Native American culture permeates the Southwestern United States, and nowhere else is this more prevalent than in Arizona. The state has 23 tribes occupying 22 reservations (The Salt River – Pima Maricopa tribes share one reservation) and these numbers are matched nowhere else in North America. Some of the oldest inhabitants include the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation.
The reservation was established in 1890, but the current 900 plus members call a 24,000 acre area home, which was designated in 1903. This sovereign nation is only 30 minutes from downtown Phoenix, but feels a world apart from the bustling metropolis of 4.6 million people. Yavapai translates to “people of the sun”, and that name could not be more appropriate! This land is sun-filled upper Sonoran desert with mountain ranges in every direction; The Mazatzal wilderness to the north, Usery Mountains to the East, the legendary Superstitions to the Southeast, and McDowell mountains to the West.
One of Arizona’s main water sources, the Verde River, runs through the tribe’s land, creating habitat for lush riparian areas filled with cottonwood and desert willow trees. Willows are used by the tribe as a weaving material. Some of the best native baskets are produced by the Yavapai people with intricate designs woven from willow and cat claw acacia. These lush trees on the river’s edge provide viable habitat and hunting for the American bald eagles that return each year to raise their young.
In addition to these traditional ways of life, the Yavapai have embraced modern practices to utilize and manage successfully the resources of their land. They produce citrus and pecans, they have concrete and gravel operations, a luxury resort and casino, and various venues for corporate events where visitors can gain a perspective and respect for their land and the people who have depended on it for well over a century!
To learn more about the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and to experience a thrilling off-road adventure, check out our Cactus Canyon Adventure!