On Feb. 24, the Yavapai-Apache Nation will mark the 131st anniversary of the forced removal of the Yavapai and Dilzhéé (Tonto Apache) people from their extensive treaty land in the Verde Valley. The 1875 Removal - 1900 Return Commemoration is a holiday of remembrance for the time in 1875 when tribal members were removed by military force from the Verde Valley, and it honors their subsequent return to their homeland around 1900. Tribal offices will be closed on Friday, Feb. 23, in recognition of this historic event.
The Commemoration, formerly known as Exodus, will be held in Camp Verde at the newly established Yavapai-Apache Nation Veterans Memorial Park, located below Cliff Castle Casino, exit 289 off Interstate 17. Various activities will also take place at other nearby locations. Traditional song and dances, the Miss Yavapai-Apache Pageant, a commemorative walk, the Spirit Run, food, and arts and crafts are a few of the highlights of this colorful celebration.
Yavapai-Apache Nation Chairman Jamie Fullmer welcomes all to share and learn about this historic event that is part of the lives of Yavapai-Apache people today.
"It is an important part of the Yavapai-Apache culture to reverently honor our ancestors. Those tribal members men, women and children who were forced by the United States Cavalry at gunpoint to vacate their homes and march many miles from their beloved homeland made great sacrifices that our tribal members benefit from today," said Fullmer. "Mere words cannot begin to express the deep sentiments that we all feel as we remember those who suffered and endured the hardships of the long march to San Carlos and the incarceration that followed. Our ancestors taught us to survive at all costs. Let us remember their lessons as we continue the tradition of commemorating the removal and return of the Yavapai and Apache people to our home."
The following is the list of events that will take place in connection with this annual commemoration:
Saturday, Feb. 17
o Miss Yavapai-Apache Nation Pageant, at 4 p.m., at the Lodge at Cliff Castle located on Middle Verde Road. The Tiny Tot pageant will be held on Saturday, Feb. 24. For more information, contact Ernestine Smith at (928) 451-0186.
Saturday, Feb. 24
o 6 a.m. Blessing at the traditional grounds in Boynton Canyon in Sedona at west exit of Enchantment Resort, 525 Boynton Canyon. This is the place of emergence of the Apache and Yavapai. For more information, contact Kim Secakuku at (928) 567-1006.
o The symbolic Spirit Run from Arizona 260 & 87 to Camp Verde. Runners will embark on the journey, embracing the endurance and strong will of their Yavapai and Apache ancestors.
o 10 a.m. Native American arts and crafts booths open. To reserve an exhibit booth, contact Ernestine Smith at (928) 567-1094.
o 11:30 a.m. Commemorative walk will take place beginning at the Veterans Memorial Park below Cliff Castle Casino.
o Noon. Luncheon. Sponsored by Yavapai-Apache Nation.
1 p.m. Commemoration Program including tribal presentations, Native American entertainment, tribal dances, remarks by Yavapai-Apache Nation Chairman Jamie Fullmer and Vice Chairman David Kwail as well as the presentation of Yavapai-Apache royalty at the Veterans Memorial Park located below Cliff Castle Casino. For more information, contact Kim Secakuku at (928) 567-1006.
The 1875 REMOVAL - 1900 RETURN
On Feb. 25, 1875, the Yavapai and Apache people began a 180-mile winter march to San Carlos, Ariz., where they were held in a concentration camp as political prisoners for 25 years.
Around 1900, the United States Army allowed passes to the people to leave the reservation without the threat of death. The incarcerated people quickly began the return to their homelands only to find that they were homeless. New settlers had laid claim to the land and defended their properties with threats of death. Groups of Yavapais and Apaches were chased off homesteads that their ancestors had lived on for centuries. Since both tribes and their families had to survive, they began to congregate in areas of job availability. Concentrations of Yavapais and Apaches were prominent in Clarkdale, Cottonwood, Jerome, Beaver Creek and Camp Verde.
Today, members of the Yavapai-Apache Nation are descendents of the incarcerated Yavapai and Tonto Apache peoples. Their future is bright as they develop economic bases through Cliff Castle Casino, Yavapai-Apache Sand & Gravel, Yavapai-Apache Gaming and other economic development ventures. Income from Indian gaming has substantially increased their standard of living, improved care of their elders and educational opportunities, nurtured traditional customs and culture, increased the Nation's land base and fostered new economic development.
The Yavapai-Apache Nation is a self-governed sovereign Indian nation that has called the Verde Valley home for more than 150 years, and whose ancestors in the area date back several centuries. The Nation opened Cliff Castle Casino in 1995, breathing new life into the local economy and creating more than 800 jobs for northern Arizona residents.
Each year, the Yavapai-Apache Nation donates more than a quarter of a million dollars to charities and educational initiatives in northern Arizona, the majority of this to the towns of Camp Verde and Clarkdale.