CLARKDALE -- "We've always been here."
So said Apache Elder Vincent Randall as he presented "History of the Apache" to a packed audience at the Clarkdale Memorial Clubhouse on Aug. 15, sponsored by the Clarkdale Historical Society and Museum.
Attendees listened intently as Randall shared his peoples' journey over the centuries, as well as his own family's stories.
A lifelong Clarkdale resident, Randall graduated from Arizona State Teachers' College (now Northern Arizona University) and taught in Clarkdale schools from 1963 to1992.
He coached his boys' basketball teams to five state wins and a girls' basketball team to a Division 2 Final Four.
In addition to a distinguished career as an educator and coach, Randall also served as Tribal Chairman and Cultural Historian for the Yavapai-Apache Nation.
Now 75 years old, Randall is still working. He currently is Cultural Director at the Yavapai-Apache Nation Cultural Center.
Randall opened his presentation in his Native "Dil'zhe'e" language, beginning with "Da'gote," meaning "Hello."
Randall shared he is a member of the Sun Branch and Hunter Clan.
"I loved to go hunt and supply food for my family," said Randall.
"We were pretty well entrenched"
Anchoring his presentation was a vintage map of the "Camp Verde Indian Reserve" circa 1871.
Yavapai tended to be north and west of the Verde River, while Apache were mostly east. Although the neighboring tribes were culturally distinct, they eventually shared the same reservation out of government expediency.
"From Ash Fork to Show Low down to Aravaipa Canyon was our aboriginal territory," Randall said.
"In southwest New Mexico were Cochise and Geronimo. These were the 'Looking After Horse People' or 'horse rustlers,'" Randall said. "Jicarilla Apache are in northern New Mexico by the Colorado border."
"East to Rio Grande, the Mescalero still live there -- meaning, 'People for Where the Sun Comes Up,'" said Randall. "In the plains of Texas are the Lipan Apache, or 'The Dusty Ones. There's still some Kiowa Apache in Oklahoma."
Randall told the story of the first time his family encountered a European settler.
"My grandmother came running home to her great-grandmother one day with eyes big around, saying 'I saw people light-complected and they had a monster with them with big horns,'" said Randall. "Well, it was settlers with a Texas longhorn."
"My great grandmother was in on that march"
With gold-seekers, farmers, ranchers and trappers advancing westward, the Apache found themselves increasingly squeezed-out from their ancestral homelands.
Food and rest were becoming scarce, so some Apache resorted to night raids. In fact, Randall said, the Apache word for watermelon means "Eat at night fruit."
By 1868, General Crook had arrived to subdue the remaining Apache.
"He said, 'It took an Indian to catch an Indian' so he recruited our enemies as scouts," said Randall. "He started an extensive campaign of search-and-destroy."
"You read army journals today, 'We shot eight today, we went to Rancheria and shot 15,'" Randall said.
Life got even worse for the Apache in 1875 when President Ulysses Grant ordered the U.S. Calvary to incarcerate the remaining local Apache and Yavapai to a reserve nearly 200 miles south -- on foot.
"When an Army commissioner named Dudley was to take the Rio Verde Indians to San Carlos, many soldiers told him to take them down the mountain the easy way. His response was, 'They are Indians, let the beggars walk,'" said Randall.
It was February. Some 1,000 women, children, infants and elders struggled across boulder-strewn badlands, scaled snow-flocked pine mountains and sloshed through near-freezing creeks.
Meanwhile, their U.S. Government captors rode atop horses and wagons.
They arrived in San Carlos some two weeks later.
"By time we reached Clear Creek we were starving. We lost about 200 people," Randall said. "My great grandmother was in on that march."
To this day, a sculpture commemorating an elder carrying his frail wife on his back serves as a reminder to visitors at the Yavapai-Apache Nation Cultural Center.
"We got back and there was already someone living there"
"We were already homesick," Randall said. "We used to leave at night and sneak back to the country and pick Emory oak nuts-we call them Apache Gold."
"The army let us loose in the 1890s because Globe was thriving. It depended on two resources: Wood to heat and cook and hay for horse and mules," Randall said. "So the Apache were given a piece of paper saying they 'This is a friendly Indian" and were allowed to go to Globe and sell hay and wood."
"I call it the first green card," said Randall.
Eventually, the Apache were allowed to return to their Verde Valley homeland.
"We got back and there was already someone living there," Randall said.
Randall shared that learning was done through oral tradition.
"I learned a lot from my grandma. My mother learned a lot from her grandmother so there's a rich history by spending time with grandparents," Randall said.
One such story involved a silent movie featuring his great-grandfather.
"My mother's grandmother told of making a silent movie here in the 1920's. They hired him to do a dance by the stockyards," said Randall.
"The local people had never seen the dance. As the dancers came out, all the ladies fainted and the men took their wives home in wagons. So the dance was short and sweet," Randall said.
Randall also remembered his own childhood experiences growing-up in the Verde Valley in the 1940's.
"I remember Centerville was like Old Mexico, with all the adobe houses. Everyone spoke Spanish," said Randall.
As Randall looked about the venue, he reminisced about his own experience in the Clarkdale Memorial Clubhouse, which opened in 1927.
"This was a neat place to come to. There used to be magazine racks and pool tables. There used to be bowling alleys downstairs," said Randall. "They sold candy here at times but you'd have to kinda' kick him to wake him."
"When I was a junior, we had job of putting on a prom. We asked all our parents to help. I remember poking my head in the kitchen. It was the greatest time of laughter and stories -- doctors, wives, Mexicans, my grandmother -- all together having a great time," Randall said.
Despite his fond memories of the Clubhouse, Randall shared that he and his friends were not allowed to swim in the Clubhouse pool.
"We would swim in the Verde River by the laundry," said Randall. "The sad thing is, today you go down there, and it used to be eight to ten feet deep, now its maybe four feet deep today."
The mine closed in 1952 and things changed for the Randalls.
"My parents always said, 'This boy is going to college,'" said Randall. "I remember when an Indian education officer came here and wanted to send me to Haskell Indian College in Lawrence, Kansas to be a baker. I remember my teacher saying, 'This boy is not going to any tech school. You are going to send him to college."
Clarkdale - "It's pretty all right"
"A child is a product of their community," said Randall. "Growing up in Clarkdale I had the opportunities. I was treated all right. I was respected and was given high hopes and given goals," Randall said.
"Clarkdale's a pretty good place. It's pretty all right, as they say in Indian talk," said Randall.