Saturday, November 19, 2016

An Afternoon at Orme Dam Victory Days Rodeo at Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation

Copyright (c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller

For twenty five years a U.S. Cavalry post in Arizona territory, on April 10, 1890,  Fort McDowell transitioned to its role as a reservation for the Yavapai people. The government allotted the reservation more than 25,000 acres of land straddling the Verde River. The Yavapai farmed the land, eking out a living from crops and cattle, and formed a stable community in the river-fed desert northeast of Phoenix.

Copyright (c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller


As the population of the now-state of Arizona grew, the need for water soared. By 1968, officials planned construction of a mile-long, billion-dollar dam to create a reservoir for the much-needed water. The dam - to be called Orme Dam - would offer flood control as well as a recreational lake. Backed by the Arizona Republic, influential Mayor Margaret Hance of Phoenix, and - at least initially - powerful politicians such as Senator Barry Goldwater, the dam would have had dire consequences for the Yavapai Nation. Over two-thirds of the reservation would be inundated, wiping out the critical Yavapai farm, ancestral burial grounds, bald eagle habitat, archaeological sites, and basically an entire community. The Yavapai were offered over 33 million dollars and 2,500 acres of land in exchange for leaving their homes and yielding their land. They refused.

Copyright (c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller

The Yavapai people organized a lengthy - and ultimately successful - battle against the dam. Banding together to protest, they raised funds to send representatives to Washington. They participated in a three-day march to the state capitol in Phoenix. They convinced Senator Goldwater, Senator Dennis DeConcini, Representative John J. Rhodes, and other key Arizona politicians to back alternatives to the dam - and in November, 1981, Secretary of the Interior James Lee Watt announced the plans for Orme Dam had been withdrawn.

Today's Orme Dam Victory Days rodeo and PowWow annually celebrate the Yavapai victory over what would have been the sure destruction of their culture. Open to the public, the All-Indian rodeo brings top-ranked cowboys - and cowgirls - from not just distant corners of the United States but from Canada as well.


Copyright (c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller


This bronc was particularly wild, eventually slamming his rider into the fence a split second after I took this photo. The cowboy was not seriously injured.


Copyright (c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller

Rodeo royalty serve not only as ceremonial figureheads but also as working members of the rodeo event staff, ushering livestock from the arena.



Copyright (c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller 






Copyright (c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller
We were honored to join the Yavapai in their festivities today. All-Indian rodeos have grown to be my favorite rodeos for the community pride, the laid-back atmosphere, the inclusion of women's roping events, and the darned good cowboys and cowgirls who participate. 

Copyright (c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller

The livestock - from the rope and barrel horses to the rough stock and even down to the last calf - were particularly healthy-looking, gorgeous animals, bright-eyed and glossy.

Copyright (c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller

Copyright (c) Marcy J. Miller

The cowgirls rode hard. The cowgirls-in-training cheered them on and charmed the rest of us.

Copyright (c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller

Copyright (c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller

Rodeo is a family event and everyone in a rodeo family - from the elders to the toddlers - are involved. The young cowboy in the photos above and below already has a job releasing the calves from the tie-down roping event.

Copyright (c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller

Copyright (c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller

The two gorgeous girls above are Fort McDowell Royalty, Miss Fort McDowell Makayla Doka and Junior Miss Fort McDowell, Tara Smith.  Miss Doka grew up in a rodeo family - and she is the descendant of the late Robert Doka, who served the United States as a U.S. Marine in Korea before dedicating the remainder of his life to serving his community as police officer, tribal chairman, and one of the leading warriors in the fight against the Orme Dam.

The Orme Dam Victory Days festival is held every November in close proximity to the anniversary of the announcement the Yavapai had triumphed against the Orme Dam. Don't miss it. Plan on spending a day - not just at the rodeo, but make time to watch the gourd dancers, enjoy a Navajo taco, ride the carnival attractions, and shop the native crafts located near the PowWow tent - all with the sweeping backdrop of Four Peaks to the east.



Copyright (c) 2016 Marcy J. Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content, including photographs, may be reproduced without permission * Links, however, may be freely shared and are appreciated * Thank you for linking, liking, loving, sharing, forwarding, tweeting, +1ing and otherwise helping grow my audience * Most of all, thank you for visiting and for sharing my love for this amazing state and its incredible people.

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