By Gertrude Smith, Yavapai Culture Director
The Creation Story
It begins at Montezuma Well (Ahah lin gyweh) where our creation story begins. There was a divergence in the third world and they were looking for a way to get out.
In the world below there was a grand daughter and a grandfather. Bad things were happening down there. Everything became in turmoil. The grandfather was waiting for a sign so they sent a hummingbird up to fly over the lands. He was to see how the place was.. to see if would be a feasible placed to live there, to start over.
They knew that a great flood was going to come. In preparation, they hollowed out a log and put the girl in there with everything she needed to live. They told her not to come out until she could hear no more water nor more rain.
The flood came and she floated out through the well. When she was in the log they had given her enough food to last until it was safe to come out. She listened and listened. When she didn’t hear any more rain, she popped the end open. She came out close to Sedona in Boynton Canyon. That’s the place she waited for. Grah ‘m widdimah puuk gahweeyanh, as the Old Lady White Stone, the daughter. They say that today her footprints can be seen in Sedona. They are in the rock because the land was wet. There in Boynton Canyon is a cave that is very powerful to our people.
Some people consider these stories as fiction and legends. It’s almost like the Greeks and their mythological stories. But to us, to our people, these stories are real. This how our people began.
The stories can only be told during the winter time because that’s when the animals are sleeping and cannot hear what’s being said. At one point, people could talk to the animals. At a point, the Creator decided that it wasn’t good for them to talk to one another. So, he made them different forms and sent them on the way throughout the lands. After that, the animals could no longer understand the Yavapai language. That is one reason why stories are told during the winter so they cannot attack you.
To this day when these legends are told, they are special. They are about the beaver, the coyote, the eagle and the big buffalo. They help us to remember who we are and where we come from. The stories should be handed down from generation to generation so that the children, the grandchildren know who we are. The grandmothers, the mothers all have a part in telling these things so our legacy can be carried on.
The Yavapai have 5 major bands and were divided into smaller sub-groups but that is no longer practiced, but they were no considered clans.
The 5 bands are:
Yavbeh-The Prescott region and Granite Mountain
Wi:pukba-Sedona, Red Rocks, Middle Verde and this side of Mingus Mountain.
Tulkapaya-West: around Wickenburg, the hot springs. They kind of overlap with Prescott.
Kwevatapaya-Ft. McDowell area
Madt qwaddan-The southern band down along the Mexican border and Yuma.
To this day there are many opinions regarding the Madt Qweddan. Some say they are extinct but they may have migrated elsewhere. It is likely that some of them, the Madt Qwaddan may have married into the Maricopa, the Mohaves, the Chemehuevi and the Pai Pai in Baja, California or Northern Mexico.
We traversed a vast range. Our local band, the Wipukapah ranged 45 or 25 miles on each side of the Verde River. They wandered as far to Wii moonih, San Francisco Peaks, all the way to Wii gahv’suwah , Mingus Mountain and all the way over to Wii gahs dtah dtah gwah, meaning Porcupine Sunning Itself but they called it Squaw Peak. A little bit past there is a range used forever. We are over lapped with the Apache.
We believe we have been here forever. We know from the records of the Conquistadors, the Spanish explorers that came through that we were here in the Verde Valley at that time in the 1500s.
Our presence was later proven through documentation for Yavapai land claim with documents written by Albert Schroeder. Their reports, supplement those of the Spanish. We do know that at one time we ranged a vast area.
The languages of our bands differ somewhat but we can all understand and make ourselves understood. We also have language similarities with other groups: The Mohave, Quechan, Hualapai, Havasupai and others. We have similar languages. This is also shown on records from Americans who visited late, such as William Corborsier, an Army surgeon based in Camp Verde Army fort.
We know we communicated with other Yuman speaking tribes and with our own bands, when we gathered foods or gathered for ceremonies.
They migrated to far-reaching areas for gatherings. For agave picking and roasting, down to Perry Mesa or Bloody Basin and they crossed the mountains to Skull Valley to western side of present-day Yavapau county and then they went to Yarnell area for acorns and back to Fossil Creek east of Cemp Verde and as far up as Oak Creek north of present day Sedona. These travels occurred during the harvest times for each of these things. The bands shared gathering places such as the agave pits and other things.
I guess you could say it was a fellowship, or social events they held when they gathered together.
A lot can be told by the vast geographical area that we used to roam. We were known for our runners, That’s how we sent messages to learn what was happening in different areas. The Yavapai were long distance runners.
It’s important that younger generations now need to know about the past of their people. It will give an understanding of your families, where your family is from, how they lived.
Knowledge of your bands and of your relatives helps you to know who you can and cannot marry.
It is also good to know where your family comes from. Each family needs to keep a record of your family genealogy so we can all pass it on down.
Early history of Euro-American arrival in the Southwest
Anglo (Euro-American) settlers started arriving in Arizona after 1849-50. The reason being that before 1848, all of Arizona, New Mexico and California (below San Francisco), most of Texas and parts of Nevada, Colorado and Utah all belonged to the government of Mexico. If Anglo people (mostly trappers, military people and adventurers) were caught trespassing on Mexican ground they ended up in prisons in El Paso, Santa Fe, Chihuahua City and Sonora. That happened to Zebulon Pike of ‘Pikes Peak’ fame in 1805-06.
After the Americans defeated the Mexican governmental forces in a full out war in the mid 1840’s, the Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo (1848) ceded all of the lands north of the Rio Grande to the American government opening up the rest of the west to American expansion south of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
We, of course, still see ethnic and social situations in play geographically and politically in the southwest after nearly 170 years as a result of the Mexican War.
Before 1850 the only Anglos in the greater west were Isolado mountain men and trappers such as Jim Bridger, Bill Williams, Kit Carson, John Colter and army mapping and filching expeditions like Lewis and Clark, Pike, Kearney, Fremont, Beale (who brought camels to Arizona), Sitgreaves, Hayden, Wheeler and so on.
Anglo people started heading to the northwest on the Oregon Trail in small numbers in 1836, and between 1846 and 1867 over 400,000 people made the trip. They say you could follow the trail by the crosses that lined the route from all of the deaths. The Mormons left Nauvoo, Illinois through Missouri in 1847 and walked to UTAH pushing their goods in handcarts.
The big driver to California was the gold strike and the frantic rush it caused in 1849 (remember the “Forty-Niners” and the weird songs like ‘Clementine’). If you could not afford a steamship ticket you had to walk, ride a horse or go by wagon. So people from the southern United States started pushing through southern Arizona in great numbers by 1850. Most of these folks didn’t have the juice or enough goods to make it across the western deserts and ended up getting stuck in Arizona south of what is Phoenix today between 1850 and 1865 causing a lot of friction with Apache tribes and other indigenous people resulting in a generation of brutal open warfare and subsequent death, displacement, cultural dissolution of virtually all of the tribes in Arizona Territory between 1863 and 1885.
There was another pulse of Anglo immigration through Arizona to California in the 1930s during the depression as well as another in migration due to the military presence in the state of Arizona because of World War II. Of course another continuous wave of people from back east as well as California has taken place since the 1970’s by people escaping the snow and fleeing the congestion (and earthquakes) in other places.
Chris Coder is an archeologist for the Yavapai-Apache Nation. Mr. Coder has accumulated a wealth of collectable antiquities for the Yavapai-Apache Nation and he has spent most of his professional life in the Southwest studying the history of indigenous people.
Pai Festival, June, 2015
Yavapai Bird Dances join in with the festivities.
Photo by Margie Campos
The Pai Festival was held at the Yavapai-Apache Nation in June, 2015 which drew various Pai people from such places as Ft. McDowell, Havasupai, Ft. Mohave, Hualapai, Prescott-Yavapai and Yavapai from Yavapai-Apache Nation. Former Chairman Raphael Bear of Ft. McDowell kept the program moving throughout the day. Special guests included the Ram Dancers from the Supai Nation and the Ft. McDowell Singers who have adapted traditional Apache drums in singing their songs using the Yavapai language. The program acknowledge special visitors with gifts from the Yavapai-Apache Nation welcome committee which consisted of tribal council members. Vice Chairwoman, Darlene Rubio spoke about the occasion and was instrumental in passing out the gifts. The Ft. Mohave Singers sang traditional Bird Dance songs which brought the women dancers to the arena. The program continued into the night with the Ft. McDowell Singers providing the social dance songs.
Pai Festival attendees were treated to a noon meal that was cooked by community members in Middle Verde and was brought over.Pai Festival attendees were treated to a noon meal that was cooked by community members in Middle Verde and was brought over.
Upcoming activities for pageant for Miss Yavapai-Apache Nation
Royalty from the Miss Yavapai Apache Nation attended the event and assisted with the various activities that occurred on the arena. The current Royalty will be giving up their crowns on February 20, Saturday on the Yavapai-Apache Nation where the new royalty will be crown.
This year, the Miss Yavapai-Apache Nation was not selected as there were no contestant for this category from last year.The 2106 pageant will take place at the gymnasium in Middle Verde and the pageant committee is now accepting applications for the various categories. Hopefully, candidates for the Miss Yavapai-Apache Nation will step forward and declare their candidacy for the position of Miss Yavapai-Apache Nation.Margie Campos, public relations assistant is directing this year’s pageant and she indicated that the applications are already made available to potential candidates. Candidates have up until February 19 to hand in their application for consideration.
This year, the Miss Yavapai-Apache Nation was not selected as there were no contestant for this category from last year.The 2106 pageant will take place at the gymnasium in Middle Verde and the pageant committee is now accepting applications for the various categories. Hopefully, candidates for the Miss Yavapai-Apache Nation will step forward and declare their candidacy for the position of Miss Yavapai-Apache Nation. Margie Campos, public relations assistant is directing this year’s pageant and she indicated that the applications are already made available to potential candidates. Candidates have up until February 19 to hand in their application for consideration.