Each November, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation located just north of Fountain Hills, celebrates their 1981 victory over the federal government over the Orme Dam project. In 2023, the main celebration dates are Saturday November 18th and Sunday November 19th. But what are they celebrating?
Halting Construction of the Orme Dam
Plans were in the works to construct the “Orme Dam” at the confluence of the Verde and Salt Rivers. The project would have flooded the reservation and relocated the Yavapai people to a desolate, rocky mountainous area. With limited financial resources, individuals from the Yavapai community spearheaded an opposition movement that rallied the support of fellow tribal members, other Indian tribes, and non-Indian groups.
By referendum in 1976, the community members voted 144 to 57 against selling their land to the federal government for the dam site. Then on November 12, 1981, after consulting with the Fort McDowell Tribal Council and the Governor’s Advisory Committee, Interior Secretary James Watt announced that Orme Dam would not be built.
- Intertribal Pow Wow with tribes from all over North America attending
- All-Indian Rodeo
- Basketball, softball, and golf tournaments
- Yavapai Village, showcasing cultural performances from different tribes of the Southwest
- Arts and crafts vendors
- Authentic native food vendors
Orme Dam Victory Days 2023 celebrations are open to the public, and all are welcome. Especially exciting are the Pow Wow activities happening both days. For more information visit these websites:
The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation
The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation is located 23 miles northeast of Phoenix. The Reservation is bordered by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community on the south, the Town of Fountain Hills on the west, and the Tonto National Forest on the north and east. The Reservation is one of the smallest in Arizona, covering just 40 square miles. The Verde River flows north-south through the middle of the Reservation and converges with the Salt River.
The Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation was created by Executive Order by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1903. The Reservation is located in the territory of the once nomadic Yavapai people. Two important victories have shaped the history of the Nation: The Orme Dam Project, and the fight for gaming rights.
In addition to the Orme Dam protest, in 1992, tribal members held a three-week standoff with the government, a protest that persuaded the Arizona Governor to sign a gaming compact with the Tribe. The signing date, May 12th is now a tribal holiday honoring that victory.
The Nation remains financially sustainable through its many diverse industries. The Fort McDowell Tribal Farm produces alfalfa, pecans, and citrus all sold to market. A cement plant, RV park and gas station complex are also thriving businesses. The WeKoPa resort and conference center offers world class golf, tourist accommodations, and world class dining and casino. Fort McDowell Adventures includes a variety of experiences in the gorgeous Sonoran desert including horseback riding, segways, campfires, etc.
Take a Tour of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation with River of Time
The River of Time Museum & Exploration Center, in partnership with the FMYN, offers a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. With tour dates from November through April, this captivating four to five hour guided tour begins at 8:00am at the River of Time, where you will be briefed on Yavapai culture by a Fort McDowell tribal member. After boarding a bus, you will make your way onto the reservation.
Visitors will experience the rich culture and history of the Fort McDowell Yavapai people on this unique tour, enhanced this season by an extended stop at the Yavapai Cultural Center. Visit an authentic Yavapai dwelling, enjoy a delicious fry bread tasting; you may even meet a tribal elder who will share stories…before you move on to explore more of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation with your guide where stops include:
- Cultural Center & Museum
- H’man S’hawa Pre-school
You will learn about reservation life first hand from the people themselves. You’ll discover the hardships, challenges, and victories of the Fort McDowell Yavapai people through their own personal stories. Then, after a delicious lunch at Ahnala in the Wekopa Casino, the bus returns to the River of Time where you are welcome to tour the museum & visit Riverbanks Gift Shop before heading home.
Remaining available tour dates this season (available at time of writing). Select your preferred date from the list below to book your tickets now!