Oral History of the Yavapai
400 pages, 6 x 9
Release Date:01 Jul 2015

Oral History of the Yavapai

The University of Arizona Press
In the 1970s, the Fort McDowell Reservation in Arizona came under threat by a dam construction project that, if approved, would potentially flood most of its 24,680 acres of land. As part of the effort to preserve the reservation, Mike Harrison and John Williams, two elders of the Yavapai tribe, sought to have their history recorded as they themselves knew it, as it had been passed down to them from generation to generation, so that the history of their people would not be lost to future generations. In March 1974, Arizona State University anthropologist Sigrid Khera first sat down with Harrison and Williams to begin recording and transcribing their oral history, a project that would continue through the summer of 1976 and beyond.

Although Harrison and Williams have since passed away, their voices shine through the pages of this book and the history of their people remains to be passed along and shared. Thanks to the efforts of Scottsdale, Arizona, resident and Orme Dam activist Carolina Butler, this important document is being made available to the public for the first time.

Oral History of the Yavapai offers a wide range of information regarding the Yavapai people, from creation beliefs to interpretations of historical events and people. Harrison and Williams not only relate their perspectives on the relationship between the “White people” and the Native American peoples of the Southwest, but they also share stories about prayers, songs, dreams, sacred places, and belief systems of the Yavapai.
Sigrid Khera (1934–1984) was born in Vienna, Austria. After coming to the United States she got a position as assistant professor in the Anthropology Department at Arizona State University in Tempe. When she was newly arrived at ASU, a letter dropped into her hands that a Yavapai elder wanted his tribe’s history written as they themselves knew it. In March 1974 Sigrid Khera started working with Mike Harrison (1886–1983) and John Williams (1904–1983), two Yavapai elders from the Fort McDowell reservation in Arizona. When Sigrid Khera died in 1984, she left behind a completed manuscript, Oral History of the Yavapai.

Carolina Castillo Butler took an activist’s path. While giving her time to house, husband, and four children, she was a leader in a ten-year battle, helping the Yavapai Tribe at Fort McDowell save their land. The government wanted to relocate the tribe for a dam. She was a successful leader in two county-wide elections: first, working for a “yes” vote for the construction of useful bridges over the Salt and Agua Fria Rivers; second, working to defeat the $3 billion Rio Salado Project and a new property tax for it. She was a water activist, testifying numerous times to reform water policy. Carolina is a Mexican American born in Arizona and very proud that her ancestors came to Arizona from Mexico in 1864. Carolina and Walker, her husband of forty-six years, live in Scottsdale, Arizona.
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