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Viola Jimulla with some of her baskets, c. 1960
Viola Jimulla with some of her baskets, c. 1960 Photo courtesy Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe

The Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe Basketry

The Yavapai Indians have created some of the most beautiful basketry the world has ever seen, yet very little is recorded of their art. Today's descendants of these remarkable weavers are trying to recover the artistry of their ancestors, which has nearly reached extinction. The art of basketry is not only representative of Yavapai women, but also illustrates the protection that Yavapai men -- Yavapai Scouts -- afforded the women so that they could practice their art form. A new generation of Yavapai are researching the basket collections preserved in the nation's museums, and are participating in Yavapai basketweaving classes to learn the craft of their ancestors.

For thousands of years, the Yavapai lived within a territory encompassing over nine million acres, including what is now central and western Arizona. Except for occasional skirmishes with other tribes on their northern and southern borders, they lived in peace for thousands of years until the 1860s, when they fought, in self-protection, the Anglo settlers who had mistakenly identified them as Apaches and attacked them at every opportunity. In 1871, Gen. George Crook ordered that all "roving Apaches" be placed on the Rio Verde Reservation. Making no attempt to distinguish the Yavapai from the Apaches, federal troops forced Yavapai onto the reservation, massacring many in the process. Members of the tribe from the Prescott area were moved again, by forced march, during the spring of 1875 to the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, where food and water were scarce. Many died of malnutrition, disease and illness. A few Yavapai had managed to escape during the earlier forced march, and returned to the Prescott area where they settled near Ft. Whipple.

In the early 1900s, when Indians were first permitted to leave the reservations, eight Yavapai families settled in the Prescott area. Sam Jimulla was appointed as the chief; he and his wife Viola had been born in captivity on the San Carlos Reservation. Viola Jimulla (1878-1966), who after the death of her husband became tribal chieftess, was a prodigious basketmaker who strove to keep the art of weaving alive. On June 7, 1935, the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Reservation was established on 75 acres of land transferred from the old Ft. Whipple, creating the only reservation for Yavapai Indians. Over the years, an additional 1320 acres were added to the reservation, due to the increasing size of the cattle herd. Current day Yavapais hope to build a Yavapai Indian Cultural Center in Prescott to help their children and visitors learn more about their tribe's unique place in the history of the Southwest and to keep their language and culture alive.

The project includes a 19-page narrative interwoven with the Yavapai creation story and oral histories of elderly members of the tribe and their memories of basketmaking; the report is augmented with a bibliography. Also included are twenty-two 8 x 10 photographs and an information brochure on the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe.

Originally submitted by: John McCain, Senator.

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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