It was February 25th, 1875. The Yavapai (Wipukyipai) and Tonto Apache (Dil Zhéé) tribes lived along the Verde River, a lush green ribbon among the copper-and-sand high desert canyons of north-central Arizona. On the wast bank of the river were the Yavapai. On the east, the Apache. Both followed the rhythm of the seasons in their lifeways. Soon, maize (corn) would need planting and the agave would come into season.
But their peace was broken by the pounding of approaching horses and wagons on the rocky cliffs above. The U.S. Calvary, acting on orders from the President of the United States, had arrived to forcibly remove both bands from their homeland.
The reason? The Verde River was a promising farming oasis for arriving Colonists. And now gold had been discovered in nearby Prescott. In the eyes of elected officials, the Original People had to go.
What happened next was the forced 175-mile march of Native men, women, children and elders on foot by the United States Government.
The route was steep and rugged, cresting the 7,000-foot-high Mogollon Mountains at one point, and crossing near-freezing creeks and rivers at others. After two weeks of struggle, the Yavapai-Apache people arrived at the Indian Agency in the badlands of San Carlos, Arizona.
Of the 1,451 souls who left their homeland, nearly 100 perished. It was reported 25 babies were born to their mothers as they continued their march. Other babies were left stillborn or frozen to death.
However, the Spirit of the Original People is strong. Twenty-five years after their eviction, some 200 Yavapai-Apache returned to their Verde Valley homeland.
What they found was a much-changed environment. Fences blocked their passage. Native plants had been plowed under for crops. And several thousand acres of treaty lands promised to them by the United States Government had been taken.
To commemorate the unstoppable Spirit of the Yavapai-Apache Nation, an annual Exodus celebration takes place this weekend in Camp Verde, AZ. Events include a 175-mile foot relay from San Carlos to Camp Verde (commemorating the return of the Nation to their homeland),
Most events take place at the foot of the overlooking Cliff Castle Casino in Camp Verde, AZ. Click here for more information.
Friday, February 27, 2015:
11:30 a.m. – Elder recognition luncheon (Recreation Center)
2 p.m. to Sunset – Entertainment, including the Royality Social Dance (Middle Verde Dance Ground).
Saturday, February 28, 2015:
6 a.m. – Blessing at Boynton Canyon, Sedona, AZ
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. – Exodus Commemorative March Spirit Run / San Carlos Run Reception (Cultural Center): Cultural Performances (Veterans Memorial Park)
Noon – Community Lunch (Veterans Park)
Sunset – Social Dance (Middle Verde Dance Ground)