skull Valley was adopted after the soldiers under Lt. Monteith left the dead Indians without burying them. The Americans complained to the government about hostile Indians and the U.S. Army was sent in.

The government treated the four Pai groups as one single group in military campaigns. The Americans also confused the Yavapai with the Apache during the Indian Wars. The Yavapai were often called “Apache” and this confusion persists to this day.

Yavapai faced terrible odds of holding any territory wanted by the Americans. In 1871, General George Crook was sent to Arizona to command the fighting troops to stop the Indians. Pursued to starvation by the U.S. Army, the Yavapai abandoned their vast homeland. Both Yavapai and Tonto Apache were defeated in General Crook’s 1872-73 campaign. Under Chalipun many Yavapai surrendered to Crook in April 1873. Resistance did not cease completely after Crook’s offensive, but life outside the reservation was extremely dangerous. On December 23,1873 a massacre of a Yavapai band occurred in a canyon above the Salt River Canyon. After this massacre at Skeleton Cave the Yavapai resistance was completely broken. Most Yavapai surrendered and removed to the Rio Verde Reservation.

The Rio Verde Reservation encompassed 800 square miles of the Verde River valley and mountains on both sides of the valley. Americans settling in the valley and prospecting in the mountains were not happy with the treaty for they wanted the land for their own use. Despite the claim that the treaty was for “as long as the river runs, the grass grows and the mountains endure” the reservation was closed in 1875 and the Yavapai were relocated to the San Carlos Reserve. The Rio Verde reservation land was opened for American settlement.

Another factor which contributed to the closing of the Rio Verde Reservation was the fact that the Yavapai were becoming self sufficient. They succeeded in digging irrigation ditches and planted 50 acres in crops to provide food. Despite the stated policy of wanting Indians to become self sufficient, the reservation was closed after government contractors (afraid of losing their profits from selling low-quality goods) protested vehemently. They convinced the government to relocate the Yavapai on less fertile land.

In February 1875 the Yavapai were removed from the Rio Verde Reservation to the Apache reserve on the San Carlos and Gila rivers. The forced march to the San Carlos Reservation was grueling with many hardships. It took over two weeks to walk the 150 miles. Requests were made to allow the children and the elders to take a longer route by wagon. Edwin Dudley denied this request saying, “They are Indians, let the beggars walk.” Over one hundred died from malnutrition and cold on the trail.

The story of Native American history is intimately intertwined with American government history. With each administration change came drastic changes in policy. Originally the Dutch Reform Church was given jurisdiction over Indian policies, then the government developed the Bureau of lndian Affairs. The BIA has constantly changed their policies in dealing with various tribes depending on societal opinions, government mandates and their own need to perpetuate the program. At the time of the formation of the Rio Verde Reservation, the government wrote treaties allotting each tribe their own land in their own territory. A few years later, the government policy changed to incorporate all of the smaller reserves into one large reserve for “better management purposes.” This policy also played into the government goal of extermination. By placing warring tribes onto the same reserve, the Indians could kill each other off and end the government’s problem of what to do with the Indians living on land wanted by the Americans.

Life on the reservation (any reservation) was hard. Living in unwanted land (until gold, silver or copper was discovered) their traditional ways of life were no longer possible. Corrupt Indian agents were common. Cheating the tribes of their meager food rations was widely practiced. Those meager rations consisted mainly of 30 pounds of flour, a handful of salt each month and beef, on the hoof. If available, sugar and tobacco were issued.

Reservation quarters were cramped and crudely built without adequate water. Unhealthy living conditions contributed to the spread of diseases and epidemics. During the first year on the reservation in 1874, the Yavapai population was reduced by one third. Deaths were so frequent that the living were not able to keep up with the crematory ceremonies necessary to honor their dead. Heat, epidemic disease, spoiled rations and starvation killed many people.In 1860 the Yavapai’s population was over 2,000. By 1903 they numbered approximately 500.

Life on the San Carlos Reservation was harsh. The Yavapai again made attempts at self sufficiency by once again turning to farming. In the 1880s floods washed out their ditch system. During the 1890s dam builders wanted the Yavapai-held land at San Carlos. The Yavapai themselves wanted to return to their homeland around the Verde River. By 1901, most had left the reservation. It was at this same time the government realized that the Yavapai were not Apache and set up new reservations for the Yavapai. Fort McDowell was established in 1903.

In 1906 the Yavapais became entangled in a water rights struggle when Phoenix proposed building a dam on the Verde River, in the middle of the Fort McDowell reservation. The government proposed to remove the Yavapais to the Piman Salt River Reservation but the Yavapais refused. They had had enough of relocation. Under the leadership of Carlos Montezuma, the Yavapai successfully fought for (in the courts of law) their rights of ownership of land and water. Montezuma was a Yavapai born around 1865 . His name was Wassaja. He was captured by the Pimans in a raid in 1871 and later sold to Carlos Gentile, a white man who adopted Wassaja and named him Carlos Montezuma. Montezuma graduated from Chicago Medical College in 1889 and worked as an Indian Service doctor on various reservations. He was an outspoken advocate for Indian rights and earned the reputation with the BIA as an agitator. In 1901 Montezuma returned to Arizona and found surviving family, just in time to help with the fight to keep their lands. Although the Yavapais won that round, they have continued to live under the threat of other dams throughout the Twentieth Century. Montezuma died at Fort McDowell in 1923 of tuberculosis.

The Yavapai, like other tribes, were being forced into government dependency. However, they resisted such dependency and have struggled to maintain their identity despite the reduction in their population. In the broader American culture the Pai formed the underclass, and became a source of cheap labor for mines and ranches. Yavapai men contracted for their labor with mine operators or worked on the railroad. Women found wage work as domestics and went into white homes to work as servants and nannies or washerwomen. A permanent Yavapai community grew up at Clarkdale to take advantage of mining and smelting work.

Other encroachments upon their way of life occurred. In 1892 compulsory education became law after Indian commissioner, Thomas Morgan, gave a speech in Phoenix explaining that it was “cheaper to educate Indians than to kill them.” Indian children were sent to boarding schools away from their families and tribes where only English was spoken. Any parents refusing to relinquish their children were sent to prison.

Education was only one step in the process of “assimilating” Native Americans into white culture. In 1896 another law was passed ordering the hair cutting of all adult male Indians. While living on reservations, Native Americans were not allowed US citizenship until 1924. Indians were not allowed to vote in Arizona until 1948. Indians were also denied the right to practice their own religion and in 1900 a law was passed forcing compulsory attendance to Christian religious services. Marriages between Anglos and Indians was illegal until 1948. Other threats had to be faced during this century as well. Assimilation continued to be the goal of governmental policies. That the Yavapai are forgetting their culture as they “melt into American society” is a fear expressed by Camp Verde Yavapai elder David Sine. While other Native American tribes were fighting against the loss of tribal reservation lands under the government’s Allotment Act, the Yavapai were returning to their lands with the formation of small reserves. Fort McDowell had been formed in 1903 with Camp Verde and Middle Verde organized in 1914 and 1916 respectively. In 1935 the Prescott Yavapai were granted a small piece of old Fort Whipple. In 1969 the Phelps Dodge Corporation deeded 60 acres to the Clarkdale Yavapai community.

Under the New Deal, the policy of assimilation was reversed to one of self government and self sufficiency. The Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 ended the dreaded allotment. Efforts to revitalize tribal governments continued with varied success through the 1930’s Depression and World War events, such as the 1940’s. World II had a major impact on American society but for Native Americans, the greatest changes came after WWII. With the Eisenhower administration came a reversal of lndian policies from self determination to mainstreaming into American society. A program of “termination” reducing Indian reservations and encouraging urbanization through relocation of Indians into cities was implemented. During this relocation phase, many Yavapais moved to Phoenix or Los Angeles. The BIA ended the relocation services in 1972.

The government plan was to remove all federal protection and services and bring a dissolution of tribal societies. The policy of getting government out of the Indian business was merely an attempt to break up the reservations, abolish tribal governments, disperse the people and reduce their identity as Indian.

The Yavapai-Prescott community rejected the policies of the Indian Relocation and struggled to maintain tribal solidarity. Under the leadership of Viola Jimulla and later her daughters Grace Mitchell and Lucy Miller, they continued in their struggle against total assimilation and to hold the tribe together to preserve Yavapai identity.

The new migration of urbanization did not bring economic well-being as hoped. Many Yavapai found themselves living in urban poor neighborhoods without family ties or the support of their tribe. Failure of the relocation policy to create assimilation can be seen by the number of Yavapai that are returning to their homes after working in the cities.

Since the 1960’s, there has been a resurgence in self determination for all Native Americans. Government programs, such as Great Society welfare legislation, enabled tribal governments to expand through federally funded programs. The Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 expanded their rights. The Self Determination Act of 1975 created a legal climate for the continued efforts of tribal governments.

With tribal self determination and recognition of their legal rights have come new attempts at economic self sufficiency. The Yavapais in the Verde Valley do not have a large enough land base for self sufficiency from agriculture. Other approaches must be tried. Attempts at cultivating tourism are being made. Bingo halls and gambling casinos have been built on reservations to create economic opportunities. Despite providing jobs, unemployment and underemployment remains high on Yavapai reservations. Education is one of the keys for self sufficiency. The Yavapai have one of the highest percentages of students attending college of reservation Indians in Arizona.